Politics of Somalia

The politics of Somalia takes place in a framework of federal parliamentary representative democratic republic. According to the Constitution of Somalia, the President of Somalia is head of state, and Prime Minister as head of government who is appointed by the President with the parliament's approval.[1]

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The country has a bicameral legislature, which consists of the Senate (upper house) and the National Assembly of Somalia (lower house). Together, they make up the Federal Parliament of Somalia.[2] in 2012 The Federal Parliament of Somalia was concurrently inaugurated, ushering in the Federal Government of Somalia, the first permanent central government in the country since the start of the civil war.[3]

With a new constitution and a new parliament representing diverse parties and factions, Somalia's political structure subsequently showed signs of stabilization.[4][5]

Political history

Following the outbreak of the civil war and the ensuing collapse of the Siad Barre regime in the early 1990s, Somalia's residents reverted to local forms of conflict resolution, consisting of civil law, religious law and customary law.

A few autonomous regions, including the Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug administrations, emerged in the north in the ensuing process of decentralization. The early 2000s saw the creation of fledgling interim federal administrations. The Transitional National Government (TNG) was established in 2000 followed by the formation of its successor the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in 2004, which reestablished national institutions such as the Military of Somalia.[6][7][8] In 2006, the TFG, assisted by Ethiopian troops, assumed control of most of the nation's southern conflict zones from the newly formed Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The ICU subsequently splintered into more radical groups such as Al-Shabaab, which battled the TFG and its AMISOM allies for control of the region,[6] with the insurgents losing most of the territory that they had seized by mid-2012.

The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was the internationally recognised government of Somalia until 20 August 2012, when its tenure officially ended.[3] It was established as one of the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) of government as defined in the Transitional Federal Charter (TFC) adopted in November 2004 by the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP).

The Transitional Federal Government officially comprised the executive branch of government, with the TFP serving as the legislative branch. The government was headed by the President of Somalia, to whom the cabinet reported through the Prime Minister. However, it was also used as a general term to refer to all three branches collectively.

Islamic Courts Union and Ethiopian intervention

In 2006, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), an Islamic movement, assumed control of much of the southern part of the country and imposed Shari'a law. The Transitional Federal Government sought to re-establish its authority, and, with the assistance of Ethiopian troops, African Union peacekeepers and air support by the United States, managed to drive out the rival ICU and solidify its rule.[9]

On 8 January 2007, as the Battle of Ras Kamboni raged, TFG President and Harti strongman Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, entered Mogadishu for the first time since being elected to office. The government then relocated to Villa Somalia in the capital from its interim location in Baidoa. This marked the first time since the fall of the Siad Barre regime in 1991 that the federal government controlled most of the country.[10]

Following this defeat, the Islamic Courts Union splintered into several different factions. Some of the more radical elements, including Al-Shabaab, regrouped to continue their insurgency against the TFG and oppose the Ethiopian military's presence in Somalia. Throughout 2007 and 2008, Al-Shabaab scored military victories, seizing control of key towns and ports in both central and southern Somalia. At the end of 2008, the group had captured Baidoa but not Mogadishu. By January 2009, Al-Shabaab and other militias had managed to force the Ethiopian troops to retreat, leaving behind an under-equipped African Union peacekeeping force to assist the Transitional Federal Government's troops.[11]

To shore up his rule in Mogadishu, Yusuf deployed thousands of his own troops from Puntland to Mogadishu. Financial support for this effort was provided by the autonomous region's government. This left little revenue for Puntland's own security forces and civil service employees, leaving the territory vulnerable to piracy and terrorist attacks.[12][13]

On 29 December 2008, Yusuf announced before a united parliament in Baidoa his resignation as President of Somalia. In his speech, which was broadcast on national radio, Yusuf expressed regret at failing to end the country's seventeen-year conflict as his government had mandated to do.[14] He also blamed the international community for its failure to support the government, and said that the speaker of parliament would succeed him in office per the Charter of the Transitional Federal Government.[15]

Coalition government

Between 31 May and 9 June 2008, representatives of Somalia's federal government and the moderate Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) participated in peace talks in Djibouti brokered by the former United Nations Special Envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah. The conference ended with a signed agreement calling for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops in exchange for the cessation of armed confrontation. Parliament was subsequently expanded to 550 seats to accommodate ARS members, which then elected Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the former ARS chairman, to office. President Sharif shortly afterwards appointed Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the son of slain former President Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, as the nation's new Prime Minister.[6]

With the help of the growing African Union regional intervention force AMISOM, the coalition government also began a counteroffensive in February 2009 to seize more control of the southern half of the country. The TFG formed an alliance with the Islamic Courts Union, other members of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia, and Ahlu Sunna Waljama'a, a moderate Sufi militia.[16] Furthermore, Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, the two main Islamist groups in opposition, began to fight amongst themselves in mid-2009.[17]

As a truce, in March 2009, Somalia's coalition government announced that it would re-implement Shari'a as the nation's official judicial system.[18] However, conflict continued in the southern and central parts of the country. Within months, the coalition government had gone from holding about 70% of south-central Somalia's conflict zones, territory which it had inherited from the previous Yusuf administration, to losing control of over 80% of the disputed territory to the Islamist insurgents.[10]

During the coalition government's brief tenure, Somalia topped the Fund For Peace's Failed States Index for three consecutive years. In 2009, Transparency International ranked the nation in last place on its annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI),[19] a metric that purports to show the prevalence of corruption in a country's public sector. In mid-2010, the Institute for Economics and Peace also ranked Somalia in the next-to-last position, in between war-afflicted Iraq and Afghanistan, on its Global Peace Index. During the same period, the UN International Monitoring Group (IMG) published a report claiming that the Somali government's security forces were ineffective and corrupt, and that up to half of the food aid that was destined for the conflict-stricken parts of the country was being misdirected. It also accused Somali officials of collaborating with pirates, UN contractors of helping insurgents, and the Eritrean government of still supporting rebel groups in southern Somalia despite earlier sanctions imposed on the former. Somalia's government and local businessmen, as well as United Nations officials and the Eritrean government all emphatically rejected the report's claims.[20][21]

In 2010, reports surfaced linking the secessionist government of the northwestern Somaliland region with the Islamist extremists that are currently waging war against the Transitional Federal Government and its African Union allies. Garowe Online reported in October that Mohamed Said Atom, an arms-smuggler believed to be allied with Al-Shabaab and who is on U.S. and U.N. security watch-lists, was hiding out in Somaliland after being pursued by the neighboring Puntland region's authorities for his role in targeted assassination attempts against Puntland officials as well as bomb plots.[22][23] Several of Atom's followers were also reportedly receiving medical attention in the region, after having been wounded in a counter-terrorism raid in the Galgala hills by Puntland security personnel.[22]

According to Puntland government documents, the Somaliland region's Riyale government in 2006 both financed and offered military assistance to Atom's men as part of a campaign to destabilize the autonomous territory via proxy agents and to distract attention away from the Somaliland government's own attempts at occupying the disputed Sool province. The Puntland Intelligence Agency (PIA), a covert organization supported and trained by U.S. counter-terrorism agencies based in Djibouti, also indicated that over 70 salaried Somaliland soldiers had fought alongside Atom's militiamen during the Galgala operation, including one known Somaliland intelligence official who died in the ensuing battle.[23][24] The following month, the Puntland government issued a press release accusing the incumbent Somaliland administration of providing a safe haven for Atom and of attempting to revive remnants of his militia.[25] Several top commanders in the Al-Shabaab group, including former leader Ahmed Abdi Godane ("Moktar Ali Zubeyr"), are also reported to hail from the Somaliland region, with Godane quoted as saying that Al Shabaab insurgents "should not interfere in Somaliland until Puntland is destabilized first."[22][26]


Somalia's coalition government enacted numerous political reforms since taking office in 2009. One of its first changes involved ensuring that all government institutions, which had previously been spread out in various areas throughout the country, were now based in Mogadishu, the nation's capital. The Central Bank of Somalia was also re-established, and a national plan as well as an effective anti-corruption commission were put into place.[27] In July 2009, Somalia's Transitional Federal Government hired global professional services firm Pricewaterhousecoopers to monitor development funding and serving as a trustee of an account in Mogadishu for the security, healthcare and education sectors.[28] This was followed in November of that year with a $2 million agreement between the government and the African Development Bank (AfDB), which saw Somalia re-engage with the AfDB after nearly two decades of interruption. The grant is aimed at providing financial and technical assistance; specifically, to develop a sound legal framework for monetary and fiscal institutions and human and institutional capacity building, as well as to establish public financial systems that are transparent.[27]

Similarly, the autonomous Puntland region's new administration, which took office in early 2009, has also implemented numerous reforms such as the expansion and improvement of its security and judicial sectors. According to Garowe Online, to bolster the region's justice system, numerous new prosecutors, judges and other court personnel as well as additional prison guards were hired and trained. In July 2010, the Puntland Council of Ministers unanimously approved a new anti-terrorism law to more efficiently handle terror suspects and their accomplices; a special court is also expected to be established within the region's existing criminal courts system to facilitate the task.[29] Fiscally, a transparent, budget-based public finance system was established, which has reportedly helped increase public confidence in government. In addition, a new regional constitution was drafted and later passed on 15 June 2009, which is believed to represent a significant step toward the eventual introduction of a multi-party political system to the region for the first time;[30] such a system already exists in the adjacent Somaliland region.[31] More modest reforms were also put into motion in the social sector, particularly in the education and healthcare fields. The regional government has hired more healthcare workers and teachers, with major plans underway for school and hospital renovations.[30] One of the most significant new reforms enacted by the incumbent Puntland administration is the launching in May 2009 of the Puntland Agency for Social Welfare (PASWE), the first organization of its kind in Somali history. The agency provides medical, educational and counseling support to vulnerable groups and individuals such as orphans, the disabled and the blind. PASWE is overseen by a Board of Directors, which consists of religious scholars (ulema), businesspeople, intellectuals and traditional elders.[32]

2010-2012 government

On 14 October 2010, diplomat Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmajo) was appointed the new Prime Minister of Somalia. The former Premier Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke resigned the month before following a protracted dispute with President Sharif over a proposed draft constitution.[33]

Per the Transitional Federal Charter of the Somali Republic,[34] Prime Minister Mohamed named a new Cabinet on 12 November 2010,[35] which was lauded by the international community.[36][37] As had been expected, the allotted ministerial positions were significantly reduced in numbers from 39 to 18.[35][38] Only two Ministers from the previous Cabinet were reappointed: Hussein Abdi Halane, the former Minister of Finance (Finance and Treasury) and Mohamud Abdi Ibrahim (Commerce and Industry).[39] Ahlu Sunna Waljama'a, a moderate Sufi group and an important military ally of the TFG, became Minister of the Interior and Labour ministries.[38][39] The remaining ministerial positions were largely assigned to technocrats new to the Somali political arena.[40]

Additional members of the Independent Constitutional Commission were also appointed to engage Somali constitutional lawyers, religious scholars and experts in Somali culture over the nation's upcoming new constitution, a key part of the government's Transitional Federal Tasks. In addition, high level federal delegations were dispatched to defuse clan-related tensions in several regions. According to the prime minister of Somalia, to improve transparency, Cabinet ministers fully disclosed their assets and signed a code of ethics.[41]

An Anti-Corruption Commission with the power to carry out formal investigations and to review government decisions and protocols was also established to more closely monitor all activities by public officials. Furthermore, unnecessary trips abroad by members of government were prohibited, and all travel by ministers required the Premier’s consent.[41][42] A budget outlining 2011’s federal expenditures was also put before and approved by members of parliament, with the payment of civil service employees prioritized. In addition, a full audit of government property and vehicles is being put into place.[41][43] On the war front, the new government and its AMISOM allies also managed to secure control of Mogadishu by August 2011.[44] According to the African Union and Prime Minister Mohamed, with increasing troop strength the pace of territorial gains is expected to greatly accelerate.[41][43]

On 19 June 2011, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed resigned from his position as Prime Minister of Somalia. Part of the controversial Kampala Accord's conditions, the agreement saw the mandates of the President, the Parliament Speaker and Deputies extended until August 2012.[45] Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Mohamed's former Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, was later named permanent Prime Minister.[7]

Post-transition Roadmap

As part of the official "Roadmap for the End of Transition", a political process which provides clear benchmarks leading toward the establishment of permanent democratic institutions in Somalia by late August 2012,[4] Somali government officials met in the northeastern town of Garowe in February 2012 to discuss post-transition arrangements. After extensive deliberations attended by regional actors and international observers, the conference ended in a signed agreement between TFG President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Speaker of Parliament Sharif Adan Sharif Hassan, Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, Galmudug President Mohamed Ahmed Alim and Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama'a representative Khalif Abdulkadir Noor stipulating that: a) a new 225 member bicameral parliament would be formed, consisting of an upper house seating 54 Senators as well as a lower house; b) 30% of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) is earmarked for women; c) the President is to be appointed via a constitutional election; and d) the Prime Minister is selected by the President and he/she then names his/her Cabinet.[46][47] On June 23, 2012, the Somali federal and regional leaders met again and approved a draft constitution after several days of deliberation.[48] The National Constituent Assembly overwhelmingly passed the new constitution on August 1, with 96% of the 645 delegates present voting for it, 2% against it, and 2% abstaining.[49][50] To come into effect, it must be ratified by the new parliament.[51]

Concurrent with the end of the TFG's interim mandate on August 20, 2012, the Federal Parliament of Somalia was inaugurated, ushering in the Federal Government of Somalia, the first permanent central government in the country since the start of the civil war.[3] On September 10, 2012, parliament also elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the new President of Somalia.[52] President Mohamud later appointed Abdi Farah Shirdon as the new Prime Minister on October 6, 2012.[53] On November 4, 2012, Shirdon named a new Cabinet,[54] which was later endorsed by the legislature on November 13, 2012.[55]

At the behest of Somalia's federal authorities, the 15-member UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 2093 on March 6, 2013 to suspend the 21-year arms embargo on Somalia, the oldest such global weapons blockade.[56] The endorsement officially lifts the purchase ban on light weapons for a one-year period, but retains certain restrictions on the procurement of heavy arms.[56] The repeal is slated to be reviewed in 2014.[57]

In November 2013, President Mohamud asked Prime Minister Shirdon to resign from office on the grounds that Shirdon was allegedly ineffective in the job. Mohamud was reportedly acting on the advice of the State Minister for Presidency, Farah Abdulkadir.[58] On 12 November 2013, Shirdon confirmed that there was a dispute between himself and the president, but indicated that the row was constitutional rather than political. He also asserted that the matter should be resolved in parliament.[59] According to MP Mohamed Abdi Yusuf, the rift between Mohamud and Shirdon centered over through what constitutional mechanism and by whom the Cabinet was ultimately to be formed.[60] On 24 November 2013, 168 MPs led by former TFG Parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan endorsed a document submitted to parliament, which outlined a motion against Prime Minister Shirdon's administration.[61] A parliamentary vote of confidence was later held against Shirdon on 2 December 2013. Parliament Speaker Mohamed Osman Jawari subsequently announced that 184 of the present MPs had voted against Shirdon, whereas 65 legislators had voted to retain him.[62] On 5 December 2013, Shirdon released a statement confirming that he and his Cabinet accepted the legislature's decision.[63] UN Special Representative for Somalia Nicholas Kay paid tribute to the outgoing Prime Minister, noting that Shirdon had endeavoured to promote growth and progress and was an important principal in establishing the New Deal Compact between Somalia and its international partners. He also commended the legislators on adhering to procedural rules during the vote, and pledged to work constructively with the succeeding administration.[64] On 12 December 2013, President Mohamud named Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed as the new Prime Minister.[65] On 17 January 2014, Ahmed named a new, larger Cabinet consisting of 25 ministers,[66] with only two council members retained from the previous Shirdon administration.[67] Parliament later approved the Cabinet on 21 January 2014.[68]

In October 2014, Prime Minister Ahmed made a minor reshuffle of the Cabinet, which President Mohamud immediately rejected.[69][70] The ensuing rift ended on 6 December, when parliament held a vote of confidence vis-a-vis the Premier and his Cabinet. 153 of the present MPs voted in favor of the motion, 80 voted against it, and 2 abstained, thereby ending Ahmed's term as Prime Minister of Somalia.[70] On 17 December 2014, President Mohamud appointed former Premier Omar Abdirashid Ali Shermarke as the new Prime Minister.[71] On 24 December, the national legislature approved the nomination. Of the 224 MPs present at the parliamentary session, 218 voted in favor of the appointment, none rejected it or abstained, and six left the hall.[72] On 12 January 2015, Sharmarke announced his new Cabinet, consisting of 26 ministers, 25 deputy ministers, and 8 state ministers. Many ministers were retained from the previous Ahmed administration.[73] Sharmarke indicated that he selected the new Council of Ministers after intensive consultations with local stakeholders, with the aim of balancing the public interest with governmental continuation and administrative priorities.[74] On 17 January 2015, Prime Minister Sharmarke dissolved his newly nominated cabinet due to vehement opposition by legislators, who rejected the reappointment of certain former ministers.[75] At Sharmarke's behest, the Federal Parliament concurrently granted him a time extension to engage in further consultations before was to select a new Council of Ministers.[76] On 27 January 2015, Sharmarke appointed a new, smaller 20 minister Cabinet.[77] On 6 February, Sharmarke finalized his cabinet, consisting of 26 ministers, 14 state ministers, and 26 deputy ministers.[78] Federal legislators later approved the new Council of Ministers on 9 February, with 191 voting in favor it, 22 against it, and none abstaining.[79]

On 11 February 2015, the Federal Parliament during its fifth session approved the Independent National Electoral Commission. 113 MPs voted in favour of the bill, 21 against it, and 10 abstained. The president is now slated to sign the new law.[80]

On 8 February 2017, Somali MPs elected Ex-Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi "Farmajo" Mohamed in a surprise result.[81] Mr. Mohamud, the incumbent, handily won the first round of voting, leading Mr. Mohamed by 88 to 72 votes in a field of more than 20 candidates. In the second round of voting, the other presidential contenders threw their weight behind Mr. Mohamed. He won, 184 to 97.[82] The new president is popularly known as "Farmajo", from the Italian for cheese, because of his love for the dairy product. On 23 February 2017, President Mohamed appointed former humanitarian worker and businessman Hassan Khaire as his Prime Minister.

Executive branch

The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was the internationally recognised government of Somalia until 20 August 2012, when its tenure officially ended.[3] It was established as one of the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) of government as defined in the Transitional Federal Charter (TFC) adopted in November 2004 by the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP).

The Transitional Federal Government officially comprised the executive branch of government, with the TFP serving as the legislative branch. The government was headed by the President of Somalia, to whom the cabinet reported through the Prime Minister. However, it was also used as a general term to refer to all three branches collectively.

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Tayo 8 February 2017
Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre Independent 1 March 2017

Legislative branch

The Federal Parliament of Somalia is the national parliament of Somalia. Formed in August 2012, it is based in the capital Mogadishu and is bicameral, consisting of an upper house and a lower house.

The Federal Parliament of Somalia elects the President and has the authority to pass and veto laws.[83] and consists of a 275-seat lower house as well as an upper house capped at 54 representatives.[84] The current Members of parliament were selected by a Technical Selection Committee, which was tasked with vetting potential legislators that were in turn nominated by a National Constituent Assembly consisting of elders.[85] The current Speaker of the Federal Parliament is Mohamed Osman Jawari.[86]

Judicial branch

the Constitution states that the judiciary is independent of the legislative and executive branches of government whilst fulfilling its judicial functions.Members of the judiciary shall be subject only to the law.[83]

The Somali judicial system is based on Islamic law, Judicial authority of the Federal Republic is vested in the courts. The judiciary is independent of the legislative and executive branches of government whilst fulfilling its judicial functions. It can declare statutes as null and void if they are in violation of the Federal Constitution.

The national court structure consists of:

  • The Constitutional Court
  • The Federal Government level courts
  • The Federal Member State level courts

A nine-member Judicial Service Commission appoints any Federal tier member of the judiciary. It also selects and presents potential Constitutional Court judges to the House of the People of the Federal Parliament for approval. If endorsed, the President appoints the candidate as a judge of the Constitutional Court. The five-member Constitutional Court adjudicates issues pertaining to the constitution, in addition to various Federal and sub-national matters.[83]

The Constitutional Court is composed of 5 judges, The Judicial Service Commission shall nominate as judge of the Constitutional Court only persons of high integrity, with appropriate qualifications in law and Shari’a, and who is highly competent in Constitutional matters, and who are of high moral character. Nominees are then presented to the House of the People of the Federal Parliament for approval. If endorsed, the President appoints the candidate as a judge of the Constitutional Court. The Chief Judge and Deputy Chief Judge are later chosen by the Constitutional Court judges from within their membership ranks.[83]

Political parties and elections

Administrative divisions

Somalia is officially divided into eighteen regions (plural gobollada; singular gobol), which in turn are subdivided into districts. The regions are:[6]

International organization participation

Somalia is a member of:


See also


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