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On June 17 of this year, Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) President Sheikh Sharif scrapped four articles of the Transitional Federal Charter to enable the little observed roadmap to be implemented.
These articles concerned the parliament, the functions of the parliament, procedures in parliament, and federalism. In essence, the president has taken over legislating power, making Somalia a virtual semi-dictatorship for the remainder of the transitional period.
Last week I wrote about the TFG's undemocratic tendencies; it seems the president wanted to confirm that the TFG is not only undemocratic, but borders on autocracy.
In fact, the transitional parliament was already powerless for the past year, and was hardly taken seriously by the executive branch of the government or by the international community.
In December last year, the parliament speaker, Sharif Hassan, was sacked by the parliament for “violating” its rules.
Nobody took the parliament seriously, and Sharif Hassan continued to represent the rebel parliament in peace conferences inside Somalia and abroad.
The parliament was quick to oppose the Garowe conference (also cited by the president as having given him right to grab additional powers), with 268 members of parliament (more than half) giving the conference a vote of no-confidence.
Since the parliament’s opposition seemed to have been determined to be of no value, the sacked parliamentary speaker, Sharif Hassan, went on to represent the parliament in the London Conference, where so-called spoilers were warned that derailing the process to end the transition would be a problem with the international community.
Some parliamentarians opposed the London Conference, but there was no vote against the conference by the parliament.
Perhaps they didn’t want to join the “spoilers” list?
Sunday’s decree by the president therefore gives the transitional parliament a much-needed coup de grace.
Now that the everything-opposing parliament is out of the way, the roadmap signatories have a major hurdle in their way: the Somali elders.
They probably thought when they were signing Garowe 2 that the elders would give them everything they wanted on a silver platter.
The elders have proven themselves almost as difficult as the parliament, making it impossible to meet such deadlines as the approval of the constitution and selection of a new parliament.
The elders seem to want a piece of the pie, and reportedly decided on Wednesday that there should be an upper house of parliament that seats 135 elders, and that the incoming parliament should have 275 members, instead of the 225 agreed upon in Garowe. It is not clear whether the elders want the extra 50 members of parliament to be some of them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case.
Demonstrating that the elders have been seized by the same power hungry and self-serving sentiments as the rest of the parties involved in the political process, an elder reportedly said in the above news story that they were the ones to lead the Somali to their destiny.
I can’t imagine how ineffective our next parliament will be if we have elders in its chambers. While they may have a loyal following, they are mostly good-for-nothing old folks who are more concerned about their tiny constituencies than the greater good.
With enough monetary support, one can easily “convince” elders to do as one wants. Elders used to support the warlords with young men to fight for them, and many still support the Shabab in the areas the latter controls.
No high office in a pseudo-democratic process can easily change them; hopefully the Roadmap signatories will be brave enough to stand up to the elders as they have stood up to the parliament.