Disposition of Impeachment Motion will shape Somali politics
By Mohamud M Uluso
Since 2012, Somalia experienced series of political turmoil: The unforgettable resignation of Former Central Bank Governor of Somalia, Yusur Abrar, for protest against corruption peddling and abuse of power; polarizing and costly “no-confidence” motions against former Prime Ministers Abdi Farah Shirdon and Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed; Call of more than 100 Parliamentarians for thevoluntary resignation of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud for leadership failure and gross violations of the constitution. Those political crisis have diminished the reputation of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and seriously ruined Somalia’s partnership with the International Community.
For the first time in the Somali history, on August 12, 2015, on the basis of articles 92 and 138 (2) of the provisional constitution, one third (1/3) of the members of the federal parliament, about 93 deputies, submitted an impeachment motion against President Hassan to the parliament as a last “corrective political measure.” The motion lists sixteen serious charges detailed under three major headings. The Sponsors released Press Statement as part of the submission of the impeachment motion. President Hassan responded angrily and denigrated the promoters of the motion.The impeachment motion, initiated and judged by the parliament, deals with the crimes of public official and the Supreme Court determines the compliance with the Constitutional standards. The managers of President Hassan’s impeachment motion claim that after submission additional members of parliament endorsed the motion, while other members protested for the inclusion of their names as sponsors of the motion.
Quickly, the International Community for Somalia-UN, EU, IGAD, AU, UK, and US, issued familiar joint statement which labels the impeachment motion as an” impediment to the progress of peace and state building goals” and demanded its rapid resolution. The statement rules out term extension for the executive and legislative bodies after August 2016. The requirements for high standards and integrity in the impeachment process, misuse of extremely valuable time, and absence of essential legal bodies are cited as reasons for throwing out the motion. Thus, the international community either undervalues the significance of the allegations or doubts the evidence or understandably impugns the integrity and transparency of the Supreme Court (Constitutional Court), the decisions of which are enforced on Somali Citizens or believes that the parliament is after term extension.
The parliamentary Chair issued a statement rejecting the views and presumptions of the International Community. The Chair pledged to process the impeachment motion in accordance with the federal constitution and laws of the land and appealed to the international community and people of Somalia to remain calm and focused on their responsibilities. Furthermore, the sponsors of the impeachment motion issued a response statement in which they dispelled the suspicion of term extension and assured the completion of pending legislations relevant for Vision 2016.
Article 92 on the impeachment of the Somali president specifies the following:
- The house of the people of the federal parliament can propose the dismissal of the president of the federal republic of Somalia if he is accused of treason, or gross violation of the constitution or the laws of the federal republic of Somalia.
- The motion for dismissing the president of the federal republic of Somalia may be introduced by no less than one-third (1/3) of the total membership of the house of the federal parliament and may be presented to the constitutional court, which shall preside over the case to see whether it has legal grounds.
- If the constitutional court determines that the case has legal grounds, the president of the federal republic of Somalia may be dismissed by a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the total members of the two houses of the federal parliament
- If the president of the federal republic of Somalia is dismissed in accordance with clauses 1-3 of this article the speaker of the house of the people of the federal parliament shall assume the duties of the president of the federal republic of Somalia.
Before drafting the impeachment motion, the federal parliament approved two important parliamentary rules. First, Members of Parliament were denied the possibility of withdrawing from sponsored motion after submission. This restriction improves the integrity of the federal parliament and forces each member to not sign on any motion for political bargain. Second, the voting procedure for approving or rejecting political leaders and government officials will be secret. These two amendments were ground work for the impeachment.
As of today, the Constitutional Court mandated under article 135 of the Provisional Constitution within 60 days from August 1, 2012 does not exist. Such inexistence is purported as major hurdle for the disposition of the motion.
But as legal precedent in Somalia, article 99 of 1960 Constitution prescribes that the Supreme Court plays the role of the Constitutional Court with the addition of four members-two appointed by the Council of Ministers and two by the Federal Parliament. The role of the Supreme Court is to validate the allegations against the President. The defendant (the President) and the prosecutor/Judge (Federal Parliament) must have full confidence in the impartiality and integrity of the Supreme Court which daily issues legal decisions enforced on private citizens.
The impeachment motion is the culmination of various factors. The said factors include the monopolization of political and economic power by the President’s team; Unfulfilled political deals made to members of parliament; mismanagement and failure of Vision 2016; the growing crisis and popular discontent engendered by the formation of federal member States in Jubbaland, Southwest, Galmudug, as well as by the dysfunctional relations between the Federal Government of Somalia and Regional Administrations of Puntland and Somaliland; the deterioration of the political and economic condition of the masses including politicians, civil servants, and security forces; unbridled human rights abuses, corruption, and government abuses against poor people.
The disposition of President Hassan’s impeachment motion will shape Somalia’s future politics. If the motion fails, the President will enjoy free hand to consolidate his power base and marginalize others and improve his chance for reelection. If the motion passes, new political leadership will emerge.
In addition, the motion tests the claims that the National Federal Institutions are sovereign capable of handling the internal matters of Somalia without foreign Interventions. Finally, it tests the capability and integrity of the Supreme Court in adhering to the principles of rule of law and accountability.
The process for the impeachment of Somali President is clear and straight forward. The house of the federal parliament proposes the motion of impeachment after it investigates the crimes committed and it has the burden to convince the Supreme Court (constitutional court) the existence and legal basis of the facts presented to proof the commission of treason, gross violation of the constitution and laws.
If the Supreme Court (Constitutional Court) determines that the motion submitted by one third (1/3) of the federal parliament has legal grounds, the federal parliament will debate and deliberate on the motion in the context of public policy and public interests. The federal parliament has to decide on the dismissal of the president, which requires majority votes of two thirds (2/3) of the federal parliament. In case the President is voted out of office, the speaker of parliament will become the interim president until new president is elected.
Unprecedented, the impeachment motion appoints three well known Somali lawyers who will represent the parliament for the validation of the allegations in the motion and the subsequent trial of the president in parliament. The President has the opportunity to appoint his defense lawyers. The Supreme Court should listen the case in open session.
As the international community, the Somali people has great misgiving about the motivations of the members of the federal parliament accused of fomenting political crisis to solicit bribe, political positions, and term extension. The federal parliament is considered as an accomplice of President’s transgressions. On the other hand, there is palpable public agreement with the legitimacy of the allegations quoted in the impeachment motion like abuse of human rights, political exclusion, abuse of power, and looting of public resources.
The motion created political tension and consternation. The President and parliament camps are suspicious about Speaker Jawari’s objectivity and audacity. In the final analysis, the disposition of the impeachment motion is difficult but not impossible and requires decisive objective leadership.