By Dr. Sadia Ali Aden
Indeed nations need constitutions; a social contract to establish rule of law and become the foundations for needed legislations to protect the individual rights as well as the nations from greedy and corrupt politicians that may abuse the power vested in them. Furthermore, constitutions are needed to outline the domestic boundaries of authority and safeguard the sovereignty of the state. Constitutions are not always perfect; however, under such circumstances they are not entirely replaced. They are simply amended, but not in Somalia.
Somalia had one of Africa’s first democratically ratified constitutions. In 1961 the constitution of the newly independent nation was ratified by an overwhelming popular support of the citizens of a newly formed Somali nation state. So, one might ask, what prompted the new “provisional” constitution that was passed on August 1, 2012?
Anyone who has been following the Somali political saga even from a distance knows that there has been a huge controversy that surrounded the new constitution. He or she would also know the force and urgency that instigated, drove, and made it mandatory item in the Road Map was the international community (IC), or more specifically, the Ghost-lords or the elements within the IC who benefit from business as usual. While the fanfare in certain circles is somewhat fathomable, the absence of local and international media scrutiny is appalling.
This latest constitution does not only raise red flag in the outrageously pricey $60 million that the UNDP claims to have spent on it, but it affords the platform to further polarize the Somali society and aggravate the existing wounds that could give rise to renewed conflict. This is simply a reinvention of the status quo.
To give the new constitution certain domestic authenticity, Ghost-lords outsourced its plan to a few corrupt Somali politicians who were motivated by money, prestige, or political survival. Their task was to repeat what they were dictated to, without questioning its legitimacy, and convince the unsuspecting populace of that the new constitution was for their protection as people and a nation, and that it was essential for lasting peace. Since, as they say, the devil is in the details, the new constitution was shrouded in mysteries of secrecy for a long while. When the constitution was finally endorsed there were several versions or drafts that kept the average person in a state of confusion and frustration.
Moreover, according to BBC Somalia analyst Mary Harper, the constitution appears to exist in a parallel universe, a fantasy land, when compared with the reality on the ground in Somalia, with universal access to education and the end of female genital mutilation unlikely to happen anytime soon.
Dissenting voices who dared to question or challenge the secrecy surrounding it, the timing, and substance of the new draft constitution were met with harassments and were labeled as “spoilers”, and anyone who resisted was threatened with facing the international criminal court, creating a fearful environment that hindered the much needed dialogue that could foster peace and reconciliation.
On May 2012, Turkey hosted a conference (for Somalia by Somalis) that was held in Istanbul. The conference brought together 300 Somalis from every walk of life, from the Somali traditional elders, academicians, activists, women, youth, and Diaspora representatives. This undisputable authentic general assembly has thoroughly examined the threats facing its nation and evaluated all critical factors that lead to sustainable peace, reconciliation, good governance, and the cultivation of Somali unity. After four days of rigorous genuine dialogue, the assembly released a communique that addressed then draft constitution. “A social contract of this magnitude could not and should not be endorsed in haste, while blind-folded or in contention or under a cloud of suspicion,” warned the assembly.
This overwhelming secrecy denied the average Somali citizens the opportunity to fully examine and analyze the flaws that existed in the new constitution. Long before it was endorsed through a subjectively managed process, the document sent shock waves throughout the Somali people (in Somalia and in the Diaspora). These waves included the Federalism system that in reality ascertains the absolute rights of the majority clans over minorities while it omits the protection of the Somali sovereignty.
The far reaching implications of this document include infringing on the rights of minorities, land grapping, renewed violence, and ultimately the balkanization of Somalia. One of the items in the new constitution is the article that says the borders of Somalia can be discussed in a later time. What constitution delays the critical importance of that nation’s territorial integrity?
Regardless of its controversy, the international community, mainly the UNDP, has flooded the market with substantial amount of funding handed to whoever was willing to promote the soon to be imposed document of law. Indeed, many in the Somali speaking media, in Somalia and in the Diaspora, have taken the bait indulging in monies that was donated to the needy to pave the way for its passing.
The passing of the new constitution may be a victory for the Ghost-lords and the UN Special Representative for Somalia, Ambassador Augustine Mahiga, but it is a death sentence for the nation state once known as the Republic of Somalia.
At this critical juncture, the only way to salvage whatever remains of the Republic of Somalia is to stop the political bleeding. Somalis must unite, regardless of their political persuasion and geographical location and solidify their voices and resources and help Somalia retain her integrity and sovereignty as nation state. History is in the making, and it is time to shape history into more auspicious one for Somalia and her citizens.
And to ensure success, sustained uprising like the Arab Spring style is a must to force the powers that be to suspend the new constitution until independent parliament starts its mandate and genuine dialogue free of external influence is initiated on reconciliation, a system of governance that is right for Somalia and reestablishment of the Somali security force.
Dr. Sadia Ali Aden is Human Rights Advocate and a Freelance Writer