Somalia adopted ragtag federalism after the complete collapse of its unitary State in 1991. Since then the Federal Government vested considerable exertion to implement the undefined Federal model in the country to decentralize the power into the lower level. One may bewilder the connotation of our module, as we routinely witness political, constitutional rift between the States and the Central Government. Our provisional constitution has many loopholes and still under review process; a process that leads nation-wide referendum, though, considerable obstacles are ahead of the referendum. In general, there is a growing consensus about the need for a decentralized governance system to foster democratic governance in the country.
According to the Stabilization through the Establishment of Local Councils and Administrations document designed by the Ministry of Interior and Federal Affairs in line with local government act 116 ushers a completely new way for engaging local governance. it provides local people to prepare, participate and take ownership of the process of establishing permanent district councils and administrations through bottom-up approach and enhancing their functionality through a relevant capacity building program.
The formation of the Local Government will create some momentum to the people of Somalia as it promotes their participation in the development of their respective States. The process, therefore, will create an enabling environment or platforms for conflict resolution, reconciliations, reconstruction, development and improvement of service delivery. In solving the Somali problem, it’s believed, that the local Government will provide locals citizens with a say in their Governance.
However, in March 2016 the Federal Ministry of Interior and Reconciliation Affairs launched Wadajir National Framework for Local Governance, which integrates the various aspects of the government’s Stabilization Strategy such as community social healing, reconciliation and support to peace, but goes further by providing a sequence and additional steps for the establishment of functioning permanent local government councils and administrations. The Framework is tailored to further enhance and ensure additional sustainability to peace and state-building. The framework also aims to harmonize all stabilization program in the areas liberated from Al- Shabaab fighters.
In Somalia, reconciliation is considered to be the bedrock which will sustain any peace. A study suggests two decades of war have broken communities, exacerbated clan divisions, created openings for elites, extremists and terrorists to operate – all destabilizing the nation and demoralizing the populace’s faith and hope in a better future.
The momentum gained in decentralization
Since the beginning of the decentralization process, there has been significant progress, in terms of policy and capacity for local governance and service delivery. However, there is still limited trust in government structures at both central and local levels, which in turn means that their legitimacy is often questioned. This can increase the risk of a return to uncertainty and conflict even in the most stable regions in Somalia. Though, the process led by local authorities, critics argue an irrefutable involvement from the top authorities which may create internal grievances and can instigate to abandon a section of the community and that evolves new conflict.
This article will only demonstrate the ongoing process of district council formation in the nascent Federal Members States, where local councils are yet materialized. It will try to shed light opportunities and few embedded challenges that may retrograde the hard-gained steps vested the process. Generally, the government whether the Federal Government or State Level Government has the overall responsibility of monitoring and direction of the process. Local and International NGOs who have vast experience in Local Governance with funding from an international donor has the eventual responsibility of the implementing process in the country. However, the ongoing implementation process of district council formation ruined significant flaws and anomalies. Local accounts believe that the State authorities willingly thwarted the process though rushing and squeezing the process without considering local grievances and clan dynamics. There is growing perception that the State authority especially regional assemblies are trying to control the whole process vis-à-vis to secure their re-election bid, or to maintain their status quo.
On the other hand, the implementing agencies including donors are viewing the process at distance with their deadlines and parameters set for the project. That deadlines may coincidentally veneer the argument of expediting the process and eventually compromise the expected result. As a practitioner, that local attitude would not positively serve moral gesture for the comfort of the process.
Also, local accounts show poor awareness campaigns and proper insight understanding of the whole process, that entails understanding the functionality of the district councils and how they can reflect inclusivity which in turn enhance the legitimacy of that council. The process of forming transparent, accountable district councils in my view sounds like the incumbent local authorities hijacked whether it’s Federal level or State level, those authorities tailor the process according to their future ends.
In the above project documents designed by the Federal Government with its Member State, every stakeholder has role and responsibility outlined in the document, but in reality, the whole process is in disarray, without clear functionality. Nonetheless, these challenges drawn for politicizing the process doesn’t mean the whole process of district council formation is untrustworthy and it can partially serve the purpose of the project whatsoever anomalies marred the process.
The bottom-up approach should constitute good faith in social reconciliation and civic dialogue and ensure inclusivity. The government and implementing partners should only provide technical guidance and logistics needed on the ground. The local people can showcase durable district councils if they fully feel ownership. If these elements are supported adequately, I believe the community would be able to inaugurate strong, solid district councils accountable to the district residents.
Another positive gesture which I think helps more is the continuity of education and learning people the essence of district council formation in the long run.
I urge local elders to show commitment to a positive peace which means justice for all, historically the elders were last resort for any local conflict. They should try to heal the wounds and also panaceas the general feeling of mistrust among indigene. Finally, the elders should demonstrate a reconciliatory notion whenever they engage conflicts in their respective areas.
Said Omar Ahmed
MA in Peace, Governance and Development.
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