by Zainab M. Hassan
Saturday, May 25, 2013
Recently, 93 Members of Parliament (MPs) exercising their constitutional powers, filed a motion for a vote of confidence against Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon’s government (PM Shirdon). Though the Motion was since retracted due to 40 MPs who changed their minds, it alleged that the PM and his cabinet have neglected their duties with the exception of submitting the annual budget.
The latest Motion failed to address whether proper legislative procedures had been observed. The Parliament is entitled to summon the PM, the Council of Ministers, or any other public official for any purpose including the power to scrutinize or ask questions related to their performance.However, there is no indication that a preliminary investigation had been conducted and corrective actions had been taken by law makers prior to the filing of the motion in question.
The parliament represents the collective will of its constituents and is to safeguard the supreme law of the land. It is the responsibility of the parliament to make, monitor and uphold these laws by exercising its mandate to hold everyone accountable, including the legislative body itself.
The signatories of the motion alleged that the administration had failed to institute comprehensive policies, put forth draft laws, and file them for action by the parliament. Only 10 MPs are required to initiate a motion for a new law. It is interesting that over 90 MPs were able to collaborate to file a motion with the intention to dissolve a fledgling institution. Yet, it is ironic that they were unable to bring together 10 likeminded individuals to muster a common purpose and do what they were elected to do, which is to make and pass laws. It is high time now for members of the assembly to self-examine and re-evaluate their performance in the exercise of their duties.
Accomplishments of PM Shirdon’s Administration:
Not all ministries are dysfunctional. There are some that are doing fairly well. The allegation that the current administration failed completely is unfair and untrue. A case in point is the accomplishment of the ministry of foreign affairs which has achieved great feat of securing the official recognition of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and many other key nations around the world.
Consequently, a number of foreign nations have opened their diplomatic missions in Mogadishu and Somali embassies have been established overseas. The foreign ministry has been undertaking internal restructuring of its diplomatic missions. The ministry’s senior diplomats have been recalled for consultation, and many of these diplomats were sent overseas for training.
On international relations, the recent conference in London, co-hosted by the governments of Somalia and UK, the Somali government presented some of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s Six Pillar Policy plan including: security, justice, and public financial management as well as the tackling of sexual violence. The plan also included the adoption of the constitution, the implementation of federalism, and holding of elections. As a result, the international community was confident enough to make public pronouncements in making financial and political commitments in support of Somalia.
Having personally participated in the Somali National Dialogue on Justice Reform Conference (Conference) held in Mogadishu from May 1-5, 2013, the participants of the conference issued policy recommendations with a set of legislations for the parliament with specific benchmarks. I am aware that Fahmo Ahmed Nur, the Deputy Minister of Justice and Religious Affairs is closely involved in the implementation and policy development from the recommendations generated in the course of the conference.
During my recent visit in Mogadishu, I had the opportunity to meet with Abdirisak Omar Mohamed, the Minister of National Resources who shared with me some of the policies he and his team have prepared and some of the projects they have implemented.
Another example is the work of the Ministry of Development and Social Affairs which has launched a “Go 2 School Campaign,” a nationwide free educational program that has been targeting a million children and youth to go to school by 2013. Also, the Council of Minsters recently approved a set of policy recommendations from the ministries of Justice and Interior and Security to be taken to the Parliament for approval.
Lastly, the ministry of Information, Posts, Telecommunications & Transportation has succeeded since the SFG will soon assume the supervision and control of its airspace from the Kenya-based Civil Aviation Caretaker Authority of Somalia (CACAS) by the end of this year.
Areas for improvement for Executive and Parliament
Somalia is just emerging from a collapsed state to a weak state, and all institutions are under reconstruction. If the Somali government is striving to build a modern nation, the executive, legislative, judiciary, public service and law enforcement branches has to be functioning optimally. As lawmakers, the parliament can and should solve some of the current and future disputes through constitutional laws. Since the Constitution is provisional and federalism is a new system, parliament needs to focus on clarifying the authority of the federal government vs. regional states, national resource sharing, regional boundaries, and revenue administration, to name a few.
Both the executive and the parliament need to improve their relationship and collaboration. No need to repeat the practice and culture that we have experienced during the transitional period - parliament out to get executive. It will take collaboration between all these branches to get to a peaceful, strong Somali nation.
On the executive side, much work needs to be done and some opportunities were missed. Reconciliation should have been one of the top priorities of the administration. The SFG had not capitalized on the momentum that it had following the monumental successes heralded by the new wave of political changes which culminated in the formation of permanent government as opposed to a ‘transitional’ one. Till now, SFG didn’t convene, engage all Somalis, and embark on a path for genuine national reconciliation to heal old wounds.
On the contrary, there is an increasing polarization and mistrust based on regional/clan interest and power sharing struggle among Somali clans particularly the Darod, Hawiye and Digil Mirifle clans. In addition, the SFG has not been successful, so far, in handling and resolving Jubbaland issues and the process of forming regional administration. In this respect, these issues seem to be some of the driving forces behind the Motion.
On the other hand, the security in Mogadishu is improving due to the hard work of the Somali and AMISOM forces, but Al-Shabaab still poses real threat to security and still holds sway in many parts of south-central Somalia. In most cases, the government has been slow in building government administrations and putting security forces in all the towns recovered from Al- Shabaab. Rampant unemployment among the youth is a contributing factor that allows Al- Shabab to recruit and garner support.
Another area relating to security is violence against women and children, especially sexual violence. SFG has to provide security protection for all citizens, especially individuals in public service and media who are under threat.
National security would not be achieved without robust security and defense institutions with adequate infrastructure and logistics including proper facilities, administrative structures, equipment, and well trained and disciplined armed forces. There is a need for rehabilitating facilities, training programs for armed forces and providing adequate financial resources.
The judiciary branch is one of the three main arms of the government. The SFG has to make a top priority the implementation and the adoption of the legislation in the proposed recommendations of the Conference in accordance with the Provisional Constitution, and within the specified timelines. Some of the notable items include:
Reforming the judiciary and Rule of Law institutions and the Office of the Attorney General; establishing the Constitutional Court, Judicial Service Commission, Anti-corruption Commission, National Law Reform Commission; Legal Aid system, and the Federal Court system and expanding it to all regions of the country; enhancing the quality of the military courts; building the capacity of the members of the judiciary and staff as well the police and corrections. The Conference recommendation clearly states that the judiciary should be independent from the executive, and the parliament to speed up the process of passing all relevant legislations.
In regards to Public Financial Management, the SFG should continue rebuilding and enhancing Public Financial Management institutions and combating corruption. Without these institutions and systems that could provide transparency on financial transactions, it would be difficult to collect reliable data, conduct accurate audits, and hold individuals accountable.
Somalis often focus on the executive and legislative branches of government, but the public service is in fact the epicenter of the government. The administration needs to clearly articulate a national public service structural framework. The SFG institutions can’t function without highly competent civil servants, including administrators and technocrats that can drive the machine with optimum capacity.
Government agencies need to find qualified, experienced and honest people. Since Somalia has experienced decades of “brain-drain”, it is critically important to recruit from Diaspora. There are many professionals including retired and semi-retired individuals who are willing to volunteer and provide training, technical assistance and skills transfer. The FGS needs to leverage its resources and take advantage of available human capital.
The administration has inherited some monumental problems including the break-up of the country into clan fiefdoms, wide spread insecurity, and weak or nonexistent institutions. Though the current government is no longer transitional, it lacks financial and human capital, and it will take quite a while to rebuild institutions. PM Shirdon has only been in office for seven months and his cabinet even less. If we continue with the political culture of changing administrations frequently which made the previous transitional governments ineffective, Somalia will never have a stable government. Parliamentary oversight should include careful investigation and prescribed corrective actions with clear benchmarks.
The nation is only now trying to emerge from a ditch, and the culture of demolition and reinventing the wheel must stop. Instead, it is about time to rebuild and strengthen the delicate institutions. The task of restoring collapsed institutions and tackling the social ills of the society will require solid strategic vision, reconciliation, trust building, unity, hard work, and political culture shift. As the legislative body of the government, the work of MPs is the pillar of reconstructing institutions that are based on justice, equality, and inclusiveness. Somalia is at a critical juncture and the Somali people need public institutions that can provide services and deliver on basic human needs.
Zainab M. Hassan