Rethinking the Somali State

Guests at the inauguration ceremony of the Somalia’s newly-elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo in Mogadishu on February 22, 2017. [Credit: UN Photo / Ilyas Ahmed]

Somalia has been a failed state for over two decades and is beginning to fully recover as a nation. Beyond broader developmental issues, Somalia has lagged because it lacked a proper structure of government. In “Rethinking the Somali State“, I propose an innovative model for achieving full statehood for Somalia: Vision 2021. In addition, I propose policy solutions to help tackle the major issues serving as obstacles to the three goals that were outlaid in the now defunct Vision 2016.

Somalia has had two republics: The Somali Republic from 1960-1969, and the Somali Democratic Republic, from 1969-1991. By the end of 2016, the Somali people and the international community were hoping to create the Somali nation-state’s third fully functioning republic through an ambitious plan called Vision 2016. This plan encompassed three major goals: (1) federalization of Somalia; (2) constitutional revision and a national referendum; and (3) one-person one-vote national election. Though noble, Vision 2016’s strategy was not palatable to the realities of Somalia’s current political climate and thus was a failure. Not one goal was fully completed. The scheduled presidential election was not even held by the end of 2016.

The Somali state was initially established by an amalgamation of two former colonial territories, British Somaliland Protectorate and Somalia Italiana, which united in 1960 to create the Somali Republic. The birth of the Somali Republic can be traced back to 1950 when the United Nations administered Somalia Italiana for ten years. Upon gaining independence, Somalia governed itself under a multi-party system but this democratic experiment abruptly ended after nine short years. In 1969, General Mohamed Siad Bare executed a coup to create the Somali Democratic Republic and governed it under a communist system. After 21 years of dictatorship, a conglomerate of clan militias overthrew Siad Bare in 1991, leading to the collapse of the state.

There were many attempts to resuscitate the Somali state but all attempts were feeble. Success final came on September 16, 2012, when former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was democratically elected to head Somalia’s first post-transitional government: the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), albeit, the FGS is governed by a provisional constitution. On February 8, 2017, President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmaajo” was elected as Somalia’s new head of state for a four-year mandate. The FGS is working on regaining full statehood for Somalia with the United Nations Assistant Mission to Somalia (UNSOM) serving as its international guide.

In order to understand and appreciate Somalia’s current political climate, and to devise achievable solutions, we must analyze her modern sociopolitical history, beginning with an understanding of the importance of the Somali clan system, followed by an historical analysis of her colonial history. Additionally, we will thoroughly discuss the Somali Republic’s democratic experiment and briefly discuss the communist era of the Somali Democratic Republic.

This historical analysis will provide valuable insights and lessons towards rebuilding a democratic Somali state and will provide a framework for achieving Vision 2021. Vision 2021 is a revised and enhanced version of Vision 2016, and is accompanied by timetables to complete each goal. It provides a bottom-up approach to achieving full statehood for Somalia by the end of Farmaajo’s term in 2021. There are five goals in Vision 2021 and each goal is a building block to achieving full statehood in moderation.

Vision 2021 will accomplish the following goals: (a) regional one-person one-vote elections for all respective Federal Member States; (b) Federal Constitutional Convention for purposes of constitutional revision; (c) national referendum for Somalia’s new constitution; (d) establishment of a fully functioning Somali National Army and the withdrawal of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM); and (e) one-person one-vote national election.

To read the research paper, click here: “Rethinking the Somali State.”

Aman H.D. Obsiye, a well-known Somali-American advocate in Minnesota, obtained a juris doctor from the University of Minnesota School of Law and a master’s degree in public policy from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

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