Somalia: A Democratic Proposal

Published on 12th January 2015

Somalia emerged from political transition in September, 2012 to become a fully recognized sovereign country again. Its people's hopes and that of the International Community were raised at last that the nation was back from a "failed state" and would stand on its feet once again. With hugely inflated expectations, the current government came head on with seemingly insurmountable challenges and constitutionally mandated bench marks.

Now,  the Somali people  as well as the International Community involved in the country’s stabilization and democratization process realize that the facts on the ground and the challenges ahead seriously put in doubt even a partial realization of the mandated goals. Some of the challenges are:

  • Completing the formation of the federated member states with agreed boundaries and citizens
  • Completing the constitutional review and its adaption in a national referendum
  • Conducting nationally acceptable census and redistribution of members of the parliament based on the numbers of the new census
  • Defeating Al-shabab and solving all security problems
  • Enacting statutes to form national political parties and give them time to be ready for political engagement and competition
  • solving secessionist issues of Somaliland and
  • holding a democratic election of one man one vote in 2016.

In this concept paper, I will dwell on  where to go from here.  Installing a new legitimate parliament that has the quality and the mandate to move the nation forward is the centerpiece of the whole political process. If we get right the formation of the Somali Parliament, the rest of the political process is manageable and has a good chance of success.

The hybrid concept

  • To create grass-roots level community consensus and compromise
  • To create sense of legitimate representation, transparency, and accountability.
  • To incorporate the age old Somali tradition in the political process in a legitimate format
  • To prevent to disenfranchise communities
  • To prevent electoral fraud and influence buying
  • To elect criteria based persons for Somalia’s Parliament

Political Objectives of the Hybrid Concept

  • The political unity and the harmony of the communities in Somalia should be the overriding objective of any political initiative. Democratization process, in itself, is not and should not be the end goal. Peace, unity, economic and social progress, are the end goals.
  • It’s critically important to realize the disastrous repercussions that a failure to meet constitutionally mandated goals will have on the federal government of Somalia as a whole
  • All political stakeholders should realize and give serious consideration the forces threatening the peace and the long term stability of Somalia, including the growing buildup of Al-Shabab in the sub-region
  • Traditional leaders, current government and political stakeholders should be part of a grand political consensus and compromise. Such a consensus and compromise is a founding principal and an enduring practical way of life of the Somali people
  • Fairness, transparency and legitimacy of the process of choosing/electing parliamentary representatives should be one of the main political objectives
  • Any interim political arrangement could throw Somalia off the normal constitutional cycle of term limits and create unchartered situation and political uncertainty
  • Eliminating and/or minimizing partiality and bribery in the selection/election process of the members of parliament is critical for the legitimacy and integrity of the whole process.

A Hybrid Alternative

Somalia Federal Parliament has to enact statutes that recognize and Register sub-Clans and their traditional leaders (Nabadoons only) of each of the 275 MPs as one constituency. This has to be properly identified and documented and should be all inclusive.

a.Local traditional leaders caucus: The documented traditional Nabadoons of the sub-clans that each MP represent should meet, in the presence of the Election Commission, to decide three things:

  • The particular clan that their MP will come from, and there should be a statute in place to reach a decision if there is no consensus
  • The criteria of the person that is to become the MP
  • Selecting Members of the popular caucus that should come from the cross-section of the local society with each Nabadoon allotted equal numbers.

b. The MP representing such a constituency should be elected by a caucus of the sub-clan that the MP represents through secret ballot. The size of these popular caucuses should be reasonably large, fairly representative, and diverse for each constituency. Well I may add few explanation points to this my concept note.


  • The reason that community traditional leaders at the lowest level (Nabadoons) should be part of the process as caucus is to uphold and protect the good elements and practices of the Somali tradition. That is what was missing from the Somali constitutions adapted since 1960's
  • Those caucuses have to take place at district and village level in order to take elections as close to the people as possible; just as one man one vote.
  • There should be no travel, no hotel, no per head cost. But just as it happens in the Somali's under the tree gathering tradition
  • To distance voting places from big city centers and deny easy access to those people who want to poison the process with money and other distortions
  • The fact that all sub-clans participate both in the traditional leaders and community caucuses for the election of their MP makes representation legitimate and transparent
  • There should be a minimum of three MP candidates, and one of them should be woman.
  • This process should be viewed as the people's right to choose their representatives without the meddling of all levels of government whether local, state or federal
  • Rules can be made to recall if an MP of a constituency fails to do his or her solemn duties and responsibilities to the nation and to the constituency.

By Dahir Jibreel, Ph.D.

Email: [email protected]


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