Crisis in Somalia - The Elephant in the Room The by Ali Abdulle

Crisis in Somalia - The Elephant in the Room The


 Federal government is in deep trouble. The split between the president and the prime minister is official and in the public domain. The gloves are off and the only certainty is that it will end badly with the government’s dirty linen washed in public, and there is a pile of soiled laundry to get through before this crisis is over.

There is the tantalizing prospect of hitherto kept secret information coming out lifting the lid on the shenanigans that have gone on including the UN documented corruption on a massive scale. And it would be a bonus if we got the details of the debacle in Kismayo when ministers masquerading as peacemakers actually smuggled fighters in only to scramble aerial mission to evacuate them, wounded and bruised This is not however the first time a president and PM are coming to blows. Indeed during the transitional governments it was almost part of the system to have periodic bust-ups between the president and the premier usually with predictable results. If past experience is anything to go by the first round always goes to the president – one premier is allowed to go down as a sacrificial lamb. That was in the bad old days of transitional governments; with the advent of the so called permanent government both the PM and the president prided themselves that they will buck the trend and form part of a formidable team with common purpose capable of leading a devastated country from its current crisis.

Those words are now haunting them specially the president who took every opportunity to serenade the new found unity at the top of the government. But what is it that caused responsible men to eat their words in humiliation. Worse the question is where it will end now that we are back in familiar territory just as in the old days of the transition. It is foolish and a disservice to the country and people to dismiss this episode of bloodletting just as another disagreement between two individuals. It is a well-known fact that the two men have been very close friends and according to some credible reports long term business partners; the coming to grief of their relationship could not therefore be attributed to personality issues. The essence of the problem surely lies somewhere else. It goes back to the constitution itself and the serious ambiguity in that document.

Organising the executive branch of the state consisting of a president and a prime minister was a deliberate attempt to avoid power becoming concentrated in the hands of one individual given the country's unhappy history of dictatorship and mistrust between communities following a debilitating civil strife. But the system intended to introduce checks and balances failed to do just that. It is a system that is not fit for purpose. Putting the current prime minister’s performance at the heart of the current controversy is a red herring - replacing him with another handpicked by the president will not solve the problem. This is a wake-up call for parliament, to take stock of the situation so far and come up with bold move. It is time to grasp the nettle and tackle the contradiction at the heart of the constitution. It beggars belief that the system gives the PM the bulk of the executive power but then gives the president exclusive authority to nominate such a premier without consultation or consideration. That is the elephant in the room.

Those who designed the system could be forgiven for being too trusting of human nature. It was never envisaged that a ruthless individual with hidden agenda could emerge and select the PM he wants to usurp the power of the executive lock, stock and barrel. Members of parliament must now decide that enough is enough and work out a clear and distinct job description for the two roles. More important is to make the role of parliament much stronger to such an extent that it is the absolute arbiter with real, not nominal, power of scrutiny over the executive. And it will only be possible if the PM is also elected and not nominated by a president from an exclusive club of friends, cronies and hangers-on That means when there is disagreement it will be parliament with the last word keeping government in check.

But before that decent feat is achieved, parliament needs to keep its house in order and behave like a proper law making body not a caricature of clowns singing and clapping when ministers appear in front of them. All it takes is an amendment introducing an elected PM. A single stroke of the pen will restore confidence in the system and will put an end to the abuse of power by a president, treating the parliament that elected him with utter contempt.

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