The Horn Of Africa States: Controversial Constitutional Change In Somalia – OpEd


Somalia has for the third time changed its constitution. The first constitution was a parliamentary system wherein the people elected representatives, the National Assembly, through a multi-party system. The national Assembly then elected a president who would appoint a Prime Minister from the largest party in the National Assembly, the party with the most seats. The Prime Minister was then approved by the National Assembly and he was responsible for running the Government of the nation and was accountable for its performance. If there was no single-majority party, the appointed Prime Minister would lead a coalition he builds with other parties. 

The President was the highest representative of the Somali nation but he was more of a ceremonial representative. He served to symbolize the nation, its unity and integrity both at home and abroad. He was not the head of government. That position of head of government was held by the Prime Minister, who represented the Somali Republic abroad and administered the country’s day-to-day activities. 

The second change occurred when the first constitution of Somalia was suspended by the military coup that took over power in the country in 1969 which ruled the nation for twenty-one years through a Supreme Revolutionary Council and later through a single party dictatorship. It was ruled by decree by the President, who was also the secretary general of the single ruling party in the country. This led to the collapse of the state as people rebelled against the dictatorship. The rebels were, or course, assisted by enemies of the nation from many quarters.

The third change occurred after some recovery in the reconstitution of the state was worked out. One must recall that the country went into a period of state collapse and anarchy, which to some extent still exists only to be replaced by the Federal Government of Somalia, which managed the country through a draft constitution since 2012, where the powers of the Head of State (the President) and Head of Government (the Prime Minister) remained blurred.

The country was also divided into a number of provincial states with each state having its own local governance, quasi-independent from the federal government. The division of powers between the provincial states and the federal government was ill-defined and needed to be rectified. Other matters including the sharing of the natural resources and the incomes were also blurred and needed to be clarified and stated. However, this draft and incomplete constitution, despite its shortcoming held the country together with the hope that it would be improved and eventually completed as the country recovers from the chaos and anarchy of some twenty-one years that followed the collapse of the state in 1991.

On March 30th, 2024, some of the main articles of the draft constitution were changed to reflect not just a correction or amendments on the constitution, but a complete change of the constitution. It does appear that the completion of the constitution has taken a wrong turn, which puts the country back to square one of pre-2012, which was marked mostly by anarchy and statelessness. Unless some miracle happens, it is very unlikely that none of the provincial states would accept the changes introduced.

The personality of a leader generally determines the nature of governance and the fate of nations as to whether they succeed or not. There are generally two types of leaders, the first type is the self-making and self-adoring and the other is a nation-builder and a history-maker. The life of a self-making person revolves around himself and his life hovers around where his self-interest is served. He is usually free of moral exigencies and the needs of his fellow citizens and humanity in general and would put everything aside in pursuit of his own needs. All other considerations vanish as he relentlessly aspires to achieve his desires.

The history-maker, on the contrary, lives not for himself but for a higher purpose. He acts and works for principles and not for profit. He, indeed, works for ideals to succeed. It does not matter to him whether he himself wins or loses. It is those nation-builders that forge history, and who of their own free will, work for their populations and citizens.

From the passage of the first four articles of the Somali constitution, it is clear that the current leader of the country has unwisely changed the constitution to serve his own personal purposes and agenda through the transfer of all powers of the state to an uncheckable presidential model, where the president is to be elected by the people. He could delay any elections for eternity for multiple reasons – wars, droughts, civil strives, provincial disputes, foreign interferences, marine disputes and many others. Dictators always find reasons for their actions or non-actions! The president is to appoint his own prime minister, which he can fire at his will without any control and checks from any other party in the governance infrastructure. The president, who is all powerful, will head the government and manage the day-to-day activities and management of the country. He has, indeed, created a new kingly position without calling himself a king.

The redrafting of the constitution could simply have been handled differently with ease. They could simply have reverted to the 1960 constitution which really worked, updating and amending it to meet the current needs of the Somali citizen. Instead, the current leader of the nation, President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud has appointed a committee not to complete the constitution but to change it from the traditional parliamentary system to a presidential system where all the powers of the nation are invested in the president of the country.

He has achieved his personal gain and his heart must be fluttering with excitement at present. His masters, the foreign predators who put him in place to carry out these un-Somali changes, must also be excited. But since these people abide by neither promise nor principle, some cracks will soon open up and President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud will regret that he helped make this constitutional revolution. It is quite likely that this constitution will be used against himself or his children.

Dr. Suleiman Walhad

Dr. Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at [email protected].

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