Change in Somalia is indeed around the corner. The “transitional government” is due to dissolve by August 20th. Along with prospective oil contracts, proposed federalisation and foreign military presence; the new consitution is one of many heavily disputed factors which will shape the direction that this ‘change’ will take Somalia and its people.
Hands off Somalia have been speaking to people on the streets of London on a weekly basis over the past 2 months – and one thing is clear; although Somalis are mostly aware that a constitution has suddenly been imposed on Somalia by foreign hands, few know much else. Why is this?
The origin of this constitution is shamefully undemocratic and completely unclear, despite pro-active research. In addition, its approval by Somali ‘leaders’ occured in complete isolation from the Somali people, outside of Somalia.
The “Consultation Draft Constitution of the Somali Republic” states that it was drafted by the Independent Federal Constitution Commission [IFCC] and issued in July 2010. However, days after its approval in Kenya, head of IFCC, Abdullahi Hassan Jama held a press conference in Mogadishu, refuting the legitimacy of the constitution, “Officials in the Transitional Federal Government [TFG] have asked us to distribute the document to different members of the civil society, but we have objected to this because this is not a document that the IFCC can be responsible for…” Even worse, TFG Minister for the constitution, Abdirahman Hoosh Jibril, responded by alleging the IFCC, “had 7 years to produce a constitution which they were given millions of dollars for,” adding that, “they squandered the money in Nairobi and Kampala”
In fact, this document was funded by the UN Development Program and advised upon by “experts” of constitution writing at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. Also present to “support” the IFCC, were the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the German Society for International Co-operation, the National Democratic Institute, Oxfam Novib and Interpeace. Who are these groups?
During the consultation process, the constitution was shown to various groups and proposed for endorsement. Members of the Somali Re-Liberation Alliance, which is vocal in its opposition to the TFG were also invited to Germany in summer 2009. They claim they were even offered money as an incentive to show support the document. They refused.
As part of the push to legitimise the Somali transition, 135 ‘elders’ have been selected and proposed a National Constituent Assembly (NCA) of 825 members, despite the fact that the integrity of some of these ‘elders’ is already in question, with many accusations of corruption.
UN Special Representative to the General Secratary for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga however has made clear, “they do not have the authority to make decisions about the consitution, and certainly not to withold names for the constituent assembly.” It would seem the UN would much prefer Somalis to sit down and take everything that is given to them.
Apart from the insult of having German “experts” write the Somali constitution, and apart from the fact that Somalis have a constitution already (written in the 1960’s), this new constitution also has clear inconsistencies. Article 4 claims that “The Somali people are one and indivisible”, but this is later contradicted with Article 70: Creation of new states. “A new state may be created if a significant number of one or more existing states wish to form a state and the establishment of the state is the only way to promote their common interests.” And article 71 outlines the Admission of new members to the Republic; “The Federal Republic of Somalia welcomes other entities to join the Federation, and will promote additions to the Federation by peaceful means.”
It must be recognised at this point, that the leadership of Somalia is already divided by violence and self-interest, around oil fields, wells and mines full of natural resources. Rather than admit that this kind of division ensures a diversity of potential business “partners” for the multinationals to deal with in isolation, the imperialist mouthpieces will enforce the idea that disunity in Somalia is unwavering and is simply an unexplainable phenomenon, leaving the imagination to conclude that Somalis must just hate each other and are incapable of being any different. Yet this isn’t the only history of Somalia and there hasn’t always been such animosity along tribal lines.
Drilling and mining contracts are currently in negotiation, Puntland and Jubbaland ‘leaders’ and ‘representatives’ are already enacting aspects of article 70, seeking out their own “common interests”and are inevitably going to make massive deals with financiers, placing them apart from other regions of Somalia who don’t have as plentiful a supply of oil or uranium and so, less able to ‘develop’. How Somalis are expected to feel like they are “one and indivisible” while this constitution enshrines division is unimaginable.
Furthermore, there is nothing stopping the leadership of the TFG channelling donations and funds to their personal accounts. According to the UN’s Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Groups [SEMG] leaked report “the PM instructed the Finance Ministry to disburse the funds directly to individual government officials, MPs and political figures, including US$121,700 to his own office. No further information is available as to what these individuals did with the money, or whether any of these funds were in fact spent on reconciliation efforts.”
And while Puntland President, Abdirahman Mohamud Farole is co-signing the draft constitution and negotiating the exploitation of Somali natural resources in the region, he is also awarding contracts to private security companies to protect the activities of private oil companies, which, according to the SEMG, violates the UN Security Councils arms embargo. But then, the drone attacks in Mogadishu perpetrated by the US government also violate the arms embargo, exposing how fake the UN’s principles really are.
The nature of a constitution is to provide a starting point for the creation and implementation of law, and so by its nature can also be meaningless in isolation. For example, in Article 30, Environment; “Everyone has the right to have the environment protected from pollution and other damage” and “Everyone has the right to have the natural resources of the nation protected from unsustainable exploitation”. Nigeria will have a similar sentence in its constitution, but this hasn’t prevented Shell from neglecting its “duty” to the people of the Niger Delta whose lives have been devastatingly warped by birth defects, poisoned rivers, exploited labour and murdering militias paid to protect oil fields that annually spill at disgraceful levels. There is an organised resistance to Shell and Chevron’s lucrative presence in the Niger Delta and fighting will occur as long as they make a profit at the expense of Nigeria’s right to an environment protected from unsustainable exploitation.
The new constitution throws up plenty of hairs worth splitting and the climate of self-interest in Somalia is ensuring that concentrations of wealth and power within Somalia have ambitions that will separate people from the rest of the population. Numerous articles in the constitution also provide legitimacy to this divided self-interest allowing a multitude of corporations to flood in and reap the rewards. It is therefore easy to argue that a constitution written by imperialists, as part of an imperialist led ‘road map’ of ‘transition’ for Somalia can only result in a completely insensitive, inapplicable process that demeans Somalis and will always be met with resistance. How a Somalia in ‘transition’ deals with this resistance is yet to be seen, but as mentioned, foreign security companies are already being paid millions to guarantee that violence is an option.
Imperialism has already shown what it does to those that oppose or resist its plans in Somalia. But this is no different to the recent histories of all the nations in the African continent. Which African nation doesn’t have a western corporation buying cheaply their raw materials and adding value to obscene levels? How many African leaders have been assassinated or removed for opposing the realities of imperialism? Africans are expected to watch as their resources are sold for a profit around the world, thereby securing the imperialist nations into a position to impose their interests in Africa. Indeed this is not too different to how the people in the Middle East, South America and Asia are largely treated.
The hair splitting, although unavoidable for many, is unfortunately legitimising the process further. The first point to be made and dwelled upon is the simplest: What gives anybody the right to shape Somalia’s future?
Furthermore, nothing that imperialist Britain will ever plan for the rest of the world can ever be separated from its own self-interest. And it has the power to impose those interests on to others. Whether they like or not.
Imperialist Hands off Somalia!
Imperialist Hands off Africa!
Article by Ihtisham Ul Haq and Abdi Akhiro