This week the ongoing division between the Somali Federal Government and the Federal Member States has taken a poisonous turn. The leader of Galmudug State, Ahmed Duale Haaf, accused the Federal Government of too much interference in his internal politics after returning from a visit to the UAE where he admitted he was seeking financial assistance in exchange for his support in the Gulf crisis.
To date, 4 out of the 5 Federal Member States have parted with the official Government position of neutrality on the Gulf crisis and the intervention by Foreign Minister Yusuf Garaad to challenge their unconstitutional behaviour fell on deaf ears. Minister Yusuf is right to point out that Foreign Affairs is a Federal matter but without leadership and a stick and carrot approach to governance from the Central Government, these rules will merely exist to be exploited by the Federal Member States whenever they seek to undermine the Government for their very narrow interests.
The Somali Federal Government appears to be jumping from crisis to crisis. This can be reversed with the successful management and conclusion of the Gulf crisis in a way that brings the Federal Member States back to the government’s position of neutrality. Neutrality is the best political and diplomatic strategy for the long term despite the pressure and interference from the Saudi-UAE led coalition against Qatar.
The Somali Federal Government must be commended for its neutral position on the Gulf crisis given the damaging decisions of the past administration of siding with Saudi Arabia against both Sweden and Iran. However, the current crisis requires that this neutrality does not weaken the Federal Government’s already limited authority over the Federal Member States.
What is driving the Federal Member States to undermine the Central Government is a combination of greed, opportunism and personal interest. The regional federal state leaders must, and do, recognise that their actions of challenging their Central Government’s position makes them political mercenaries for hire. This hurts the Somali Government’s efforts at nation-building and the constitutional review process. There is no respect or pride in this. There is no honour for these regional leaders in the eyes of those foreigners exploiting the weak Somali governance structures and the current financial challenges.
The Somali Federal Government must urgently resolve this matter through the convening of a National Leadership Forum to discuss the way forward. The great challenge for the Somali Government is not just diplomatic but internal political stability and cohesion. The Somalia Federal Government currently does not have the military, financial and political weight, reach and influence to contain the dripping poison of tribally led decision making at the Federal Member State level. However, it still has the popularity to publicly challenge those seeking to undermine its authority and credibility both at home and abroad.
To conclude this matter successfully for the long term, the Somali Federal Government must complete the review of the constitution, empower the Constitutional Court and increase its enforcement capabilities. In addition, there must be genuine nationwide discussion on power and resource sharing as well as fiscal federalism which, if resolved, can provide the Federal Government with the carrot and stick to manage its relations with the Federal Member States. Without getting its house in order, the Somali Federal Government will always be weak and vulnerable to any political crisis. This is something the Central Government cannot afford if it seeks to achieve its ambitious reform agenda.