Federalism in the Central Region

Following a long drawn out process it was announced that the State formation conference would finally commence in Cadaado on 13.04 with a view to forming a Federal Member State in the Central Region, comprising South Mudug and Galgaduud, amounting to the current Galmudug Administration and Himan and Heeb.

From the outset the prospect of a Central State has been contentious and increased tensions in an already tense region and far from solving conflict, the Federal Government’s intervention and guidance to the process has actually caused an increase of tensions, so much so it is unclear how the Central State formation process will be straightforward.

The formation of a Federal Member State in the Central Region, while necessary, takes place amid a number of contentious issues and the formation process must overcome these. During the last year the Federal Government has intervened on several occasions to try and guide the formation and the result has included armed conflict with the Ahlu Sunna in Dhuusamareeb and a breakdown in relations with Puntland, as well as various protests and demonstrations- some of them violent. While the state formation conference is proceeding the 2 major questions remain unanswered, will the state be in compliance with the constitution and how can the state be formed when key groups in the state are against it. Both of these questions have the potential to derail the fragile status quo in the region.

The constitutionality of the Central State is still an unanswered question, but just from reading the Federal Constitution it appears the state cannot be formed as is. The Federal Constitution clearly states that Federal Member States must be formed from “2 or more regions” based on the pre-1991 regional borders, this of course brings us to the Mudug question.

Mudug is a region divided, split in 2 on a line running through Gaalkacyo. The north half is part of Puntland and the southern half is part of Galmudug. The region itself was split in 1993 as part of the Mudug Peace Agreement which split the region on clan lines to stop further bloodshed. This division is enshrined in the Federal Constitution in Article 142 which states that until the Federal Constitution and the Constitutions of existing Member States- Puntland- are reconciled then the Member States constitution still stands.

So for Mudug to form part of the Central Member State its division into north and south must be accepted per Article 142. Yet per article 42(6) this division cannot be accepted as Member States can only be formed of 2 or more Regions, based on the pre-1991 regional borders and these regional borders can only be changed by the Boundaries and Federation Commission, which still does not exist.

The legal issues aside we then come to the reason for the division of Mudug in 1993- clan tensions- and the reality is these continue to exert influence on the region, even over the capital of the Central State, in addition to the clan objections there are also political actors who have objected.

  • Puntland (dominated by the Majerten Darod) “suspended relations” with the federal government, recalled MPs from the region and urged the chairwoman of the Independent Constitutional Review and Implementation Commission- who hails from Puntland to return to the region, further delaying the constitutional review process.
  • Ximan and Xeeb initially rejected the Central State, signing the initial agreement a week later. Residents of Ximan and Xeeb’s political heart in Cadaado also staged public protests against the agreement.
  • Ahlu Sunna is divided with one faction rejecting the signature of the initial agreement by another faction.
  • Marehan clan (Darod sub-clan) leaders of northern Galgaduud said the agreement did not represent them.
  • Hawiye sub-clans (Murusade, Waceysle, Saruur) have voiced opposition, believing the process has been influenced by Ethiopia.

While some of these groups- notably Ximan and Xeeb are now publicly onside, with Cadaado playing home to the state formation conference and Dhuusaamareeb planned as the capital city of the Central State, many of the objections are not resolved. The reality is even beyond the legal issues, Puntland also has a concern that the Central State may pose a threat to Puntland’s stability.

The formation of the Central State is in many ways inevitable, indeed per the Federal Constitution and recent suggestions, all Federal Member States must be formed for the 2016 elections to take place. The formation conference is yet another step in this process, however with the legal and political issues that stand in the way of the Central State, the formation will be a long process. Even to reach this stage the Federal Government has had to make compromises that have the potential to cause issues elsewhere in Somalia. The Mudug issue and the continued division of the region going forward itself creates potential for disputes elsewhere in Somalia, where Member States contend over regional borders, if it is possible for Mudug to be split why would it not be possible for other regions to be divided?

In some ways the formation of the Central State is the benchmark for Somalia and the Federal Government. If the process succeeds and a Central State forms that is inclusive, fairly governed and peaceful then the Federalism model of government will be shown to be the bet for Somalia. If however the formation process fails or rival state formation conferences form- similar to the South West state- it will be another sign that the current Federalism model needs changing for Somalia to progress. Overall the next weeks and months will be telling, not just for the Central State, but for all Somalia and this entire process is of course occurring in a region where Al-Shabaab retains significant presence, including the control of several major towns.

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