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Fears of violence grow as Somalia scraps power-sharing system

Somalia’s central government collapsed in 1991, plunging the country into civil war, made worse with the emergence of the jihadist group al-Shabaab in the mid-2000s. Millions of people have been displaced by fighting between militants and the army, and years of drought caused by failed rains. About 6.9 million people are in need of humanitarian aid.

Afyare A Elmi, a research professor at the City University of Mogadishu, said Puntland’s withdrawal from the federal system could further imperil the viability of a unified Somali state.

“If a large chunk of the country is missing in this process we are simply building a constitution for south-west Somalia.”

The other federal states, Jubbaland, South West state, Hirshabelle and Galmudug have yet to comment on the amendments. Somaliland, which declared independence from Somalia in 1991, said: “Somalia’s recent constitutional development is an internal matter.”

The former presidents Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo and Sharif Ahmed warned the changes would upset Somalia’s delicate power balance, while the former prime ministers Omar Sharmarke and Hassan Ali Khaire denounced the changes in an open letter also signed by the veteran MP Abdirahman Abdishakur.

Somalia’s current constitution was introduced in 2012, but was intended to be a provisional document and has long been under review. Crafting a new constitution was one of President Mohamud’s key election pledges in 2022. Last month he said further delays were “not an option”. “We are not a provisional government, but we have a provisional constitution,” he added.

Afyare Elmi said the 2012 constitution was based upon a political settlement with broad input from Somalis. “It had four key elements: federalism, clan power-sharing, regular elections and a spirit of inclusiveness to build consensus. What the government is doing now is moving away from this settlement,” he said.

Omar Mahmoud, an east Africa analyst at the International Crisis Group, wrote that “there are fundamental issues about the nature of the federal model that must be sorted out between Mogadishu and Garowe [Puntland’s capital] in order for Somalia’s governance system to function more effectively and get over the hump of recurrent on-and-off relations.

“But without the sides talking, it is impossible to get there, allowing the status quo to continue indefinitely.”