Vying with Somali government for autonomy
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Somalia has had a legitimate government since 2012 and although Islamist insurgents are still active, it is relatively stable. But there is tension between Mogadishu and semi-autonomous regions such as Puntland.
President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole accuses Mogadishu of violating the constitution
The mood in Garowe, capital of Somalia's semi-autonomous region of Puntland, was festive. The crowd had tensely awaited the arrival of leading public dignitaries including the President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, who delivered a speech. The ceremony was held to mark the completion of 1,200 new dwellings for displaced persons which were built by an international aid organization. Thousands of refugees from war-torn southern Somalia have sought sanctuary in Puntland.
President Farole arrived punctually. He said a few words of thanks to
the aid organization and the donors and then promptly changed the
subject. The government in the Somalia capital of Mogadishu was
violating the constitution, he maintained. They had been agreement over
the creation of a Somalian federal state, but Mogadishu was preventing
development in the regions within that federal framework. If Mogadishu
did not mend its ways, then the conflict in the country would persist.
The president then departed the scene as abruptly as he had arrived.
Interpreting the constitution
Civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991 and in parts of the country it
is being waged to this day. In the
New housing in Garowe for refugees who fled the fighting in southern Somalia
course of the conflict, Puntland
became semi-autonomous. It does not, however, wish to cede completely
from Somalia, preferring instead to remain part of the country and
contribute to its recovery. It is prepared to recognize the authority of
the central government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, but insists
on extensive political space of its own.
The authorities in Puntland maintain that Somalia's constitution
envisages the creation of new republics within the federal framework.
Mogadishu insists that the opposite is true, namely that the
constitution puts priority on a strong central government.
Cedric Barnes from the International Crisis Group says both sides are in
the right under the present provisional constitution. "This problem
arose because a number of key questions were left unresolved while the
Somali government was being formed," he said. "We are now paying the
price for this and the central government and the autonomous regions
will now have to sort out the issue," Barnes added.
The problem is becoming acute in the south of the country. In 2011,
Jubaland formed its own autonomous authority, roughly modelled on
Puntland. Jubaland, which borders on Kenya, was previously controlled by
Islamists. Mogadishu disputes Jubaland's autonomous status..
Kenya is heavily involved in fighting the Islamist insurgency in Somalia
But the conflict over Jubaland and its key port city of Kismayo doesn't
end there. The coastal region, which looks out on to the Indian Ocean,
has been one of East Africa's trouble spots for years. Following the
expulsion of the Islamist militants al-Shabab, Ahmed Adobe, a former
Islamist governor of Kismayo, has declared himself president of
Rivalry between clans
The central government in Mogadishu does not recognize his claim to the
post. In a leaked letter to the Kenyan government, Mogadishu accused
Kenya of backing Madobe against his rivals. Such allegations would imply
that Kenya was partially to blame for fighting in Kismayo at the
beginning of July in which, according to the United Nations, more than
70 people died."The worst of this conflict over Kismayo and Jubaland is that it is
clan-driven and is therefore very emotionally charged," said Barnes. "It
will be very difficult to defuse," he added. Clans are a decisive
factor in Somali politics. There are five big clans in the country.
Madobe, the aspiring president, belongs to a sub-group of the Darod and
in Puntland the Darod are in the majority. If he can consolidate his
hold on power in Jubaland, the Darod will have more influence than any
other clan. In the central government in Mogadishu, there are a variety
of allegiances, but the majority belong to the Hawiye clan, President
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud included.