Somalia’s Federal Future: Layered Agendas, Risks and Opportunities

somalia Chathamhouse


  • Pressure remains high for an electoral transition in Somalia in 2016, with little appetite for the prospect of the current framework being extended. The desire for direct elections is in the process of yielding to the reality that there is insufficient time or political will to establish the required legislative and institutional frameworks. However, pressure is mounting to develop an acceptable alternative mechanism in the time remaining.
  • ​The transition remains heavily dependent on external security intervention (in the form of the African Union Mission in Somalia – AMISOM). However, the strong influence of neighbouring countries in that force ultimately compromises the medium- to long-term viability of the political order that is emerging. A transition to a UN peacekeeping mission could relieve some of these tensions, allowing for the exit of ‘frontline’ states (Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti) from deployment on Somali territory.
  • A fast-track application of the post-2013 interim Jubbaland administration (IJA) template to other parts of southern and central Somalia risks exacerbating tensions within and between regions, and between regions and Mogadishu. The precedents set during the contested process of establishing the IJA in 2012–13 do have important implications for formation of other member states in the federal structure, but the local contexts vary significantly across southern and central Somalia.
  • Puntland represents the only functional member state without aspirations of sovereignty (unlike Somaliland, the outlook for which falls beyond the scope of this paper). Nevertheless, its appetite for participation in the federal project is contingent on respect for existing political realities in its territory, in the face of challenges from competing interpretations of the provisional constitution and state formation. This includes the territorial dispute with the emerging Galmudug administration over north Mudug, as well as impending debates over revenue-sharing from natural resources.
  • Respect for minority and smaller clans within the process of member state formation will be essential for stability as federal institution-building continues. The logic of ‘4.5’ power-sharing – whereby the larger clans dominate political processes, the control of land and resources, and the benefits of political office and patronage – feeds the grievances of smaller groups, allowing continued openings for spoilers. Groups that feel that their interests will not be met will resist the process.

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