The recent vote of no confidence against former Speaker of the People's House of Somalia, Mohamed Osman Jawari, in very troublesome circumstances, is a clear indication of the gangsterism nature of the country's politics. To exit from being a failed state, there is need for strict adherence to the constitution, democratic values, and rule of law by all citizens.
Democratic constitutions provide legal instruments consisting of petitions and motions to the citizens, including elected officials, to promote public policy, seek justice and accountability, resolve political differences and conflicts, and ensure public participation in the political process. Particularly, the motion of no confidence (motion to vacate the chair) against the speaker of parliament is considered “privileged motion” which means it was fast tracked to the floor of parliament for debate and voting. Therefore, the motion against the president, the speaker and his deputies, and the prime minister and his cabinet cannot be ruled out or limited.
That said, the surprise move of the top leaders of the “executive branch” of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) – President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Formajo,” Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheire, and the President’s Chief of Staff Fahad Yassin Dahir portrayed as the strongest one among the Trio – to remove the Speaker of the House of People of the Federal Parliament of Somalia (FPS) from office by all means necessary including use of force, has scuttled the high aspirations and hope of the majority of the Somali people rooted for democratic system of governance effused upon the election of President Formajo on 8 February 2017. After one year in power, the public jubilation towards President Formajo for his positive slogans and gentle demeanour, positive slogans plummeted, while the deep disappointment felt towards former president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud turned into nostalgia for return.
For clarification, it is important to highlight here that the president is not part of the executive branch of the FGS under article 97 (2) of the Provisional Constitution. But, the behaviour of the president as member of the executive branch is a symbol of the disreputable political culture enduring in Somalia.
Major local and international media outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post, Reuters, and AMISOM Daily Media Monitoring have reported that the motion was prompted by the quick unanimous passage of the legislation not only nullifying the Berbera Port and Military Base agreement between DP World, an United Arab Emirates owned company, and the separatist Somaliland region of Somalia, but also banning the company to operate in any part of Somalia. The legislation included a clause prohibiting future foreign investment deals without parliamentary approval. The Upper House followed suit and approved the legislative act. As of today, no word about the president’s signing of the Act.
The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) described the motion as power struggle between the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. One explanation is that President Formajo needs a loyal Speaker, Prime Minister, Chief of Staff, media influence, and special security forces to consolidate his personal power.
On his side, Speaker Jawari pointed out at a news conference that the executive branch uses the motion to dismantle the independence and oversight authorities of the FPS over the executive branch. He also said that the motion is in retaliation after he refused to sign on an illegal deal wanted by the executive branch. He did not offer details of the illegal deal. As standard protocol of the current leadership, the president and the prime minister did not bother to respond to the well-publicised accusations of constitutional transgressions and interference in parliament affairs against them. Accusations made in the past by victims of human rights violations, abuses and other wrongdoings by government forces were ignored. This pattern continues to inflame public discontent.
The motion has deepened public cynicism towards the Somali leaders, media, and security forces. As a result, the public perception that the state-building process in Somalia descended into gangsterism, despotism, and radicalism has increased dramatically.
The democratic motto celebrated in 2000 and the constitution of the FRS adopted in 2012 have effectively banned the practice of the past anti-democratic political, economic, security, and administrative culture which led to the collapse of the Somali State and have mandated the path to democratic system of governance whereby the adherence to democracy, the supremacy of the rule of law, and respect of human rights are paramount. The shady sponsorship and mishandling of the motion has defeated the years-long efforts and support by the international community on strengthening the rule of law, free and fair elections, active and effective civil society, free speech and media, effective independent parliament, credible independent judiciary system, and multi-party political system.
Effectively, Speaker Jawari has been forcibly removed from office on 14 March 2018 when First Deputy Speaker Abdiweli Sheikh Ibrahim Mudey appointed himself as Interim Speaker of the Federal Parliament in the middle of the night in a press conference probably in his house. He is quoted saying that “The motion was brought to me by 107 MPs. I assessed its legality and I can say it is legitimate. I do not want people to be confused on the legality of the motion. Right now, how it will proceed to Parliament is my responsibility.” He then fired the Secretary General of the Federal Parliament to show he is in charge. Thus, the motion served to automatically dethrone the speaker without parliamentary process.
In the early morning of 14 March 2018, the Somali media reported that the parliament’s chairmanship (the speaker and his two deputies), the standing committee of 16 members of parliament (MPs), and the secretary general received and rejected the motion of no-confidence against Speaker Jawari on the basis of failing to have the required 92 signatures (on third) of MPs in accordance with article 65 (4) of the Provisional Constitution. 16 MPs formally withdrew from the motion allegedly signed by 107 MPs, before its presentation to the standing committee. Later, additional MPs denounced false use of their names and signatures.
Available information indicate that the motion was first started in October 2017 by a small number of MPs for personal grievances but later seized by the executive for the removal of the speaker in March 2018. For evidence, it is reported that about 42 members of the Council of Ministers who are also MPs, were signatories of the motion and publicly led the anti-speaker campaign. This raises the fundamental question of separation of power between the legislative and executive branches required under article 3(4).
Article 97 (3) of the Provisional Constitution allows MPs to be members of the Cabinet. But, the formation of the Upper House should suspend the provision of article 97 (3). The official motion with allegations and signatories was not provided to the media and public immediately after presentation to the parliament for transparency and accountability.
In reaction to FDS’s midnight coup, Speaker Jawari agreed to the processing of the motion through parliamentary procedure for final vote within ten days. However, the FDS and signatories of the motion dismissed the Speaker’s plea for vote and instead asked him to resign immediately to avoid facing humiliation never seen before. Alternatively, the concocted plan B was to by-pass the constitution and parliamentary rules and to use familiar anarchy, show of hand vote, and false vote counting to declare the passage of the motion. This is a rehearsal of the infamous gangsterism tactics of 2004-2012 parliaments.
The unprecedented move “take no prisons” putsch on the part of the executive branch was confirmed by the spectacle of 12 April, when former Speaker Jawari was forced to sit at a front raw with other MPs before delivering his formal resignation speech to the federal parliament and handing over responsibility to new speaker in accordance with article 9 (b) of the standing rules of parliament, while grinning FDS Abdiweli Mudey unlawfully occupied the Speakership’s Chair. The claim of voluntary resignation of the speaker is disingenuous and serves to suppress the aversion and uproar to the kind of political hazard becoming accustomed in the Somali political practice. The term of office of a resigned speaker ends after official transfer of the power to new speaker.
At this point, it is importance to reproduce below the articles of the Provisional Constitution and parliamentary rules concerning the handling of a motion of no confidence against the speaker and his two deputies. Article 65 (4) of the Provisional Constitution clearly states that “the Speaker and his or her Deputies shall be elected through a secret ballot by a majority vote of the members of the house of the people of the federal parliament, and may be removed by two thirds majority vote of the members of the house of the people of the federal parliament.”
Article 9 of the Standing Parliamentary Rules (SPR) of the House of the People states the followings:
1. The Speaker and his or her deputies can lose their position for the following reasons:
b. Written resignation presented to the parliament or verbal statement made through the media
c. Absence without justification for more than 45 consecutive days
d. Violation of Sharia Al Islam, Constitution, rules and regulations of the parliament, or national laws.
e. Inability to discharge their responsibilities for:
- Mental illness (insanity), to be determined by credible professional medical doctor
- Permanent poor health or incapacity to perform duty to be certified by credible health professional doctor.
- End of term of office
- Final sentence of minimum of six (6) month jail by competent judicial court.
2. Motion of no confidence against Speaker and two deputies in accordance with reasons mentioned under paragraph 1, letters C, D, E (I, II, III, and IV), submitted by on third of the members of the House of the People. The voting will pass for two-thirds of the members of the House of the People.
3. Motion of no-confidence must be substantiated and based on the rule of law.
4. Motion of no-confidence should be debated and voted within 10 working days from the day of presentation to the parliament.
5. If motion of no-confidence is presented against the Speaker or one of his deputies, the following procedures will be applied:
- The Speaker or the deputy affected by the motion of no-confidence will be relieved from the chairmanship role of the parliamentary meetings until the proceedings of the motion are concluded. The voting on the motion of no confidence will be secret.
- If the motion of no-confidence against the Speaker or Deputy Speaker passes in accordance with article 9 (2), the House of the People of the Federal Parliament will elect new Speaker or Deputy Speaker within 15 (fifteen) days.
Sadly, with the full knowledge of the above outlined obligations stipulated in the Provisional Constitution and the SPR, the speaker of Somali Parliament has been denied due process and subjected to unlawful security and office privilege restrictions to force him to cave in. The process has also ignored the recommendations of the Upper House of the FPS, the repeated calls of the international community and other well-versed citizens on the critical importance of adhering to the Provisional Constitution and the SPR. This marks the triumph of political gangsterism and despotism in Somalia. Between 14 March and 12 April, Somalis and foreigners have witnessed the political depravity, divide, acrimony, and leaders’ lackadaisical attitude prevailing in Somalia.
The executive branch took the illegal step of ordering the security forces to take over the parliament building. The FDS (Interim Speaker) instructed the security forces to take order from him while Speaker Jawari remained legally in power. Danab (Somali Special Force) trained, paid, and controlled by the United States were deployed to support the coup of the executive branch. Mogadishu remained under lockdown for days and the people suffered tremendously. Those actions and others trampled the rule of law principle and democratic safeguards and subverted the independence and oversight responsibilities of the federal parliament vis-à-vis the executive branch.
After the crisis engulfing the whole federal government institutions, including the presidency, for almost three weeks, President Formajo ended his silence and met with Speaker Jawari to postpone the disputed parliamentary meeting scheduled on 31 April for ten days political consultation. Unfortunately, without follow-up communication, he allowed the holding of parliamentary meeting on 4 April with the display of overwhelming security forces as a show of force under the control of the executive branch, which baffled everyone.
Luckily, the intervention of the commander of the Ugandan contingent of the AMISOM forces Brigadier Paul Lokech prevented violence and bloodshed among Somali forces and MPs in and around the parliament building. AMISOM forces took over temporarily the security of the parliament building until the Somali national leaders agree on resolving the crisis either through the guidelines of SPR or through political dialogue.
Again, President Formajo met with Speaker Jawari and told him to resign. But, Speaker Jawari publicly rejected to resign and countered by asking the resignation of the Prime Minister Hassan Kheire whom he accused of pushing the motion and precipitating the constitutional and political crisis. He angrily repeated, “I am not resigning. I did not come by force; I stay by the ballot; and leave by the ballot.” To the surprise of many, for reasons yet to be investigated thoroughly, on 9 April, Speaker Jawari declared his intention to resign and deliver a speech to the parliament.
Speaker’s resignation speech
On 12 April 2018, Speaker Jawari delivered his resignation speech, which did not receive sympathy and acclamation within the international community, media, and the Somali public at large. The speech was a self-defence, self-consolation, supplication, and rapprochement with the sponsors of the motion.
Some people welcomed his resignation because they accepted the accusations labelled against him: poor leadership, abuse of power, obstruction of constitutional reform, and misuse of public resources. Others were shocked and flabbergasted for his lack of steadfastness to his original core belief of defending parliament’s reign and rule of law.
He noted that the Somali people require justice, justice, and justice. He reminded the MPs that the parliament, the foundation of statehood, is where the national sovereignty is kept and protected. Therefore, he advised every MP to be well informed on every issue before acting or deciding on it.
In defence against allegations of receiving millions of dollars for his resignation, Speaker Jawari denied discussing material thing with the president. He said that he discussed with the president issues related to the immunity of the MPs and respect of the sanctity of the headquarters of the House of the People (constitutional guarantees) and how to work together closely for the interests and political stabilisation of the country.
Ironically, on his admission, he failed to defend the independence of the parliament or at least to get a due process for his removal from office. It is hard to imagine that the president, the prime minister and the chief of staff will devote time to engage him differently from other MPs. He is already portrayed as a liability rather than an asset. In addition, the new speaker will exercise his power and influence. One speculation predicts that MP Jawari will resign from Parliament after a few months.
The six reasons listed as a basis for his resignation are red herrings. Taking clue from his confession that there are some reasons he cannot mention in his speech, some analysts and insiders put forward three reasons for his resignation. First, representatives of US, Norway, and Ethiopia governments ordered him to vacate the office. Second, the movers of the no confidence motion (President, Prime Minister, and Cabinet Members) engaged the speaker’s allies in Parliament with different sorts of political and material incentives so he sensed betrayal and isolation. Third, because of his age, he succumbed to the stick and carrot offer: threat of unbearable persecution and humiliation with all means necessary including use of force and a tantalising offer (material or non-material) made in exchange for his quiet and quick exit.
More seriously, three alarming stories in the speech should raise apprehension in the Somali people and the international community over the trustworthiness of President Formajo’s oath to uphold, protect, and defend the supremacy of the rule of law, democratic values, good governance practices, and accountability for the supreme interest of the nation.
First, the speaker said that he decided to resign after realising the movers of the motion will not be deterred or stopped by anything to remove him from office. He quoted the story of King Solomon about the dispute over the maternity of a child between two women. When the king said, “give me a knife so I will cut the child into two,” the real mother said, please no, don’t cut, and give my child to the other women.” The king said that woman is the real mother. This means that the backers of the motion acted like mafia ready to use violence and other means necessary to achieve their aim with no care of consequences. He chose to let them have their way.
Second, he noted that after agreeing on bringing the motion to the parliament’s floor, he and other MPs asked only two things: (1) Respect of the supremacy of the rule of law and voting of the motion in accordance with the Provisional Constitution and SRP; (2) Alternatively, resolution of the motion through political dialogue, which means its nullification or withdrawal. But, both requests fell on deaf ears so he became convinced that the apparent preferred method of resolving the motion was “use of force” which could have led to death, injuries, and institutional disintegration. Therefore, he said he decided to resign to prevent violence and save the unity of parliament as an institution.
Third, he let it be known that the executive leaders are determined to abolish the independence of the federal parliament and called all to protect it. This means that the federal parliament could cease to be the supreme national institution representing the will of the people to legislate, consent, and oversight the executive branch. This is return to anarchy and civil strife.
The above three stories foretell imminent dangers coming down on the people of Somalia. There is urgent need to ponder on these stories to avert disastrous consequences.
Unbecoming leadership of FDS Abdiweli Mudey
Unfortunately, the FDS who received the motion did not show respect to the parliament as an independent institution by not engaging directly the speaker, the second deputy speaker (SDS), the standing committee, the secretary general and other MPs, including critics and opponents for its disposition. He ignored the right of the speaker to challenge the compliance of the motion with the rule of law as indicated under article 9 (3) and took the motion as an instrument to snatch power from the speaker by force. This kind of barbaric conducts prevailed during the 2004-2012 parliaments and it is unbecoming leadership behaviour.
The sponsors of the no confidence motion knew well that they would have difficulty in getting 184 votes for the removal of the speaker from the office in secret ballot. Therefore, they used abominable tactics. First, they attacked and vilified the speaker through the media to pressure him to resign. They engaged media supporters for publication of accusations of malfeasance against him. Second, they used security forces under the control of the executive administration to intimidate and harass supporters of democratic process. Third, they encouraged the FDS to claim monopoly of parliament chairmanship with the premeditated intention of orchestrated show of hands rather than secret ballot to oust the speaker. Fourth, the movers objected the participation of representatives of Upper House of parliament, civil society, the international community, and the media, in the debate and voting process of the motion or to hold the special parliamentary meeting on the motion in a neutral and secure place protected by the AMISOM forces. Finally, the sponsors of the motion refused to consider the recommendations of the second chamber of the federal parliament, the Upper House, which shares legislative responsibilities and oversight authorities over executive branch with the House of the People.
It is hard to fathom the continuation of the leadership role of DFS Abdiweli Mudey whose unbecoming actions harmed tremendously the parliament in the eyes of the Somali people and the international community. More worrisome, while he is an acting speaker for only 15 days for the specific task of electing a new speaker, he started defiling the internationally accepted and recognised Provisional Constitution and on 25 April, he distributed what he called original lost and found “constitution document” to the members of the federal parliament. This could open a new political and constitutional crisis that will pave the way for civil disobedience to the legitimacy of the FGS and precipitate its disintegration.
Role of the Somali media
The debates over the no confidence motion organised by the media has revealed unimaginable disregard of the truth, wild interpretation of the rule of law, and the degrading and vulgar talks in public forums.
With the exception of broadcasting debates, the media failed to distinguish facts from opinions and fictions. It also failed to conduct independent evidence-based studies about the contested issues by carefully reading the Provisional Constitution and the SRP to challenge the lies, deceptions, and cacophonies propagated through them.
The executive branch is accused of contributing the moral bankruptcy of the media for short-term interests. I recently came across the following tweet of Harun Ma’ruf, a Voice of America journalist who, I believe, is one of media insiders. The tweet says the following:
“Somali journalists have been under pressure recently from politicians, trying to influence coverage, set news agenda; a major outlet was pressured to shelve a critical interview, try to limit scope of interview and what you can/can’t ask; offer gifts, free air travels. DON’T ACCEPT IT.”
This tweet brings to light the degrading role of Somali media by deserting their social and moral duty of telling the truth and talking truth to power. That is part of why the Somali political situation has gone awry and haywire.
The State media –SONNA, Radio Mogadishu, and Somali National TV—ignored to report the public statements of the second highest leader of the country—the Speaker of the House of the People – and supported the gag order of the executive branch. This raises the question about the role and responsibilities of the State media in a democratic system of governance.
Role of the international community
The political and security situation of Somalia is major concern for the international community. Despite expressing concerns about the political infighting, the international community failed to be proactive in defence of the rule of law and democratic values. Some sources claim that the US Chargé d’affaires in Somalia opposed the strong common position of the international community against the executive’s encroachments, use of security forces, including those under US control, and public resources in the removal of the speaker from Office.
Others believed that the international community did not mind Somali political blunders to boast its argument that Somalia is a failed state plagued by insecurity, social fragmentation, and corruption so that it needs foreign tutelage for long time to come. Ambiguous or incoherent positions of foreigner powers on democracy and the rule of law fuel public distrust towards the real purpose of these powers in Somalia.
Role of MPs and social leaders
Some MPs deliberately and constantly strived to distort the plain languages of the Provisional Constitution and the SRP applicable to the motion of no confidence. For example, some argued that the self-appointment of the FDS as Interim Speaker was justified under the phrase that the “deputy fulfils the duty of the Speaker whenever the latter cannot perform his duty.” They contend that the mere presentation of no confidence motion to the parliament impairs the speaker from performing his duty. This is wild misreading of the standing rules to achieve an objective through lies and immoral way.
Other social leaders who were vocal on less important matters in the past remained silent on expressing their objective opinion on the separation of powers between legislative and executive branches and adherence to the rule of law. This could taint their social role in the future.
The unlawful role of the security forces
Article 127 of the Provisional Constitution states that the Security Forces must respect the following principles:
a. Professionalism, discipline, and patriotism
b. Respect for the rule of law, democratic institutions and fundamental rights;
c. A commitment to uphold the constitution of the Federal Republic of Somalia
d. Transparency and accountability
e. Political neutrality; and
f. Members of the forces shall be trained on the implementation of this constitution, the laws of the land and the international treaties to which the Federal Republic of Somalia is a party.
Unfortunately, the commanders of the Somali National Army, the Police, and National Intelligence Services, and the Custodial Forces executed unlawful orders of the executive against parliament leaders. This led the speaker and SDS to call members of the parliament and the public in general to take the law in their own hand for the defence of their rights and safety. This ominous reality still rings in the ears of the public.
The role of the security forces – National Intelligence Services, Police, Somali National Army, Custodial Corps, and Danab Special Forces—in the parliamentary crisis requires further investigation to determine the violations committed. The use of public resources and security apparatus by the executive branch against the legislative branch is high sabotage of the democratic system of governance envisaged in the Provisional Constitution.
The governance, peace, and security of Somalia are in jeopardy if the constitution and other laws remain on papers with no adherence, respect, and defence. The failure of the president, the prime minister and the cabinet members, members of parliament, and all citizens to respect the obligations of the rule of law governing the society’s harmony and progress will keep Somalia in the abyss for long time to come. The right path for exit from the failed state is strict adherence to the constitution, democratic values, and rule of law.
* Mohamud M Uluso can be contacted at <[email protected]>