This week, Somalia ’s embattling government edged to collapse after President Sheikh Sharif unilaterally dissolved government, a day after the parliament ousted its speaker, Sheikh Adan Madoobe. The speaker first pursued a no-confidence vote to the government generating a heated discussion in unstable parliament but the session closed with no outcome except bombs fired by Islamist insurgents to disrupt the parliament.
With no vote taken, the speaker announced the government was ousted deepening the political stalemate. Later in the day lawmakers convened in a hotel and sacked the speaker on that his tenure had ended. In a desperate attempt to triumph over his government political disaster before the International Istanbul Summit this week, president Sharif held a press conference with Madobe after apparently persuading him to resign.The speaker said to have stepped down in the interest of the government but would remain as Member of Parliament. In turn, the president “ousted” the government, a move that echoed the murky situation that preceded his cling to power when his predecessor sacked his premier without parliament approval leading into political turmoil that ended up into his resignation. Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke defied the dissolution as unconstitutional.
The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has a history of political infighting. In 2007, United States and Ethiopia pressurized former Prime Minister Ali M. Gedi to resign after feud with president in a bid to rescue the TFG. But a year after Gedi’s resignation, the TFG was in the same turmoil. Former president Abdullahi Yusuf sacked his prime minister, Nur Hassan Hussein who also defied the decision insisting the president could not sack him unless his government lost confidence vote.
Technically, he was right. The transitional charter states in article 44.2 “The President shall appoint and dismiss the Prime Minister and/or dismiss the government if it fails to obtain the required vote of confidence from Parliament”. The same thing applies to Prime Minister Sharmarke.
Sheikh Sharif was ‘elected’ as president in January last year, and shortly appointed Sharmarke as his prime minister. Sharmarke is a former UN official and the son of former president, Abdirashid Sharmarke who was assassinated in 1969. His appointment as PM was greeted with honour because of the reputation of his father. True, the TFG is unpopular because it is seen by many as puppet than a hope of ending two decade of lawlessness. Making Sharmarke scapegoat for the underlying chaos would not help either because his powers are consistently abused by others in Sharif’s circle.
However, what prompted the deadlock remains unclear except massive allegations and rumors that foreign powers were involved in the conflict. These accusations always exist. What is clear though is the partial role of the UN envoy to Somalia, Ahmed Ould Abdallah. Far from international diplomacy, Ould Abdallah backed the decision without looking at the constitutional power of the president, which inarguably questions his neutrality and credibility as peace broker in a country torn apart by civil war. The envoy praised the dissolution, welcomed the speaker’s resignation and recommended him to be included in future government!
Ould Abdallah was appointed as UN General Secretary, Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Somalia in 2007 in a reshuffle of UN diplomats in Africa . He succeeded Francois Loseny Fall, who during his reign as an envoy stayed away from meddling in Somalia ’s internal affairs thus dodged the criticisms and resignation calls mounting on his successor.
Beyond his role as UN diplomat, Ould Abdallah sided with individuals in Somali government and allegedly played role in appointing ministers and diplomats. He has been acting as staunch supporter for president Sharif rather than a neutral diplomat.
In the current political turmoil, the envoy’s role was to call for Somali leaders to respect the transitional charter and solve any dispute in accordance to the charter.
President Sharif needs to seek parliamentary support if he tends to sack the prime minister by summing up his failures in a report to the parliament which has the last say on whether Sharmarke can serve as prime minister. This would ensure the supremacy of law over individuals and would safeguard the transitional institutions from threats of power rivalry in the future. From president Sharif’s point of view, firing the prime minister is not a big deal because he had the privilege of appointing him in the first place. But from the side of legality, it is a clear violation of the charter on which the president himself can be impeached. The article 43.2 of the charter stipulates “The President shall be impeached for the violation of the Charter only if a charge against him or her has been preferred to Parliament”.
In modern Somalia, when such political standoff occurs, the side with the international support usually emerges as a winner unless the international community itself is divided. The African Union has adopted neutrality with Peace and Security Commissioner, Ramtane Lamamra calling for Somali leaders to end their dispute peacefully.
The AU decision was remarkable; the president extracted his decision on Thursday, and asked the government to shoulder its responsibilities admitted violation of charter. But the question mark is still on UN envoy, who reacted undiplomatically to exacerbate the standoff. United Nation’s credibility is at stake, they need to act responsibly and review the charge against their political office in Nairobi.
The International Community and regional organisations, including the African Union, IGAD should take a unified position against any violation to the transitional charter to prevent future disputes. They need to empower the law not individuals.
Finally, “Calls from Somali intellectuals for the UN Envoy to resign and accusations against him should be taken seriously”.
Faysal Abdikarim is Somali jouarnalist