The idea of 4.5 power sharing formula was the result of a Reconciliation Conference held in Djibouti in 2000, but what was meant to reconcile a society that suffered from years of conflict has only divided and disunited them in a manner that was completely deplorable. And since the 4.5 system was adopted, only two major clans (Hawiye and Darod) have been holding Somalia’s highest political ranks (The president and the prime minister). Even though it is not enshrined in the Provisional Constitution, the system became so embedded in the political system of the country and it is in full use now at the expense of large proportion of the population.
Many believe that the system can fix Somalia’s 20-year tyrannical leadership of Mohamed Siad Barre. However, it is worth mentioning that the same system has excluded the other 2.5 clans (Dir, Digil/Milifle and minority clans) from running for the presidency. Even though Digil and Milifle didn’t run for the top two positions, they are counted in the major clans and they have the same numbers of members of the parliaments as the other three: Hawiye, Darod and Dir. As a matter of fact, over the past decade, the power sharing has exclusively served only four sub clans (Habar-Gidir and Abgaal, from the Hawiye clan and Majerten and Marehan from the Darood clan); just like the Spanish League dominated only by Barcelona, Real Madrid and sometimes Atletico Madrid.
In 2017, shortly after assuming office, President Farmaajo changed a little bit the course of history by appointing a prime minster, who hails from another sub clan within the Hawiye clan.
Surprisingly, most Somalis are now convinced and settled with this ill-treated formula, it almost became taboo to raise concerns against this arrangement. As a result, the topic is actually out of the social and public discourse. According to this formula, a man or woman who hails from Hargeisa cannot compete for presidential position and even if he does so he will not win.
It is the same case for someone hailing from Baidoa (Bay and Bakool regions in general). And worse of all, someone who belongs to minority clans cannot and will not be allowed to run for the presidency in Somalia. In addition to this, minority clans are continuously subjected to social discrimination and persecution from their own fellow brothers and the system itself; a discrimination that has been ongoing for centuries. It is in fact okay to say that they are considered as second or third-class citizens in their own motherland.
Other power sharing systems around the world.
Societies around the world might be divided by ethnicity, religion or language, yet they still find a way to share power and resources. In Tanzania, Nigeria Senegal, Lebanon and many other countries across the world agreed to have equalized power sharing formula among their multiethnic subjects. Their power sharing is so fair that even their Muslim and Christian populations are recognized and represented. In Lebanon for example, if the president is a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister must be a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of Parliament must come from Shia Muslims. The presidential position in Nigeria, which is the most populous country in Africa, is rotated among its 140 million people who are equally divided into Christians and Muslims.
If nations with different ethnicities, religious backgrounds, and different languages can accommodate each other, share power, and ensure that everyone in their respective communities is represented, then how come we Somalis—the homogenous nation in Africa—cannot agree to share and rotate power among our communities? It’s a question that all of us need to reflect and ponder.
Thinking outside the box
Have we ever asked ourselves why many countries, such as Kenya, Ethiopia, the US., Canada and the UK have appointed people from Somali descent to the top ranking positions in their respective governments? Take the example of Kenya, the current Cabinet Secretary (CS) of Education is Amina Mohamud, an ethnic Somali who previously served as the CS of Foreign Affairs in Kenya. In the US., in a groundbreaking historic win, Ilhan Omar became the first black Muslim Somali woman elected to Congress. Ahmed Hussen, a man who once lived in Mogadishu’s Siigaale neighborhood in his childhood, is now the Minister of Immigration of Canada! Let’s not forget that these aforementioned leaders have been accommodated by non-Muslim countries. Unfortunately, with our unfair 4.5 system, Somalia’s vast population have been denied to exercise their inalienable right of fair representation, a political right which is clearly stipulated in the country’s provisional constitution. Moreover, Somalis are 100 percent Muslims and the Islamic religion is both based on and promotes egalitarian principles more than any other faith.
The ‘5-Clan’ Power Sharing System: A True Reconciliation Model
It all starts with removing the decimal number (4.5) by rounding up to make it 5. All Somalis have to know, remember, and believe that no one is above anyone else and that people are all equal both before religion and the law. This is if we are aiming to achieve true reconciliation and forgiveness among all clans.
Now that we have five equal clans, we can start a rotation agreement for the presidency, the premiership, and the speaker of the parliament positions among these 5 clans. There should be three clans holding the three major government positions (president, prime minister and the speaker of parliament) every FOUR-YEAR term. We can agree if there’s two-term elections with possibility of the same clans coming back again but after their term ends; the two others shall run for the top two positions.
For instance, if the president and prime minister are from Hawiye and Darood respectively in one given term while Digil/Mirifle is the speaker of the parliament, in the next term, both the president and the PM should come from Dir and the 5thclan where the position of the speaker can be taken by either Hawiye or Darod depending who wins in the speaker’s position.
Reform might take decades, but it is possible
It might take years if not decades to do away the current 4.5 system, but we should start the discussion both at grassroots and at the national level. As long as a large portion of the Somali public is still feeling excluded from contesting for the country’s top positions, there will never be an everlasting reconciliation. And we also have to remember that changes can happen swiftly; who knew, for instance, an Oromo would one day become the prime minster of Ethiopia. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed proved that a change can happen, and it indeed happened.