Somalia’s Institutionalised Exclusion


By: Liban Ahmad

Somalilandsun – More than four major reconciliation conferences were held for Somalia’s leaders since 1991. Somalia’s post-transition Federal Institutions, which replaced the transitional federal government, are based on the 4.5 power sharing formula .

The 4.5 clan-based power distribution formula has its origins in the 2000 reconciliation conference for Somalia sponsored by the government of Djibouti in the city of Arta.

The conference was hailed as a key example about getting the Somalia civil society involved in reconciliation. “The language of civil society was used extensively by local forces as a counterpoint to continued rule by warlords.”1 “Representatives of the civil society must come together…to agree on the road to peace in the interests of all citizens, national harmony and the democratic right to choose leaders in accordance with an accepted formula.”2

The 4.5 formula was devised to facilitate power-sharing among four major clans ( Hawiye, Dir, Darod and Digil & Mirifle) , and a group of clans known then as The Others ( Adariska), but now known as the fifth clan. In essence the 4.5 formula was not ” an accepted formula” but an agreement among four ‘major’ clans to put clans with no armed clan militia or autonomous administration at a disadvantage. Although warlords did not participate in the Arta Conference, what conference participants subtly institutionalised was the argument of some warlords who viewed ownership of armed militias as a precondition for attending reconciliation conferences. While the approach to give more space to civil society was improvement the former Transitional National Government of Somalia (TNG), which was outcome of Arta conference, had been inept and plagued by infighting between the president and successive prime ministers. During its four-year term ( 2000-2004) the TNG had three prime ministers. Its successor, Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, the outcome of Kenya-sponsored reconciliation conference in which warlords had played a major role, retained the 4.5 formula and agreed on federalism, had five prime ministers during an eight-year term.

The 4.5 formula is criticised , among other things, for favouring ‘clanocracy’3.over meritocracy. The manner in which the power-sharing arrangement was conceived and put into use accounts for its notoriety.

From a participatory aspect of reconciliation conferences the 4.5 formula ensured the participation of clans whose political leaders were once denied the same platform as the one given to clans with armed militias or regional administrations. Beyond that the 4.5 formula has been a warlord’s’ dream ticket to a cabinet post or parliament . How unarmed clans were perceived during 1990s can shed more light on the unexamined assumptions on which the 4.5 is based. Only USC, SSDF, SPM, SNM and SDM participated in major reconciliation conferences between 1991-1994. After the General Aideed’s SNA captured Baydhaba in 1995, SDM’s status was unofficially relegated. The status accorded to a clan at reconciliation conferences was a function its military capability( i.e. ownership of armed militia).

In a discussion paper published in 1996 Dr Alex de Waal classified Digil and Rahanweyn along with Jareerweyne as ” farmers” and ” members of minority groups.”4 Under the 4.5 formula Digil and Rahanweyn is given a whole-clan status (1) whereas Jareerweyn is given a a half-clan status ( 0.50) . The change in the classification owes more to the Rahaynweyn clan’s decision to form Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA) in 1990s to dislodge forces loyal to Hussein Aideed from Bay and Bakool regions.

Early 1990s Jareerweyn, Gabooye , Benadiri, Dhulbahante and Gedobursi lacked representation platforms in the form of armed militias or an organisation with a role in the armed opposition against the former military dictatorship. Under the 4.5 formula Jareerweyn, Gabooye , Benadiri were grouped into the half-clan status whereas Dhulbahante and Gedobursi were grouped into whole clan-status— Darod and Dir clans respectively.

What are the advantages associated with having a whole-clan status? What are the disadvantages associated with having a half-clan status? Clans with a whole-clan status have more bargaining power, and because of districts and towns they view as their strongholds, have opportunities to form administrations to cater to needs of local populations and give their business people opportunities to launch start-up businesses. Clans with a half-clan status do not have opportunities for self-government and business development or a comparably effective platform to voice their concerns. (see Exhibit 1).

Exhibit 1 Advantages of full-clan and half-clan statuses based on 4.5 formula Pan-clan Islamist organisations not included

The Somali Federal Government is not a parent company allocating resources for business units on the basis of 4.5 formulas but that is how the government, like its predecessors, is operating. In such an environment the clans who carved a niche or acquired a comparative advantage fare better than clans who were put at disadvantage by self-appointed strong clans. Although the Somali government has ten ministers equally shared among all 4.5 clans, the parliamentary seats were distributed on the 4.5 quota. Members of clans with regional administrations or quasi-regional administrations ( e.g. Khaatumo and Ximan & Xeeb ) and strong paramilitaries like Ahlu Sunna Waal Jama’a, stand a better chance to launch business start-ups and winning new business or forming partnerships with other powerful clans. There is an inbuilt discrimination within the 4.5 power-sharing formula; it affects lives of Somalis particularly those who borne the brunt of human rights violations in Somalia after 1991 state collapse. Efforts to get rid of the 4.5 are laudable. What remains are substantive power structures and economic advantages and disadvantages deepened by the 4.5 formula after it become institutionalised exclusion in 2000. Security will be illusion if a system perpetuating social injustice prevails. Beneficiaries of 4.5 will strive to expand their slice of the ‘national cake’

In May 2013 a Somalia Conference will be held in London to “galvanise the international community behind the Government of Somalia’s priorities of rebuilding its armed forces, police, coastguard, justice and public financial management systems. ” Organisers and participants of the conference have a moral obligation to ensure that the power-sharing 4.5 formula should not disenfranchise people who had no a role in the civil war but who are now put at disadvantage by their judicious choice not to form clan-based armed opposition groups. Transparency and accountability to Somalis and its partners will remain a rhetoric will be rhetoric if a segment of Somali people is denied representation privileges associated with political inclusion

Liban Ahmad

1 David Lewis, “Civil Society in African Contexts: Reflections on the Usefulness of a Concept” in Development and Change Volume 33, Issue 4, (September 2002)

2Horn of Africa Bulletin, Number1 . .Nairobi. Life and Peace Institute (2000).

3Mohamed A. Eno and Omar A. Eno, ” Intellectualism amid Ethnocentrism: Mukhtar and 4.5 Factor”BILDHAAN, Vol. 9 (2011)

4 Alex de Waal, “Class and Power in a Stateless Somalia : A Discussion Paper”, August 1996: /DeWaal_ClassandPowerinSomalia.pdf

Liban Ahmad April 20 2013