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Conspicuously absent were representatives from the administration of Somaliland, a breakaway region comprising roughly a quarter of Somalia's territory that has declared outright independence.
A major subject of discussion was the reform of the Somali Parliament, which currently numbers a bloated 550 members, as well as the method by which the members of parliament (MPs) will be elected to the new Parliament.
ASWJ's commitment to the agreement is also a large question mark, as much of the organization's leaders in de facto control of territory on the ground had boycotted the Garowe conference.
Summary of the Agreement
Continuing along the path laid by the so-called "Roadmap to end the transition" set forth during the June 2011 Kampala Accord, the conference resulted in the adoption of The Garowe Principles on the Finalization and Adoption of the Constitution and the End of the Transition (full document available below). The agreement set an April 20, 2012 deadline for the adoption of a Somali Federal Constitution, to be drafted by a Constituent Assembly composed of no more than 1000 delegates (30% of whom are to be women).
Following the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly on May 30, a Federal Parliament composed of 225 lawmakers is to be sworn in on June 12, for a term length of four years. Members of parliament are to be apportioned from among Somalia's clans according to the long-established '4.5 formula' (full representation for each of Somalia's four major clans, and half representation for minority clans).
The Garowe Principles also stipulated that the 4.5 formula would be abandoned after the Federal Parliament has served its term, in favor of direct elections based on regional representation.
Representatives from the TFG, Galmudug region and ASWJ agreed on all the above points, and Puntland agreed with reservations over the 4.5 formula for selecting parliament members.
Which ASWJ Signed the Agreement?
The Garowe conference was overshadowed by an internal split within ASWJ, between Garowe conference signatory Sheikh Mohammed Mohamoud Yusuf, who hails from the Dir clan, and Mohamed Yusuf Hefow, a member of the Ayr sub-clan of the Hawiye. Mr. Hefow's forces remain in control of much of ASWJ's forces in central Somalia, which in recent weeks have engaged in growing displays of brinksmanship with the TFG that threaten to become a permanent rift. Representatives from the 'Hefow-ASWJ' declined to attend the Garowe conference, which was attended by ASWJ members handpicked by President Ahmed. Sheikh Yusuf, also known as Aw-Libaah, signed the agreement on behalf of ASWJ without the broader support of the ASWJ leadership.
"We are the real ASWJ, the ones controlling the territory," Awliyo, a 'Hefow-ASWJ' spokesman in Europe told Somalia Report. "But last month the TFG began a cold war with us, and President Sheikh Sharif created his own ASWJ. He's trying to destroy out organization, but we are powerful and we are keeping the security of our region.''
In addition to the absence of 'Hefow-ASWJ' representatives, the conference also lacked the participation of Somaliland officials, as well as delegates from minority clans.
What Does the 4.5 Formula Mean?
During the national dialogue in 2000 in Arta, Djibouti, where the Transitional National Government (TNG), the predecessor to the TFG was formed, the '4.5 formula' was first given shape. Leaders of the various clans participated in the conference, and after long debates about representation, a structure which roughly reflected the relative populations of Somalia's clans was proposed and accepted.
Somalia's four largest clans are the Darod, Dir, Hawiye and Issaq, each of which are reserved 50 parliamentary seats, while the remaining 25 seats are to be divided between the smaller clans.
From 2000 onwards, the Parliament has elected MPs using this 4.5 formula, including the government which was established in 2004 in Nairobi, led by then-president Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed, as well the current TFG which is led by President Sheikh Sharif.
General Abdullahi Ahmed Jama Ilkajiir, Puntland's Minister of the Interior, spoke with Somalia Report, describing Puntland's reaction to the Garowe Principles.
“The Garowe meeting ended successfully. All sides signed to reform parliament to 225 lawmakers, to select these parliament members from clans by using 4.5 formula. The interim period will be finished on August 2012 and there will be a new Somali government to follow. All officials signed this agreement.” Nonetheless, he expressed dissatisfaction with the parliamentary formula.
“At first we refused, because if we are planning to end the interim government, we hoped to give full representation to all regions. Despite our disagreement, we finally accepted and signed the agreement, as according to the agreement, the 4.5 formula will only be in effect for the next four years,” he told Somalia Report.
The 'Roadmap' process had previously promised a shift to a regionally-based constituencies for the selection of members of parliament, rather than by clan. Under this system Puntland would stand to gain a greater number of MPs, as the semi-autonomous state claims (disputed) sovereignty over five of Somalia's original 18 administrative regions.
Ultimately, the unconditional guarantee to quash the 4.5 system after the conclusion of the parliament's four-year term convinced President Farole to add his name to the agreement.
MP's Comments on the Garowe Agreement
“In principle, I agree with reforming the structure of parliament, but the 4.5 formula is not a good idea and I could never support it.”
She also expressed disappointments about the representation of women in the upcoming parliament.
“Our gender isn’t well represented in the Somali government. Both at the Garowe meeting and from its resulting parliament, we still won’t get a representative number of female members. With the current government of 550 MPs, there are only 43 female members, and that is not fair. We should be represented with 50%, or at least 30% of the representatives. Despite the Garowe agreement reforming parliament, will still get only 20% of representatives."
It is likely that Ms. Abdalla had misread the text of the agreement, which sets aside 20% of seats (45) for women, not 20 seats.
Ms. Abdalla also said the Somali Parliament has its own reform committee, which had suggested that the number of parliamentarians be changed to 275, rather than the proposed 225. She also elaborated on her opposition to the 4.5 formula.
“I will not support 4.5, this formula perpetuates tribalism. For example, the 4.5 formula will not give opportunities to well-educated prospective members from minority clans. We should select MPs from all regions and give a chance to the educated people from each region, without requiring support from their clans."
Speaker of Parliament
On December 13th, Somali MPs met and impeached Speaker of Parliament Sharif Sheikh Hassan Aden, but he continues to act as a representative of parliament and participated in the Garowe conference assuming full powers of his role as Speaker. Many Somali people disagree over this and are confused as to the power which Sharif Hassan wields. The majority of Somalis believe that Sharif Hassan is using his money and power to ignore the impeachment.
After Mr. Hassan returned from Italy, he met a number of parliament members to persuade them to continue their support for his position as Speaker.
Somalia Report asked Ms. Abdalla why Sharif Sheikh Hassan Aaden continues to act as a speaker if the parliament has ousted him.
"When we discuss this, we have to turn to what the law says about the impeachment. The law says that 137 lawmakers can propose a vote of non-confidence, or 283 can vote to take power from the speaker and replace him,” she said. "Both conditions were met. But the speaker of parliament has a right to appeal to the Supreme Court of the country, which will research the circumstances of the vote, how many members voted, and so on."
The Garowe agreement may be signed, it remains to be seen if it has enough widespread support to drag Somalia out of its present political deadlock.
The next consultative session is scheduled to be held during the third week of January, again in Garowe.