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The State of Governance in Somalia
Dr. Ali Said Faqi
Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Governance is defined as a collective meaning of concepts of state, government, regime, and good government. It is a process whereby elected individuals in the society exercise power, authority, and influence and ordain policies and decisions concerning economic development, defense, foreign, health, and social affairs following a constitutional mandate. Good governance is considered to be a prerequisite for political legitimacy as it entails transparency, inclusiveness, openness, and respect for the rule of law.

A solid governance operating model is necessary to assist the executive, legislative, and judiciary in fulfilling their constitutional mandate and fix the inefficiencies within the government structures and oversight.  Parliament is one of the most important institutions in a democratic society.  Its main mandate includes passing legislation and overseeing government institutions. In addition, the parliament oversees that the parliamentary by-laws are not violated and sustains the codes governing public administration.   The Somali parliament is still in its early infancy and has a long way to go to adequately address the country’s legislative priorities.

Somalia is historically known to have poor governance operating model, which is branded by arbitrary policymaking, an unaccountable system of governance, unjust legal systems, widespread corruption, and the abuse of executive and legislative power. The trajectory toward building good governance is hampered by the failure to respect the rule of law and protect the constitution of the country.  Somali culture per se advocates for anarchy and abuse of power. Having laws in place is not enough, there is a need for a deep cultural change and an active public role in rejecting legal violations.


During the transition period, much emphasis was placed on the creation of a federal government based on a charter drafted in Nairobi, Kenya. This charter didn’t provide any flexibility on how the states are formed. The formation of the federal system ignored consideration of local circumstances, public input, and historical realities. This has made it problematic to build operative Federal member states as the rights of many aboriginal citizens are denied.   A separate problem with federal models is that the construction of dispersed government institutions (Federal and State) undermines the development of strong institutions that are necessary to build trust in the post-conflict state.  

As a federal country, the constitution creates a two-level government and differentiates two types of competencies. The constitution addresses a list of competencies to be exclusively exercised by the Federal Government: Foreign Affairs, monetary policy, Immigration, and Naturalization. In the meantime, it recognizes shared competencies between the Federal Government and the Federal Member States on the principle of subsidiarity.  The articles of the constitution defining federal and states power is a contesting matter that requires constitutional clarity.  

The President is the Head of the State and exercises several competencies including legislative oversight, head of the armed forces, and regulatory competencies, as the President appoints the Prime Minister or declares a state of emergency. The president has also judicial authority, as he pardons offenders and commutes sentences on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission.  

Ambiguity in the separation of power, roles, and responsibilities has not been clearly laid out in the constitution as the interpretation of the articles on competencies has already raised disputes and continues to be a contested issue between the Federal Government and the Federal Member States.  The constitution is not a panacea and sometimes might not be able to resolve the divergences between the opposing parties.  There is a need for a political agreement between federal and state leaders.

The ambiguous roles and responsibility of federal member states and the federal government has created an atmosphere of distrust.    Problems such as federal member states refusing to collaborate with the central government have delayed the constitutional review process, integration of the Somali National Army, and Resource sharing engagements that are much needed.

A post-conflict Somalia is in a paradoxical state; there is no war and there is no real peace either and as such, is hard to accomplish political stability. Moving forward in building a solid governance system, it is essential to complete the constitution, create the constitutional court, and strengthen the legal system.

Dr. Ali Said Faqi
Twitter: @FaqiAlis


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