Somali Parliament: Where the Minority Rules

There is currently a power conflict brewing between Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed and President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. This dynamic is not a particularly unique one between these two individuals.

In fact, over the past 10 years, there have been four presidents and 11 prime ministers in the Somali federal government. Within each of these administrations there have existed problems regarding governmental power dynamics. These issues can be traced back to one particular source: the Somali Constitution. The Constitution exists in ambiguity, as it does not clearly outline the power distinctions between the Offices of the President and the Prime Minister.

Therefore the historical contention between the two offices stems from an uncertainty about the parameters of each office’s reach. In this ambiguity, there exists the possibility of conflict. This is why the current Somali political problem extends beyond Prime Minister Ahmed and President Mohamud: it is ingrained in the Constitution.

While the conflict between President and Prime Minister has been a longstanding issue, current circumstances pose a particular issue. Since the beginning of his term, Prime Minister Ahmed has flagrantly violated the Constitution and overstepped his powers. His early actions as a Prime Minster served as a preface to a series of disrespectful actions perpetrated by Prime Minister Ahmed against President Mohamud.

Later, Prime Minister Ahmed’s actions in relation to sacking the Police commissioner & Director of NISA and appointing new police commissioner and director of NISA showed his continued disregard for the Constitution and the powers it affords the President. By removing the police commissioner and appointing a new commissioner without the President’s knowledge or approval, Prime Minister Ahmed violated Article 90, Section C of the Constitution, which grants the President the power to appoint and remove the heads of federal Somali armed forces.

Furthermore, Article 90, Section E of the Constitution grants the President the sole power to implement and remove ministers, state ministers, and deputy ministers, after the Prime Minister recommends the implementation or removal. However, Prime Minister Ahmed appointed not one, but two, ministers without consulting the President. Both the Minister of Health and the Minister of National Security were appointed without a presidential decree. Even a cursory reading of the Constitution illustrates that this is an unconstitutional action. Yet, all of these were not met with retribution on the part of the President.

In fact the president has maintained a crucial levelheadedness that has protected some sense of dignity for the federal government. Despite the president’s even-keeled approach, the prime minister has continued to act almost unilaterally. One action on the part of Prime Minister Ahmed has led to the political breakdown in Mogadishu currently. Without the President’s consent, the Prime Minister proceeded to re-shuffle the Council of Ministers.

While the conversation surrounding the current conflict between the Prime Minister and President feels petty, the effects of this dynamic reach far beyond Villa Somalia. This current crisis has led to a halt on all of the security advances, economic and governance progress the country has been making since the election of President Mohamud. When a conflict with such wide reaching scope occurs, one would hope that Parliament, the highest government institution, would be able to provide some sort of intervention. Indeed, the necessary steps have been taken toward a proper intervention.

The overwhelming majority of Parliament has forwarded a motion to a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister and his government. However, a vocal minority supporting the Prime Minister has continued to interrupt proceedings. These interruptions stem from a lack of leadership within the Parliament, combined with alleged involvement of some members from the international community, mainly the neighboring countries. The danger in these interruptions exists in the possibility of precedence setting. If parliamentary leaders allow these actions to successfully halt voting procedure, this may continue into the future.

Somalia continues to herald itself as a representative democracy. Indeed, the hallmark of a successful democracy lies in its ability to represent and follow its Constitution, and the current Prime Minister does not appear to succeed on this front. The actions of this Prime Minister not only threaten current structures, they do not bode well for the future of the country. Furthermore, a democracy requires that a majority be allowed to openly debate, vote on issues and forward their actions. The intimidation tactics employed by the Prime Minister’s supporters in Parliament are dangerous to the progression of democracy in Somalia.

By Abukar Osman,
Somali Analyst