Clan Federalism Continues to Thwart Reconciliation and Democratic Governance in Somalia

by Mohamud M Uluso

As the communities of Jubbaland and Southwest are experiencing, close and peaceful communities in Mudug and Galgudud regions are suffering from the tragic consequences of political acrimony fomented by the denounced clan federalism under implementation without constitutional, political, and administrative foundations. Although there is an urgent need for effective self-governance, Mudug and Galgudud communities and their leaders did not receive adequate information about the rules and policies of ownership and leadership of the federation process at local and national levels. So far, each federation process has different dominant actors, backers, and arbitrary rules made up ad hoc.
Formally, the federation process of Mudug and Galgudud regions started with an agreement signed after “secret deals” by two different groups: 1. three local entities- Galmudug State, Ximan and Xeb State, and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama (ASWJ); and 2. Four Ministries of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS). There was no formal or informal relation between these two groups. Then, a technical committee composed of members belonging to the clans inhabiting in the two regions, was formed. The agreement left unclear the role of its signatories and other stakeholders during the implementation. Immediately, disputes raised by stakeholders stalled the federation process that lacked proper mechanism for solution.

As a result of this confusion, majority of community leaders of the two regions held a meeting in Dhusa-Mareb, the capital of Galgudud region, for consultation and reconciliation. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud made extraordinary efforts to abort the meeting for undisclosed but suspected reasons.

Subsequently, irritated by the continuation of the meeting, he travelled twice to Dhusa-Mareb to shut down it without success. Both visits have deepened the disagreement between the president and the community leaders and hardened the positions of both sides. This fits the situations described in an article on “the present politics in Somalia” published on April 4th in the Economist. The article points out the failure of the FGS and the reluctance of the international partners of Somalia to admit it.

For the sake of emphasis, recent Policy Brief published by the Heritage Institute of Policy Studies in Mogadishu under the title, “Federal Somalia: Not if but How” has confirmed the ills of clan federalism. The Brief has illustrated that the process of federation is unconstitutional, chaotic, unpopular, divisive, and seed for potential conflict. Clan federalism thwarts reconciliation and democratic governance in Somalia. But the international partners of Somalia have made their mind on clan Federalism and cannot be swayed by political reality, Somali dissension and concerns.

Ambassador Nicolas Kay, the Head of UN Mission in Somalia, has recently declared in an interview with VOA that the formation of Federal Member States (FMS) takes place before the formulation, debate, and ratification of a national constitution that establishes the Somali State and the structures and powers of its government. Each FMS, dominated by a personal ruler from a specific sub clan, will symbolize nationhood. The declaration of Ambassador Nicholas Kay and the silence and inaction of the Federal Parliament since 2012 on clan federalism could be a deliberate shared strategy of denying the Somali people of the right and opportunity to shape their common future as a united Somali Nation.

Without prejudice to other clans, the emerging predetermined clan dominance configuration of the FMSs will be as follows:

1. Jubbaland State (Darod-Ogaden)

2. Southwest State (Digil and Mirifle-Ashraf)

3. Mudug and Galgudud ( Hawiye-Habargidir)

4. Hiiran and Middle Shabelle (Hawiye-Hawadle)

5. Puntland (Darod-Majerten Mohamud Saleban)

6. Somaliland (Dir-Isaq)

In addition, the federation process adheres to the following core conditions:
1. Somali Constitution, nationalism, and citizenship must remain taboo.

2. Predetermined districts are merged to form a FMS without legal foundations. This is in conflict with the fundamental obligation of a State or government to implement only activities defined and authorized by legal acts passed by legitimate institutions.

3. The leaders of the FMSs should claim friendship with neighboring countries as credential and should pay quick visits to Nairobi and Addis Ababa for gaining international legitimacy and security and diplomatic protection.

4. The federation process must prove that Somali elite and traditional leaders are unprincipled and unpatriotic islamists, secularists, intellectuals, politicians, and personalities who are concerned solely with their personal welfare.

5. Donors provide the financial support and legitimacy for the establishment of FMS but do not support the functioning of the FMS except travel expenses, office furniture, and equipment. This is recipe for public looting like Mafia and terrorists.

6. Each FMS has to form clan militia to loot the public, abuse minority, and challenge outsiders.
7. The new FMSs must remain free from the guidance of and subordination to the FGS and should challenge the power and responsibility of the central government (FGS) and deal directly with international actors for assistance.

8. The Presidents of FMSs should be independent rulers, not accountable to anyone to the point of singlehandedly selecting peoples’ representatives (local parliament).

9. The “Institute of Peace and Security Studies (IPSS),”located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia will be the intellectual base of federalism in Somalia.


Four factors are the main sources of the crisis over the federation process. First, upon assuming power, the power-holders of the FGS espoused the outlook of the international Community that the Somali people are not ready for sovereign self-governance for another 25 years.

Therefore, they concluded that they had the opportunity to get at least two or three terms to remain in power and the constitutional term of four years intended to perform constitutional mandates for peacebuilding and statebuilding is inconsequential. This has diminished the pressure to carry out all necessary efforts before starting implementation of federalism in Somalia. The government affairs were run as private business which provoked political infighting between top leaders.

Second, after embracing the self-defeating unconstitutional federation process of Jubbaland and Southwest, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud hoped to control the federation processes of Mudug and Galgudud as well as Hiran and Middle Shabelle regions to improve the chance of his political survival. But, it seems that despite its zealous push for the federation, the international Community is frustrating his expectation. IGAD has now taken over the leadership of the federation process.

Third, the leaders of FGS welcomed the Vision 2016 as a foreign driven political platform to go along with but to use it as a political leverage that guarantees the continuation of their leadership after 2016.This has eliminated the need to investigate and plan the requirements for the implementation of Vision 2016 in timely manner and avoid pitfalls.

Fourth, The FGS followed irresponsible political strategy in dealing with the political circumstances of the two regions. For example, the federal government concluded well publicized agreements with ASWJ groups from Galgudud and Gedo regions for reintegration in the state structures after years of internationally acclaimed resistance against Al Shabab. But the agreement was immediately discarded. Then, armed confrontation between forces from ASWJ and Federal Government took place in Dhusa-Mareb and Guri-EL later stopped after the conclusion of ceasefire agreement between the two sides.

Strangely, one of the modus operandi of the federal government is to sign foreign and domestic agreements without commitment to honor them, submit them to public knowledge and scrutiny, and legal process for legitimization. This harms the respect and trust of federal government.

The formation of new FMS in the central regions has sparked intense discussion about the goals of various local clans, individuals, neighboring regions, the federal government, particularly the president, and the international actors (Ethiopia and Djibouti).

The Federal Government did not offer effective leadership focused on inclusion and reconciliation among local communities. Either incompetence or Machiavellian leadership has fomented antagonism among close and peaceful communities and delegitimized the process of federation. Unfortunately, the standoff between the community leaders gathered in Dhusamareb and President Hassan continues as of today. This could intensify public cynicism and produce unintended negative security and political consequences.


Mr. Mohamud M Uluso

[email protected]

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