Garowe — The president of Somalia's Puntland government has welcomed proposed talks between Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia and the Somaliland separatist region in northwest Somalia, but warned against denying the role of Puntland, Garowe Online reports.
Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole spoke at an event on 10 March 2012 in Garowe launching the adoption process for the Puntland State Constitution by a 480-person Constituent Assembly.
The Assembly members will be drawn from across Puntland regions and society and will convene in Puntland capital Garowe on 15 April 2012 to adopt Puntland's state constitution, according to Puntland Parliament Speaker Abdirashid Mohamed Hersi who spoke at the event.
Mohamed Hassan Barre, chairman of Puntland Electoral Commission, said a Presidential Decree is needed to hold the Constituent Assembly on 15 April 2012, which President Farole signed at the event. The Chairman thanked President Farole for "supporting the Electoral Commission to conduct its work and for supporting the democratization process in Puntland towards a multiparty political system."
President Farole's speech touched on a number of key issues, including explanations of the Constituent Assembly, the current government's five-year mandate, the formation of future federal states in Somalia, and proposed talks between TFG and Somaliland, as called for by the London Conference Communiqué of 23 February 2012.
The Puntland leader explained that the Puntland Constitution allows the adoption of the state constitution by a Constituent Assembly.
"Article 141 of our [Puntland] Constitution calls for adoption of the constitution by a Constituent Assembly. This has been done in the past by other countries and world powers," said President Farole, who cited the U.S. Constitution and the Indian Constitution as examples of constitutions adopted by way of constituent assemblies in their respective country.
Furthermore, a 1,000-person National Constituent Assembly is scheduled to adopt the Somali Federal Constitution in May 2012. President Farole further explained the timing of the Puntland Constituent Assembly as crucial, as Puntland "must adopt its state constitution before the Somali Federal Constitution is adopted by way of Constituent Assembly, to ensure that state rights are well-protected."
Speaking about the government's term, President Farole explained that former Puntland President Adde Muse Hersi submitted the Puntland Constitution to Puntland Parliament in mid-2008. That constitution, submitted to Parliament prior to the 2009 election of President Farole, contained a clause that the term for the Presidency and Parliament is five years.
President Farole urged the Puntland people "not be confused by politicians who lack confidence. Puntland is heading towards multiparty elections. Ask those politicians to compete in elections and to stop spreading misinformation."
Furthermore, President Farole said the "government will not hand-pick members of the Puntland Constituent Assembly. But the members must exclude criminals like terrorists, pirates and warmongers, those who commit treason, drug abusers, and insane persons."
Future federal states
Farole said Puntland welcomes the formation of new federal states in Somalia. He indicated that federal states aim to "improve good governance" by establishing a balance between a federal authority and political units, or states.
President Farole said: "When I speak of balance, many people think I am talking about Mogadishu. I am not talking about Mogadishu. Even if Garowe became Somali capital, my position would not change. Somalia does not need one city-state where you must go for education, for health, for passports, even for driver's license. Somalia failed because when one city failed [Mogadishu] the entire country failed."
Continuing, he said: "I am telling you, Puntland has never seen a single vaccination campaign before the civil war of 1991. There were no schools and today universities in Puntland offer Master's Degree and tomorrow we expect them to offer Ph.D. programs. We pray that Mogadishu is reconstructed, but Bossaso and Hargeisa and other cities will stay the same. Somalia's cities must be balanced to ensure that the mistakes of the past never occur again. The foundation for all of this is a constitution."
President Farole warned about the "many so-called federal states," saying: "There are conditions to the formation of federal states. The federal states must come from the people. The voluntary merger of two or more of Somalia's 18 regions of pre-1991 period constitute a federal state, according to the 2004 Transitional Federal Charter which is legal basis for TFG in Mogadishu. In 1998, this is how Puntland was formed with the will of the people with their own constitution and legitimate election process."
Continuing, President Farole warned that the TFG in Mogadishu cannot unilaterally appoint federal states in Somalia.
"Recognition of future federal states cannot be unilaterally decided by the TFG. There is a system in place, there is the agreed-upon Roadmap, there is the Garowe Principles agreement, and there are stakeholders who must discuss and share decisions," said President Farole, in reference to the UN-endorsed Roadmap process to end the transitional period by August 2012.
President Farole of Puntland said he welcomes the recent announcement by TFG President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed to nominate a committee mandated with guiding the proposed TFG-Somaliland talks.
"The TFG President declared appointing a committee to open dialogue with Somaliland. We welcome this dialogue. Somaliland [separatism] has gone too far. It is true that Somaliland shares [nationhood] with all Somalis but they [Somaliland separatists] share particularly with a group of Somalis whose lands they invaded, such as attacks on Kalshale and Buhodle areas, and occupation of Las Anod," said President Farole, in reference to Somaliland attacks in parts of Sool region and Buhodle district.
Continuing, Puntland's leader said: "No government can go against self-determination of the people. The colonial governments failed to go against self-determination and one group of Somalis cannot impose their will upon other Somalis. If we [in Puntland] always avoid war and call for peace and dialogue, this should not be taken as weakness. Every dialogue with Somaliland that excludes Puntland, where we demand Somaliland withdrawal from occupied towns and Somaliland immediately stop its violent aggressions, then such dialogue is invalid, illegitimate and unacceptable."
The Somaliland foreign minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Omar, told a Somaliland-based TV station on Monday that Somaliland welcomes dialogue with the TFG of Somalia.
"We [Somaliland] welcome the London Conference proposals. We welcome dialogue between TFG and Somaliland, to discuss international recognition and TFG-Somaliland cooperation on other issues," said Minister Omar in Hargeisa, capital of Somaliland's separatist administration.
"Somaliland will speak with TFG which is responsible for all of Somalia. We believe that Puntland is a region of Somalia and we will speak with TFG or the government that emerges after August 2012," concluded Somaliland Foreign Minister Omar, in direct response to President Farole's statement.
Changing political landscape
Somalia's fluid politics has undergone many changes since the collapse of the Somali central government in 1991. Somaliland, which unilaterally declared independence in 1991, has not received much-sought international recognition.
In recent months, the political tone in Somaliland has shifted, as it was previously a crime for Somaliland officials to attend Somalia conferences or to engage in dialogue with TFG officials. Somaliland's parliament voted to amend the laws in order for Somaliland leader Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo to attend the London Conference.
The London Conference, hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron on 23 February 2012, invited Somali delegations from TFG, Puntland, Somaliland, Galmudug and Ahlu Sunna group.
On Sunday, TFG President Sharif appointed an administration for Hiran region in central Somalia, which was liberated by Ethiopian troops who expelled Al Shabaab terror group in December 2011. President Sharif appointed Abdifatah Hassan Afrah, the self-declared 'president of Shabelle Valley administration', as the new Hiran governor.
While Hiran region does not constitute a federal state, this development faced criticism from some Somali MPs who held a press conference in Mogadishu. Speaking to Mogadishu radio stations, the MPs warned that the new administration "must include all communities of Hiran region."
The TFG mandate expires in August 2012 when presidential elections are scheduled to be held, after a newly reduced Somali Federal Parliament of 225 MPs is voted in to replace the current bloated 550-seat parliament which includes former warlords, terrorist sympathizers and war profiteers, among other lawmakers. Throughout December 2011 and January 2012, Somali MPs in Mogadishu engaged in televised fistfights in a dispute over a controversial Speaker's election.
Somalia's last effective national government collapsed in 1991, when the country imploded and disintegrated. The international community has supported the TFG since 2004, by deploying 9,000 African peacekeepers (AMISOM) in Mogadishu as TFG forces are not sufficient to defend takeover of Mogadishu by Al Qaeda-affiliate Al Shabaab extremists.
In Puntland, located in northeastern Somalia, the government administers many regions and major cities like the port of Bossaso and the trading hub of Galkayo. Furthermore, the Puntland government has held two national conferences in Garowe attended by TFG, other Somali leaders and international diplomats, with conference security managed entirely by Puntland government forces.