Hirshabelle: Informal Power Sharing Formula and Legitimacy Status Revisited

By Mohamed Omar Hashi–While absence of effective governance continues to dominate the news in Somalia, the long-running political crisis in this war-ravaged country has taken a turn for the worse. The federalisation efforts and federal member state formation process is facing a serious political stalemate. A mishandling of the state formation crisis has proven to be detrimental to the previous federal government’s incipient democratic process and political participation efforts. By October 9, 2016 a new federal member state had been formed, covering the Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle regions, which became known as Hirshabelle. The Government justified its federalisation decision under the pretext of meeting the demands of the people for federalism, arguing that it was simply implementing the will and wish of the people. However, in reality, the people were in no mood to embrace the new state.

The process of federalisation was marked by a number of failures, involving a lack of consultation, political representation, and participation. It has been described as a federal tug of war, in which the members of the federal government, in spite of great opposition from the Hiiraan citizens, comprising civil society, youth, business and women, as well as traditional leaders including Ugaas Xasan Ugaas Khaliif, expressed their strong opposition. They questioned the legitimacy of the inter-regional state formation conference in the city of Jowhar, accusing it of defying the aspirations, and challenging the political representations and participation of their people in the country’s post-conflict reconciliation and reunification process.

Of the eight regions that originally made up the independence division, Hiiraan is the only region which remained undivided and retained its initial boundaries. In 2012, the head committee of the assembly of 825 Somali elders formulated a constituent constitution, and suggested that Hiiraan should be awarded a special status because of the ‘special conditions’ of it being the sole survivor of the original eight regions. This recommendation was a means of complying with the Constitutional prerequisite that a ‘federal state’ be formed of two or more regions. This argument was further strengthened by the Galmudug and Puntland administrations case, which were given the privilege to continue sharing Galkayo city and the Mudug region, despite the ongoing debate regarding whether the provisional constitution allows federal states to share a region. The argument is thus that if an exception can be made for Galmudug and Puntland, Hiiraan can make a similar claim.

This showed the disparity in the way federalisation, in different regions of the country, was managed, one rule for one region and another for the rest. Rather than acknowledging the broad and uncontainable disapproval of the people of the region, the former government decided to pursue its unpopular and unsuccessful strategic objectives and, consequently, was able to obtain a kind of pseudo-consent, the delusion of consultation, objectivity and transformed condition. The marginalisation of the Hiiraan traditional elders as well as the fervent celebrations that accompanied the creation of Hirshabelle on 9th October, 2016 in Jowhar confirm the extent of the delusion. Hiiraan was neglected and marginalised and, predictably, soon after the formation of the state, a political meltdown ensued, which demonstrated the flaws in the process, pointing to the enormous challenges the new state now faces. This article will analyse the failed transition to a federal member state from a number of angles. Retrospectively, it will examine the executive orders that were issued, and the power sharing formula and legitimisation efforts that were implemented. Prospectively, the article will discuss the future from a post-state formation perspective, and suggest ways to minimise the potential damage – culminating with some concluding remarks and recommendations.


This section will explore the executive orders or presidential decrees that were issued over several years concerning the formation of the Hiiraan region as a state, in chronological order. This analysis will discuss the main tenets of each executive order, and discusses the underlining motives.
The first wave of executive orders were issued by the former President of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, on July 23, 2012, which partitioned the Hiiraan region into two regions, thus enabling the formation of a joint member-state without violating Article 49(6) of the provisional constitution stipulating that federal states must be comprised of two or more regions. As such, the president used the executive order to alter the number of regions from 18 to 19.

Figure 1: President executive order (Hiiraan region)

However, the president made a U-turn and, on August 1, 2012, just a month after his executive order, the country’s provisional constitution was created, and, contrary to the executive order, the constitution did not indorse the new regions, as such the it upholds 18 contrary to the 19 regions.

With the country’s election looming, members of parliament were nominated by traditional elders and, by September 16, 2012, the MPs had elected a president. The Federal Government of Somalia was led by the new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The new leader had his own political vision and, as such, the region was again subjected to a second wave of state formation executive order, issued on August 6, 2013.

Figure 2: President executive order: Federal Member state formation (Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle)

Source: http://mudug24.com/2015/12/20/dhageyso-madaxweynaha-somalia-oo-goor-dhow-magacaabay-caasimada-hiiraan-iyo-shabellaha-dhexe-iyo-halka-lagu-qabanayo-shirka-maamulka/

From a legal perspective, it is not possible to simply ignore the executive orders that were authorised by the previous presidents. Sheikh Sharif bypassed his own executive order, and President Hassan side-lined presidential decree issues by his predecessor without revoking or amending in order for the heads of executive departments and agencies to rescind the orders, rules, guidelines, and policies that implemented the previous executive orders.

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