By Majid Ahmed in Mogadishu
As parliamentarians undertake the task of reviewing Somalia's provisional constitution, they will need to take great care in setting the guidelines for establishing federal states, analysts say.
A Somali delegate reads a copy of the country's provisional constitution during a special assembly in Mogadishu on July 25th, 2012. [Abdurashid Abdulle Abikar/AFP]
"Federalism is something new for Somalia, and if the process of creating the nascent federal states is not done properly and resources are not distributed fairly, this could cause a new conflict to engulf the country," said Ahmed Aden, a political analyst in Mogadishu.
Establishing federalism in Somalia will be a challenge that requires leaders to display wisdom, insight and patience, he said.
Under the constitution ratified by the Somali parliament in August, two or more regions can unite and form a state with federal government representation.
However, parliamentarians must determine how many federal states or regional administrations will be allowed under the new federal system, as the constitution does not specify. Parliamentarians will also need to define how resources would be distributed among Somalia's future states.
"If we look at some of the current regional entities in parts of the country, we find they are built on tribal basis," said Jama Mohamed, a former law professor at the Somali National University.
He said lawmakers must stay objective and not allow tribal loyalties to influence them.
"If the nascent federal states are built upon this tribal foundation, this could tear the country apart and make conditions worse, because it would ignite the flames of competition among the tribes, which would prolong the conflict in Somalia," he told Sabahi.
'The most suitable form of government'
The parliament is also tasked with enacting laws to regulate the relationship between the central government and regional states.
Parliamentarian Mohamed Omar favours a federal system, saying it would empower the regions, give them political representation and allow them to share resources. The new constitution also guarantees Somali citizens free movement from one state to another, he said.
"There are lots of Somalis who doubt the effectiveness of the federal system in the country, while others claim that it adversely affects the unity of the country," he told Sabahi. "It is important to acknowledge, however, that this is the most suitable form of government for the time being in order to rebuild the Somali nation's lost confidence."
"The federal system will reinforce unity, stability and prosperity in the country and guarantee citizens equality and political participation at this critical point in time when Somalis are truly struggling to overcome the absence of confidence prevalent among the tribes since the collapse of the central government," he said.
A test for the new government
Earlier this month, the government faced a test over regional statehood for Jubbaland when Prime Minster Abdi Farah Shirdon accused local leaders of trying to establish regional statehood without appropriate federal government involvement.
"This unilateral act, carried out without reference to the federal government, violates the constitution and is an obstacle to peaceful political development," he said. "It neither serves the best interests of the local communities in the area nor that of the new Somali state."
Nonetheless, during his opening speech at the conference, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed Islam, who chairs Jubbaland's interim administration and leads the Ras Kamboni militia, called on the Somali government to send representatives to the statehood meeting.
Mogadishu-based Heritage Institute for Policy Studies (HIPS), which released a report March 18th reviewing the Somali government's first 100 days, argued that the government's approach to tackling the Jubbaland issue was counterproductive.
"First, the issue is not, in its current iteration, a simple constitutional problem -- rather, it is a more broadly political crisis that requires political solutions," the report said. "Second, the government's overall rhetoric has been counterproductive and, in some cases, bombastic. This is unhelpful to the process of reconciliation, which is far from over."
HIPS recommended that the government structure an interim "win-win arrangement" with Jubbaland stakeholders, and within two years conduct free and fair elections for citizens to elect mayors, governors and regional administrators.