Somalia Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

The Somali state is weak and the government of Mogadishu controls only parts of Somalia. No general elections have been held since the 1960s. The present Parliament was indirectly appointed through clan elders and regional leaders. The rule of law has major shortcomings and armed groups as well as the government security forces are guilty of serious abuses against the civilian population. Corruption permeates the whole of society.

Abbreviated as SOM by Abbreviationfinder, Somalia has had a provisional constitution since 2012 (see Political system) and according to the roadmap to peace established the year before, Somalis would be allowed to vote for their new parliament in 2016. Referring to the security situation in the country, the new parliament was instead elected by 14,000 delegates, which consisted of by clan elders and regional leaders. This, in February 2017, appointed Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmaajo” as new President (see Current Policy). However, the electoral process was affected by vote buying, threats and harassment and violence.

  • Countryaah: Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Somalia, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.

Power struggles in political life are common. In the spring of 2018, for example, the then President was forced to resign following a conflict between him and supporters of the President. The contradictions were made more difficult by the fact that Somalia was drawn into a major conflict between countries in the Persian Gulf, several of which belong to the country’s most important trading partners and donors (see Calendar and Foreign Policy and Defense).

At the end of 2018, a vote of no confidence was directed at President Mohamed Abdullahi. However, it was annulled when 14 MPs deny that they have signed the Declaration of Trust (see Calendar).

The four largest clans, hawiye, darod, dir and rahawein, have dominated both politics and the economy in Somalia since independence in 1960. These clans also control the current “parliament” and other similar assemblies appointed since the beginning of the 1990s. This means that those who come from smaller clans and minority people have been marginalized. The system means that there are no clear boundaries between the government and the opposition, and ordinary Somalis have little opportunity to influence politics.

A national leadership council, the National Leadership Forum (NFL), which included the president, members of government and regional leaders, agreed in 2016 that political parties should be registered and that all MPs must have joined a political party by October 2018. Those who did not have done it would lose its place in Parliament. The aim was that the National Election Commission in 2020 could organize elections according to the principle “one person, one vote”. However, little has been done to prepare such choices.

However, a number of political parties have been formed (see Political system). All parties registered must be aligned with national policies and be represented in two-thirds of the country’s regions (according to the 1991 borders).

According to the road map, the five states will organize their own elections ahead of the 2020 federal election. However, strong tensions have arisen between the federal government and the states. In the fall of 2018, the provincial government chose to break contact with the Mogadishu government, which they accused of breaking their promises and of not being allowed to take part in the national resources. Concerns erupted in late 2018 in connection with the election in the southwestern state since the favorite to win the election, Mukthar Robow (also called Abu Mansur), a defender from the Islamist group al-Shabaab had been arrested (see Calendar). The UN Special Envoy for Somalia was forced to leave his post after he, in a letter to the Minister of Security, asked questions about why UN-backed security forces participated in the arrest of Mukthar Robow.

However, according to the UN, relations between the government of Mogadishu and the states appeared to improve somewhat in the spring of 2019.

Freedom of the meeting is guaranteed in the constitution, but in practice it is limited, both because of the violence and that demonstrations require permission from the authorities. It seems that protests held without permission are beaten down with violence.

Although Somalia has for many years lacked a central power, there have been a number of informal power centers, “municipalities”. Together with mayors, elders, businessmen, women’s groups and others, they have to some extent continued to function as a kind of government at the local level. A number of Somali and international NGOs are active in the country, but the lack of security makes work often dangerous.

Women are discriminated against in a number of areas and have little political influence (see Social conditions). According to the Provisional Constitution, 30 percent of the seats in Parliament are to go to women. In the indirect election held in 2016/2017, the proportion was 24 percent in the lower chamber, which was nevertheless a clear improvement since 2012, and 22 percent in the upper house.

In 2018, Somalia was the last of 180 countries on Transparency International’s list of world countries ranked by levels of corruption. This is not facilitated by the fact that it is difficult to obtain information on how public missions have been distributed or the private economies of the President and Ministers. Little is done to fight corruption and few people are punished for such crimes.

Both the current government and the former have been accused of widespread corruption. In a UN report from 2013, it was claimed that 72 percent of the withdrawals made by the central bank had been to private individuals or to representatives of the administration who used them for private use. In addition, one-third of the revenue from port fees in Mogadishu disappeared each month without being reported.

Both the government and militia with ties to it have been accused of seizing aid broadcasts. It also happens that the Somali military, but also soldiers within the African peacekeeping force Amisom, sell weapons on the black market.

Freedom of the press and opinion

The Provisional Constitution of 2012 guarantees freedom of press and expression. In practice, it has major limitations. The media is particularly difficult to operate in areas controlled by Islamist militia, but the government side also limits the freedom of the media.

In Reporters Without Borders Index for 2019, Somalia ranked 164 out of 180 countries. According to Somalia, it is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 66 journalists were killed in Somalia between 1992 and 2018. al-Shabaab is suspected for most of the death. Harassment, physical violence (including torture), kidnappings and arbitrary arrests of journalists are common. Media workers have also been killed and injured in terrorist attacks.

A media law adopted in 2016 has been criticized by several press freedom organizations for containing sweeping wordings that open up to arbitrary interpretations. The government that took office in 2017 has changed some wording, but the law still has major shortcomings. It has later created a new body to oversee the content of both magazines and ethereal media and can prohibit, without justification, reporting that it considers to be false or propaganda, and powers to prosecute media workers. Most journalists are young, low-paid and short-term employees. There are also major shortcomings when it comes to journalistic ethics. Many journalists end up in trouble when the government wants to stop them from reporting on al-Shabaab’s attacks and the militia group demands that they do so. This leads to extensive self-censorship.

It is the radio broadcasts that reach the most residents. When al-Shabaab was at its strongest, the militia group took over eight private radio channels, but in 2015 it had only control over two.

Somalis in exile have started a series of online sites with news from their home country. Most cities in southern and central Somalia have small magazines or rather simple photocopied news magazines. Some of the newspapers, especially those published in the larger cities, contain some criticism of the government.

Only a small part of the population, mainly in the cities, has access to the internet. In 2014, al-Shabaab forced all network operators to shut down the Internet in all areas it controlled. Earlier, the Islamist militia had banned smart phones and satellite TV. At the same time, the Islamist group is active in social media. Its accounts are often closed down, but are quickly replaced by new ones.

Judicial system and legal security

According to the provisional constitution, the judicial system must be independent and that no laws may be enacted that contravene Sharia. In the parts of the country controlled by the government this has led to few changes in practice. In the areas where al-Shabaab is strong, a strict interpretation of Sharia law is applied. However, the application is arbitrary. A person who has a mobile phone with a, according to the Islamist group, unauthorized ringing can manage to seize the phone, while in other cases they run the risk of being executed.

There is a shortage of trained personnel and corruption is a major problem. It is common for the authorities to ignore the court’s ruling. Clan politics plays a big role.

The government often allows a military court to enforce justice even in cases involving civilians.

At the local level, various combinations of Somali customary law (xeer), traditional Islamic law (sharia) and laws established under Siad Barre’s rule 1969-1991 are applied.

Somaliland’s constitution also states that the judiciary should be independent, but in practice the authorities interfere in the work of the courts. Puntland has functioning courts, although there are a number of deficiencies in the justice system. Many disputes are also settled here by traditional clan leaders

Arbitrary arrests are common.

The conditions in the prisons are poor. Children who are incarcerated are often held in the same prisons as adults. Torture occurs, although it is prohibited in large parts of Somalia.

Since 2017, al-Shabaab has again escalated its violence and regularly carries out terror attacks, often targeting leading politicians and foreign troops in the country, but many ordinary Somalis are also killed. Amnesty has also drawn attention to the fact that the US drone attacks require civilian casualties (see Calendar).

In southern and central Somalia, all parties to the conflict are guilty of human rights violations. This also applies to government troops and Amisom. Get punished for the abuse.

Sexual violence is widespread, especially vulnerable women and children living in camps for internally displaced persons.

Both government forces and Islamist groups use child soldiers. However, they are the most in al-Shabaab. About half of Islamist group members are believed to be under the age of 18.



Nur Adde becomes new prime minister

November 21st

President Yussuf appoints Nur Hassan Hussein (also known as Nur Adde), a former police chief who led Somalia’s Red Crescent, as new prime minister.

New AU soldiers arrive

The AU force is strengthened by hundreds of soldiers from Burundi.


Prime Minister Ghedi resigns after a power struggle

October 29th

Prime Minister Ghedi will resign at the end of the month following a dispute with the president. Both forces within the country and the United States are reported to have pressed for him to leave the government. Ghedi’s critics have, according to media reports, blamed him for the decision to invite the Ethiopian forces into Somalia. Other sources state that the dispute was triggered by the president having signed an agreement with the Chinese oil company CNOOC, without informing his prime minister.


Reconciliation conferences with obstacles

The outside world has pressed for the government to take the initiative for a national reconciliation conference. It is argued that no real peace can be achieved unless the parties cooperate. The conference will start in Mogadishu in July, but the result will be meager. The talks are boycotted by many Islamists and Hawiye leaders who refuse to participate as long as Ethiopian soldiers remain in the country. A similar conference, with fewer participants being held in Asmara, where Islamists and other opposites form the Alliance for Somalia’s New Liberation (ARS).


The Prime Minister survives the assaults

Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Ghedi survives a suicide attack, but seven of his bodyguards are killed.


Several hundred killed in Ethiopian offensive

Ethiopia and elders from the Hawaiian clans agree in April on a ceasefire; but it doesn’t. Shortly thereafter, the rebels carry out new attacks from housing areas. The Ethiopian forces go counter-offensive and shoot uninhabited against inhabited neighborhoods. Between 400 and 1,300 people are reported to have been killed. The unrest in the spring and up to June 2007 has forced about 400,000 people to flee from Mogadishu. Outside of the capital, it is initially relatively quiet, but during the spring, flares are also rising in other parts of the country.


The first AU soldiers arrive

The first soldiers within the AU peacekeeping force Amisom arrive. All of them come from Uganda.

New battles in Mogadishu

New and fierce battles erupt in Mogadishu since the government launched an offensive against the rebels.