Next Up in Somalia’s Fragile Transition: Bridge Political Divides

Next Up in Somalia’s Fragile Transition: Bridge Political Divides
Ugandan tanks of the African Union Mission in Somalia participate in a joint offensive with the Somali National Army on the outskirts of Afgooye, west of Mogadishu, May 24, 2012 (U.N. photo by Stuart Price).

On Feb. 9, Somalia’s parliament finally endorsed a Cabinet, 66 members strong, after Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke had failed in two previous attempts in January 2015 to present a list that could appease all of the country’s fractious clan leaders and political players. Sharmarke is President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s third premier since taking office in September 2012—a product of consistent bickering between Somalia's top leaders over their respective powers and responsibilities.

With only two years left in the government’s mandate, expectations are high that it can work with all stakeholders in Somalia and complete an ambitious post-conflict transition plan known as Vision 2016. Developed by the international community and the Somali government in order to keep Somalia on track and avoid the delays that transitional governments had previously encountered in making political progress, the plan includes finalizing and forming the boundaries of Somalia’s various autonomous regions, known as Federal Member States; revising and organizing a referendum on a provisional constitution; and holding national elections in 2016. Whether Somalia can complete these goals rests significantly upon its ability to improve cooperation across the board on key political challenges and close security gaps across the country.

Lack of political cooperation in Somalia continues to hamper opportunities to capitalize on gains made against the militant group al-Shabab in the past two years. Beating back al-Shabab has opened up space for long overdue political reforms, especially a contentious federalism process to divide power between the federal government in Mogadishu and emerging regional administrations. But that has also raised the political stakes in an already divided country.

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