Dysfunctional federalism: How political division, constitutional ambiguity and a unitary mindset thwart equitable distribution of power in Somalia

Article 1 of Somalia’s provisional constitution states that “Somalia is a federal state.” Article 3 (3) stipulates that “the federal republic of Somalia is founded upon the fundamental principles of power-sharing in a federal system.” In the spirit of collaborative federalism, Article 51 (2) underscores that “every government shall respect and protect the limits of its powers and the powers of other governments.” Despite these clearly worded constitutional guidelines, conflict is rife between the federal government of Somalia (FGS) and the Federal Member States (FMSs) and the rift is still widening. Over the past three years, the federalism discourse has been characterized by confrontation rather than collaboration. Failure to reach consensus on a power-sharing model has hampered progress on all other issues of national importance, including security, stabilization, institution building, reconciliation, provision of services, peace building, international relations and resource mobilization.

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