Reviewing the Somali Government’s First 100 days

Reviewing the Somali Government’s First 100 Days: a Scorecard
On 3 March 2013 Prime Minister Abdi Farah
Shirdon stood before parliament and presented his
government’s accomplishments of its first hundred
days. Such a proactive strategy in itself is
commendable. It shows an appreciation for
institutional checks and balances, acknowledges
parliament’s oversight role, and contributes to the
establishment of an open and accountable
governance system in Somalia. Furthermore, this
preliminary exercise demonstrates that Somalia’s
political leaders realize that citizens – through their
representatives – expect rapid and tangible results.
One hundred days, however, is too short to fully
assess the Somali government’s performance let
alone carry out a proper appraisal of programs.
Nonetheless, since the government presented an
overview of its achievements, it is worth reflecting
on its claims while shedding some light on the
direction of such developments. Needless to say, any
evaluation must be contextualized within the
prevailing circumstances, as the new government
operates under a difficult and uniquely challenging
political, economic and security environment – a
situation that all stakeholders readily acknowledge.
The most reasonable task that the new government
could have achieved in 100 days was to lay the
foundation for laws, systems, and processes that
would put the country on a path of effective,
transparent, and accountable governance. There is
reason to believe that the government is on the right
trajectory. It has now passed seven laws, pertaining
to finance, the judiciary, human rights, and tariffs.
Eight others, concerning police reform,
telecommunications, media, and energy are
pending.
However, when one looks beyond the intentions and
plans of the current government, which are too many
to enumerate in this short brief, one finds a mixed
record characterized by a jarring imbalance between
foreign and domestic policy priorities, slow response
to economic and political crises, immodesty in
rhetoric and, above all, an unhealthy imbalance
between the presidency and the cabinet.
Foreign Policy
The president made high-level visits to important
capitals such as Washington, London, Ankara,
Brussels, Kampala, Doha, Nairobi, Cairo, Addis
Ababa and Riyadh. He has firmly established his
government’s non-transitional credentials.
His government has argued successfully for the
easing of the arms embargo by the UN and resisted
Kenya’s bid to establish an AMISOM naval unit at
the expense of the nascent Somali navy. The
government also deserves credit for refusing to
accept the business-as-usual meddling of external
actors.
The most assertive foreign policy stand – which irked
both Nairobi and Addis Ababa – is Mogadishu’s bold
rejection of the Intergovernmental Authority on
Development’s (IGAD) Grand Stabilization Plan. The
Plan, devised in the final days of the former
Transitional Federal Government (TFG), gave Kenya
and Ethiopia the authority to establish local
administrations in territories recovered from al-
Shabaab.
Some countries, like Uganda and Burundi, made
their soldiers pay the ultimate price for Somalia’s
path to recovery, while others, such as Turkey,
mobilized their entire society to end Somalia’s global
isolation. The United States and Italy have been
paying the salaries of the Somali National Forces
(SNF) for years. Other countries, such as Djibouti,
have come to the rescue of Somalia countless times.
Still, there are others whose track record in Somalia
is checkered by years of institutionalizing the
balkanization of Somalia.
Even though the government seems, on the surface,
to have achieved tangible diplomatic goals, it
Reviewing the Somali Government’s First 100 days – Policy Briefing © HIPS002/2013 info@hertiageinstitute.org
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appears not to have overarching guiding principles
and the necessary acumen to balance genuine
friends and foreign actors. As was the case with his
predecessors, the president’s overseas trips appear to
be having him dancing to too many and often
contradicting tunes.
Somalia’s staunchest allies are often puzzled of its
true intentions. It is time for the government to
develop and articulate a sensible foreign policy with
the sole aim of advancing the national interests of
Somalia.
Economic and Political Woes
The government has thus far failed to address
domestic priorities adequately. High on the
president’s ‘Six Pillar Policy’ is economic recovery.
Recently the purchasing power of the middle and
lower classes throughout much of south and central
Somalia has eroded considerably due to a sharp drop
in the value of the U.S. Dollar against the Somali
Shilling. The cost of basic commodities remains
stubbornly high, leaving millions of vulnerable
citizens with fewer resources.
The President’s Six-Pillar Policy
1. Establish functioning institutions
2. Spearhead economic recovery
3. Promote sustainable peace
4. Provide service to citizens
5. Undertake robust international relations
6. Work towards reconciliation, political
dialogue and national unity
The government’s response to this growing crisis has
been simplistic and inconsistent. President Hassan
Sheikh Mohamud claimed the exchange rate issue
was a “side effect of the reforms” made by his
government and asked the international community
to deliver food aid to the poorest. The mayor of
Mogadishu accused the businessmen who control
the foreign exchange market of manufacturing the
crisis. A cabinet minister insisted that sinister
individuals with suitcases full of U.S. Dollars are
responsible for the vanishing of Somali Shillings
throughout south-central Somalia. This incoherent
approach to the looming economic crisis
underscores the government’s perennial incapacity
to respond to crisis on an institutional level and
through sensible policy decisions.
On the political front, the Prime Minister’s ‘listening
tour’ in Puntland, Galmudug and the central
province has certainly eased tensions and raised his
profile. The government deserves credit for
establishing local administrations in several
Galgaduud cities following dialogue with the Ahlu-
SunnaWal-Jama’a militia that controls the area.
Shirdon’s trip to Puntland and Galmudug
administrations was an important step toward
inclusivity, enhancing dialogue with regional polities
and extending the government’s domain beyond the
city limits of Mogadishu. Equally, the government
should be commended for establishing new
administrations in the Bay and Hiiraan regions after
an initial hiccup.
Serious challenges remain in other regions. The
Jubbaland crisis took a turn for the worse after the
Somali Federal Government rejected the congress
convened in Kismaayo by local clans. Prime Minister
Shirdon and his cabinet have dismissed the attempt
to form a regional administration in the area as
“unconstitutional”.
The government’s approach to the Jubbaland crisis is
troubling on two levels. 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. 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.
While the Jubbaland issue is undoubtedly complex,
the government’s response has been imprudent. That
Prime Minister Shirdon, often praised for his
conciliatory approach to politics, was not deployed
to the region early on is confusing and demonstrates
the continued failure to leverage on his credibility.
Shirdon hails from one of the communities vying for
the control of Kismaayo and, as the head of the
executive branch he is uniquely positioned to
mitigate the crisis. Unfortunately, the government
has allowed the issue to fester and emotions to boil
over. As a result, the government’s options vis-à-vis
Jubbaland are dwindling by the day, making the
environment conducive to renewed conflict in the
region.
Another urgent issue is corruption, which remains
widespread. While one can’t expect the government
to wipe out corruption within a mere 100 days, the
resilience of the corruption syndicates at revenueReviewing
the Somali Government’s First 100 days – Policy Briefing © HIPS002/2013 info@hertiageinstitute.org

generating institutions is shocking. Government
contracts and procurements are still not subject to
oversight, and the budget allocated for each
department cannot be tracked or audited properly.
Fighting corruption, among the government’s top
three priorities, should start with dismantling the
syndicates, and individuals found engaging in
corrupt acts must be prosecuted.
Executive imbalance
The cabinet, initially considered “lean and focused”,
is increasingly becoming ineffective. 100 days into
their jobs, ministers have not yet made substantial
progress on the president’s “Six Pillar Policy”.
Ministers, it would seem, are overwhelmed by the
challenges they face. Short-term fire-fighting
measures are given more attention than long-term
planning and policy implementation.
There is a widely held perception among the public
that an imbalance exists between the two highest
office holders, the President and the Prime Minister.
This is partly political, partly constitutional, and
partly a style issue. Politically and historically,
Somalis have always gravitated toward the
presidency with the view that, ultimately, power
rests in the elected office.
Constitutionally, however, the cabinet, under the
Prime Minister, enjoys considerable powers. To his
credit the President has assembled an impressive
team for his new Policy Unit, which advises him on
various issues. The unintended consequence of this
commendable move, however, is that critics are now
suggesting that a parallel executive branch is
operating beside the cabinet.
The perception of an ‘expanded’ presidency, beyond
what the federal constitution envisaged, is unhelpful
to reconciliation and nation-building. The president
is an elected leader who should hold executive
powers. However, governments in Somalia are
chronically weak and thus require legitimacy and
credibility to effect change. Such legitimacy is
derived from, among other sources, the upholding of
the constitution, inclusivity, and reconciliation.
Conclusion
That the government wants to be accountable and
assessed is welcomed. Three months is not long
enough to undertake a meaningful inventory of the
government’s progress. A preliminary review should
provide an indication of future plans as well as
missed opportunities. A cursory look at government
assertions, accomplishment and agendas indicate
mixed results.
There is no doubt that structural limitations and
inherited challenges have prevented the government
from translating certain stated objectives into actual
results. It is also true that many avoidable errors and
built-in idealism of the new team have got in the
way and been compounded by overblown
expectations – of quick fixes – on the part of the
citizens.
Overall the government, however slow, is moving in
the right direction. The Prime Minister’s ‘listening
tour’ is commendable. The formation of the Policy
Unit at Villa Somalia is encouraging, and the
diplomatic successes in recognition and easing of the
UN arms embargo are timely. However, there are
disturbing signs of an imbalance between foreign
policy priorities and domestic achievements. Equally
worrying is the perception that disparity has emerged
between the two highest offices.
The presidency is accused of encroaching upon the
prerogatives of the Prime Minister and his cabinet.
The cabinet also has its own inherent weaknesses
due to its limited number, the absence of state
institutions and limited technical capacity to run
such institutions. Finally, the crisis in Jubbaland has
been left to fester and corruption syndicates continue
to thrive and misappropriate meager public
resources. The Somali government cannot be
excused for allowing this to continue.
Reviewing the Somali Government’s First 100 days – Policy Briefing © HIPS002/2013 info@hertiageinstitute.org
4
Recommendations
To the Somali government:
 Expand the council of ministers from its current 10 members to their original 18 in order to address inefficiency, accommodate all stakeholders, forge a national agenda and address the prevailing perception of exclusionary politics;

Restore balance between the presidency and the cabinet under the Prime Minister by ensuring that the President plays his constitutional role of upholding the laws of the land and lets the cabinet run the day-to- day affairs of the country;
Create an environment conducive to national consensus and act as managers of the current political process and not as the sole proprietors;

Dismantle known corruption syndicates and replace them with individuals of high standing and selected purely on the basis of merit in order to increase domestic revenue and establish credibility with the donor
community;

Immediately convene a roundtable discussion on the restoration of the nation’s financial well-being and enlist the assistance of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank;
Address the exchange rate crisis, diminished purchasing powers of the Somali people, and soaring commodity prices by convening an urgent conference that includes policymakers, the business community, economic and monetary policy experts, and international financial institutions;

Strike an interim win-win arrangement with regional stakeholders in Jubbaland with the aim of
conducting, within two years, free and fair elections where citizens elect mayors, governors and regional administrators.
The Heritage Institute for Policy Studies is an independent, non-partisan, non- profit policy research and
analysis institute based in Mogadishu, Somalia. As Somalia’s first think tank, it aims to inform and influence
public policy through empirically based, evidence-informed analytical research, and to promote a culture
of learning and research.

Source: The Heritage Institute For Policy Studies, Mogadishu, Somalia.

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