Somalia Moving Forward: An Alternative Path for Vision 2016

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Somalia Moving Forward:
An Alternative Path for
Vision 2016 During Somalia’s transitional period,
successive governments lacked the ability
to propose a cohesive plan to advance the
country’s political system and with it
their own legitimacy. They have therefore
invariably ended up in a hasty and
chaotic transfer of power at the end of
their respective mandates. Many
conferences were staged in the country
and abroad in the last 25 years with the
aim of addressing reconciliation, fair
representation, political legitimacy and
cobbling together the different Somali
factions into one government in order to
repair this fractured nation.
One exception, perhaps, was the last year
of the Transitional Federal Government
(TFG) in 2011 and 2012 when the
government, in partnership with the
international community, designed and
implemented a well-defined roadmap
with timelines, benchmarks, monitoring
and evaluation, supervision and follow-up
mechanisms that were witnessed by the
Somali people and their international
partners. The roadmap process, though
not flawless, did three things to end
transition:
1. It positively and fairly addressed issues
of drafting, negotiations and adoption
processes of the constitution by the
National Constituent Assembly (NCA).
2. It articulated guidelines and political
protocols to reform the parliament
through enhanced mechanisms that
brought together Somalia’s elders, who
selected the members of the current
parliament.
3. It empowered the Technical Selection
Committee (TSC), which played a vital
role putting in place a transparent
process for the selection of the new
parliament.
As a result of these processes, the bloated
550 person parliament was reduced to
half its former size, including new
members who are more literate,
accountable and committed to furthering
the national debate.
Two and half years after the completion
of the Roadmap and the end of the
transitional period, the country is at a
crossroads and there is general confusion
as to how or when the proposed 2016
elections will take place. As such, there is
a prevailing sense of urgency and need
for a new Roadmap that articulates
transparent processes that can help
prepare the country for elections.
To its credit, the current administration
in its first year in power offered a vision
to address the mechanics and
infrastructure necessary for holding such
polls. This included a review of the
constitution, adoption of said document
through a referendum and the completion
of the formation of regional states.
I was a co-author of Vision 2016 during
my tenure as a presidential Chief-of-Staff
and it is a document that I am very proud
of. It is my considered opinion that this
document could have been effectively
used to take the country forward if the
requisite political will, capital and vision
had been invested in it.
Unfinished Business
It is nearly two years since the
introduction of the Vision 2016 document
and still many of the deadlines are
unfulfilled for reasons of power politics,
exclusivist posturing, a dysfunctional
system and constant bickering between
the two key executive offices (executive
and legislature). Nevertheless, some
parameters have been achieved, such as
establishing the structures of the Interim
Juba Administration and Interim South
West Administration, signing the
agreement to establish an Interim Central
Somalia Administration comprised of
Mudug and Galgadud, and nascent efforts
to kick-start a new state formation
process in Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle.
On the Constitutional front, some
constitutionally mandated commissions
have been established and review and
oversight work by the Parliamentary
Oversight committee is underway.
On the other hand, the section of the
Vision 2016 document dealing with
elections has always been vague, with no
concrete actionable proposal except the
bold promise that they would take place
in 2016. To his credit, in September 2013
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
promised that there will never be an
extension or reversion back to the 2012
‘Elders’ process’ and that his
administration will aim to achieve the
2016 deadline. But one thing that has not
been fully explained is how it will be
possible to hold general elections based
on the principle of one person one vote
while we are behind schedule with many
of the key logistical targets written into
Vision 2016, such as the setting up of the
Electoral Commission and the registration
of voters.
Additionally, security considerations
would not permit elections at a time
when the Federal Government and its
allies have not fully liberated a quite
significant number of districts and
villages throughout South and Central
Somalia. Furthermore, specialists on
electoral operations believe that, in this
current setting, it would take years of
painstaking preparation to achieve a
direct election through the ballot box
beyond 2016. With such a bleak scenario,
is there an alternative model that can
deliver elections in September 2016 with
adequate participation and genuine
representation?
A Blueprint for Indirect Elections
The intention of this proposal is to
neither advocate for a lazy extension nor
for an alternative that irresponsibly
places power in the hands of a few
politicians whose very legitimacy is
contested, but to advocate for Indirect
Elections in 2016 that will ensure wider
participation, focus on a national agenda,
enhanced legitimacy, provide an
unquestionable mandate from the people
and an incorruptible system. Such a
model should also be used to steer us
away from the current clan-based
political mindset to platforms and party
politics with leaders of vision.
Implementing District-based Special
Elections
For Indirect Elections to succeed, this
proposal employs the widely agreed 90+
districts of 1991 as the body politic and
basis for electoral constituents with
representation of 1,100 individuals for
each and every district countrywide
serving as an Electoral College, termed as
District-based Electorate Representatives
(DBER). The members of the proposed
Electoral Colleges can be selected with
agreed upon criteria and segmentation,
managed through district selection
committees supervised by the National
Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC).
The total voters coming from these
districts will be around 100,000+ people; a
number that will be large enough to
qualify for General Indirect Elections and
give, comparatively, a more legitimate
mandate to the next government.
What follows is a list of total voters in
from different interim regions, as per my
Indirect Election proposal and based on
pre-1991 districts:
· Juba: 15 districts. Total voters: 16,500
people.
· Interim South West Administration: 18
districts. Total voters: 19,800.
· Banadir Regional Administration: 16
districts. Total voters: 17,600.
· Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle: 12
districts. Total voters: 13,200.
· Interim Central Somalia
Administration: 12 districts. Total voters:
13,200.
· Puntland State: 18 districts. Total
voters: 19,800.
A special mechanism will be designed for
Somaliland which will depend on the
outcome of the current Istanbul talks.
In order to avoid the chaos and political
disruption that often comes with infant
democracies, this paper proposes basing
the number and setting of the current
parliament structure of 4.5 formula on
the indirect elections. The elections will
be based on party political representation
and each party will enlist 275 candidates
on its platform and will contest elections
in all districts, appealing to the electoral
colleges of all the districts for votes.
Essentially, people will vote for parties
based on their programmes and party
leaders will appeal to the 100,000+
national voters instead of the narrow
base of his/her clan, since all clans are
represented in every party list. Moreover,
parties will share membership in
parliament depending on the percentage
they obtain in the national elections
under the supervision of the National
Independent Electoral Commission, which
will make sure the clans are all
adequately and fairly represented.
Finally, the party that obtains the
majority of seats will form the
government, and if there is no party with
a clear majority, coalitions of parties can
form a government on a common
agreement.
For this proposal to be implemented, the
current executive needs to move quickly
and smartly, carrying out a thorough
review of Vision 2016, tell the truth to the
public, to decide and declare that an
election based on one person one vote is
not practical for 2016.
It should also come up with an Action
Plan for Indirect Elections, work closely
with the Federal Member States (FMS)
and Interim Regional Administrations
(IRA) through constitutional conferences
and establish protocols that can be turned
to legislation through the parliament. In
other words, the Executive, as a matter of
urgency, needs to draw up a Roadmap to
take the country to indirect elections. The
Roadmap ought to have clearly-defined
benchmarks, timelines, monitoring and
evaluation schemes and also prepare
logistical plans for this type of election to
take place in 2016.
Consequences and Contingencies
With the proliferation of parliamentary
caucuses and their constant motions and
impeachments that have threatened the
entire system, the consequences of not
charting an alternative path now are
huge and should the 2016 D-Day arrive
with no plans for a politically safe exit
strategy, the implications for the future of
Somalia are unimaginable. The country
will face a new era of political
uncertainty with no legitimate structures
to take it from the current fragile status,
and transition it to a full democracy as
the Provisional Constitution directs.
Additionally, with no legitimate order at
the federal level, the current feverish
movement towards interim regional state
formations designed to lead to the future
federal units could stall, and some
regions may even lose interest with the
central government, thereby taking us
back to the pre-Roadmap era of 2010 and
beyond. It is therefore high time for
Somalis and the international community
to start a sidebar conversation on this
pressing issue and seriously reflect on a
contingency plan.
This alternative path can be redesigned,
improved and adjusted. It strives to meet
the expectations and commitments made
collectively both by the Somali people and
the international community, that in 2016
we must not extend the life of the current
government or go back to the Elders’
Process, but rather move forward. It is a
plan that will result in a new parliament
that will be more legitimate than the one
we have, and a new leadership whose
legitimacy and accountability is not in
question. by Kamal Gutal

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