Galmudug process test for federalization in Somalia
By Somali Review
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud officially opened the Adado Conference on state formation for the central regions of Somalia in mid-April. By first week of July, Galmudug state had emerged (the name existed since 2006) with a state constitution, a clan-based parliament and a new president and vice president were elected. The Federal Government and international community refer to this emerging political entity as “Galmudug Interim Administration” – in line with other “interim administrations” of Jubaland and Southwest – but the delegates and politicians at Adado Conference prefer to be referred to as “Galmudug State”.
The Galmudug state formation process generally followed the pattern of the formulaic political blueprint similarly experienced in Garowe (1998 formation of Puntland), Kismayo (2013 formation of Jubaland) and Baidoa (2014 formation of Southwest State). These were largely community-driven initiatives that enjoyed by the confidence and legitimacy of local clans. These conventions were an exercised in the people’s will and hunger for governance in the regions. The conferences empowered local communities through promotion of inter-clan cohesion and by focusing on the benefits and political leverage of a state government, on par with other regions of Somalia. Some 300 delegates approved the Galmudug constitution, a new 78-member State Parliament was sworn in, and a President and Vice President were elected.
This long process of state formation and elections was not without its flaws. To their credit, local communities and their leaders succeeded in completing what was a Herculean task from the onset: organizing a convention, inviting and managing hundreds of delegates, and successfully concluding the convention by establishing a state parliament and an elected president.
Adado Conference: Challenges and opportunities
On June 17th, some 310 delegates (out of 351 voting delegates present) voted to approve the new state constitution, adopted the name ‘Galmudug’ and a new state flag. On June 20th, the Adado Conference’s Technical Committee announced a new list of 60 MPs (out of a total 78 Galmudug MPs).
Many questions remain about the prospects of the new state. Its future, like the future of fellow Somali states, depends on a number of critical factors, including a Federal Government that plays a positive role in the federalization process and collaborative inter-state relations.
The convention faced many challenges; indeed, its very nature was in question from the beginning. First, the conference backers claimed that they would form a new state government for ‘Mudug and Galgadud regions’, but this claim contradicts reality in parts of Mudug region that have been administered by Puntland for 17 years. The political row between Puntland and Galmudug has yet to be resolved.
Second, Ahlu Sunna armed faction has rejected the Adado Conference and fought sporadic battles against pro-government forces in Guri’el and Dhusamareb towns of Galgadud region. The fighting initially erupted on Dec. 12, 2014, when Ahlu Sunna and pro-government forces fought for control of the two towns for two consecutive days. Control of Guri’el and Dhusamareb has shifted hands several times, including a number of battles in February 2015. On June 23, Ahlu Sunna leaders declared that a new state formation conference (which rivals the Adado Conference) would open in Dhusamareb aiming to govern the central regions. This was particularly problematic because the new Galmudug administration’s capital is supposed to be Dhusamareb, which remains in the hands of its adversary.
Third, within constituencies who support the new Galmudug administration, local clans and their political actors jockeyed for parliament seats. Needless to say there were loud disagreements about the distribution of seats, walkouts by frustrated delegates and threats to boycott the conference altogether. In the end, however, the conference largely succeeded in its primary objectives.
Fourth, Adado Conference was hampered by financial limitations, bribing allegations, and accusations of intervention by Federal Government officials – in particular Minister of Interior Abdirahman Odowa, whom delegates and citizens alike accused of wanton intervention.
Despite such challenges, the Adado Conference provided an opportunity for delegates from different districts to convene, engage in dialogue and agree to the terms of a new state.
It was an exercise in state-building and a confidence measure for local communities yearning for responsible and responsive governance. Galmudug offers the potential to lead towards a new state that brings peace and development to the people of central Somalia.
The Federal Government’s role
The Federal Government has been actively involved from the beginning. On July 30, 2014, an 11-point agreement was signed in Mogadishu between Federal Government ministerial committee and representatives of a number of political entities operating in parts of Mudug and Galgadud regions.
On Aug. 26, 2014, the Ministry of Interior and Federal Affairs announced a 27-member Technical Committee to ostensibly facilitate the state formation process at Adado Conference. At times, delegates publicly accused the Ministry of Interior and the Technical Committee of “misleading” the conference.
On April 16, 2015, President Hassan flew in to Adado and officially opened the first phase of the conference. In Adado, President Hassan was unequivocal in his support the formation of a new administration for ‘Mudug and Galgadud’, despite Puntland’s loud complaints.
The Somali president went on numerous interviews to emphasize that the new administration would not threaten Puntland.
Somali Prime Minister Omar Sharmake visited Adado on June 1 and officially launched the second phase of Conference. Meanwhile, the Federal Government’s point man for in Adado, Interior Minister Abdirahman Odowa, continued to travel between Mogadishu and Adado to coordinate the conference’s outcome. Somali media speculated that Minister Odowa was tasked with aiding Abdikarim Hussein Guled’s election victory; unverified sources reported that some US$4million was spent on Guled’s election victory.
Galmudug’s new president
The Adado Conference concluded on July 4 with the election Abdikarim Hussein Guled as Galmudug President. Guled is not a newcomer to Somali politics. Still, he is not a veteran political leader either, but among the new generation of Somali leaders. Before 2012, he was largely unknown outside his circles in Mogadishu. As the Somali President’s close ally, Guled joined the Council of Ministers on Nov. 4, 2012 as Minister of Interior and National Security. After 19 months on the job and a string of guerrilla attacks in Mogadishu, Guled declared his resignation as Minister in an emotional televised event.
Guled served under two consecutive Somali Prime Ministers, Abdi Farah Shirdon and Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, and Somali media often speculated that he enjoyed job security under President Hassan’s friendly watch.
The name Galmudug entered the Somali political landscape in 2006 when a group of political actors – including some ex-warlords – organized a conference in Galkayo and declared a new state, laying claim to Galgadud and South Mudug regions and establishing a capital in the southern part of Galkayo.
The UN-led Roadmap process in 2011-2012 recognized Galmudug’s leader as a signatory. In Somalia, however, the first and second Galmudug administrations (led by Mohamed Alim and Abdi Qeybdiid, respectively) were largely confined to controlling parts of South Galkayo and its environs, characterized by weak institutions, financial limitations, and the young administration’s reputation was marred by allegations of political infighting, corruption and ties to piracy.
Guled brings experience and political backing to his new position as Galmudug President. His public tone to the people of Galmudug, and fellow Somalis in Puntland and other regions, has been diplomatic and focused on peace and consolidating political power.
The formation of federal states will be followed by implementing pragmatic mechanisms to ensure inter-state cooperation. The Somali polities that fragmented in 1991 are continuously repositioning as the federalization process takes root. Galmudug is a challenge to the federalization process. Can a new state comprising of one-and-a-half regions (below the “two regions or more” requirement in Federal Constitution) be recognized as a state government? In an agreement between the Federal Government and Puntland (signed in Garowe, Oct. 14, 2014), it states that the parties “have agreed that the Interim Administration for the central regions [the process of which] the Federal Government leads comprises of Galgadud and South Mudug regions, and that the North Mudug is part of Puntland”.
In a TV interview, former Puntland Cabinet minister Abdiweli Hersi Nur said that the Federal Government and Puntland, through that agreement, effectively “recognized and legitimized Galmudug”.
Many Somalis fear that the federalization process – already fraught with its flaws and inconsistencies – is worsened by the prospect that the standard is lowered to one-and-half regions, which would open the door for separatist clan based movements to emerge in existing currently unified state administrations and potentially leading to further fragmentation.