Parliament gives power back to the people

In what can be said to be the most chaotic scene in Muqdisho since the events of 19th Feb, Golaha Shacabka voted to repeal the 17th September Agreement as well as extend the term of Federal institutions for up to two years while implementing a ‘One Person, One Vote’ (1P1V) model.

Before we look into the details surrounding the vote, lets take a look at the prior events which almost led Muqdisho into chaos.

Events surrounding Saadaq Cumar Xasan

More colloquially known as Saadaq Joon, he was the police commander of the region of Banaadir in which Muqdisho is situated as its capital. From reports on the ground, it appears Joon staged a somewhat attempted mutiny against his own police force and government after he tried to adjourn the sitting of Parliament on Monday. He stated in his televised resignation speech that he had a “responsibility and duty” as a member of the Banaadir police to ensure peace and stability. He claims his actions amounted to just that. Joon ended his remarks with pleas to the leaders of the Federal government to “not force through” laws in Parliament instead return to Afisyooni to reach an agreement on the electoral impasse with Jubaland and Puntland.

He was immediately sacked by Somalia’s Chief of Police, General Hijar as a result of him breaking the police code of conduct and rightly so. It is quite obvious that Joon had no legal basis to prevent the sitting of parliament. He’s feeble attempts to explain his actions as he read it from a paper was badly rehearsed to say the least. However, as a police officer, Joon has a constitutional duty to remain politically neutral. If he considered the collapse of the Afisyooni talks to be a hindrance to the stability of Muqdisho and Somalia as a whole, attempting to close the democratic organ of Somalia down to prevent discussion on the political stalemate is not the way forward. In actuality, it is not even in his job description.

The irony of Joon’s words comes from his request for Members of Parliament not attempt to “hijack” the country and “force” an extension without consent but rather let people decide in an election. The ‘One Person One Vote’ model which passed through Parliament yesterday does just that, in comparison to the 17th September Agreement which only allowed 100 elders from each constituency to vote for a Member of Parliament. The 1P1V model is the most effective form of direct democracy that can be held in Somalia. After 52 years, it is the only way.

Golaha Shacabka vote for an extension and 1P1V model

Following the dramatic events surrounding Saadaq Joon, Parliament re-convened in a matter of hours to make a historic decision which has left opponents of Somalia shell-shocked. In a major turn of events, Golaha Shacabka voted to extend the terms of Federal institutions including the Presidency and Parliament for up to two years. They also voted to give the Federal Electoral Implementation Team (GDHF) the task of creating and implementing a political strategy to hold an effective 1P1V election system and create a deadline for elections within the two years.

Opponents of the Federal government have called this a hijacking of the elections by President Farmaajo despite the majority of the Lower House voting in favour freely. Presidential candidate Hassan Ali Khaire accused the President of being “responsible” for the deadlock, arguing the President is “ruling illegally with a gun“. He went on to accuse Golaha Shacabka of illegally extending their own mandate and that of the President which “had expired“. This was also largely echoed by other members of the Council of Presidential Candidate in their press conference on recent events.

The international community (IC) has not made a joint statement as of yet, however the EU ambassador to Somalia Nicolas Berlanga declared the extension a “de-facto“, questioning the legality of the vote yesterday. He also shockingly demanded the President to return to Afisyooni or the EU would take “concrete actions“.

Was the vote yesterday legal?

Yes. Article 136 of the Constitution allows amendments if two thirds of both Houses vote in favour. This occurred on September 27th, 2020 when Parliament introduce Law 30 which provided a legal basis for Parliament and President to hold office until a new Parliament and President was elected. Consequently, Golaha Shacabka currently has the legality to take action. Additionally, Article 82, section 4 outlines the legal supremacy of Golaha Shacabka over the Upper House. Section 4 stipulates that if Golaha Shacabka receive a draft law which has been rejected by the Upper House, it can “over-rule the rejection of the Upper House” with “a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote” and “submit it to the President of the Republic for his signature“. Therefore, irrespective of the Upper House’s vote, there will be a legal extension to ensure 1P1V.

What is next?

What comes next must lay in the hands of the Somali people. It cannot be returned to the few as it has been for 30 years. The law has not attained presidential assent as President Farmaajo is yet to have signed the bill into law. Following the IC statement a few weeks ago in which they stood against any form of extension, it will be interesting to see what their response will be to the current developments. However, such responses must respect the sovereignty of Somalia.

Conversely, US Foreign Relations Committee leadership have reacted very aggressively to the events, threatening to “re-evaluate” their assistance and relationship with Somalia, as well as to consider “imposing sanctions” on any individual they see as an impediment to the “democratic process“. Once the smoke clears, it is quite evident that such a statement is divisive and a complete disregard of Somali Federal institutions, specifically Parliament.

Somalia is in unprecedented waters. There are two warring camps in this waging political battle, trying to stir an old ship to a bright future or cataclysmic chaos. Who will prevail?

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