How Sharmarke Can Salvage Vision 2016

The appointment of Omar Abdirashid Ali-Sharmarke as the Prime Minister of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) couldn’t come at a more critical time for Somalia. Political infighting has paralyzed the government for months, barely averting total collapse. Very little progress had been made to achieve the primary objectives of Vision 2016, the government’s roadmap. Support for the FGS among the public has tumbled significantly following perpetual impasse. The international community was losing faith in the government’s ability to deliver. Corruption remained a thorny problem. Despite expansion to more territories, the security situation has worsened demonstrably in the last few months.

Sharmarke has the potential to reverse this trend. He’s an astute politician with deep ties to the core of the elite. Most importantly, he is seen as a potentially neutral and independent figure who can forge alliances with both friends and foes of President Hassan Sheikh. For that reason, the President’s decision to appoint him at this juncture is an encouraging step. But expectations are very high and thus need to be managed properly.

The first litmus test will be the cabinet. Early signs indicate that Sharmarke will be under tremendous pressure to form a Government of National Unity (GNU) that can steer the country through the next 20 months. Much will depend on how inclusive (or exclusive) decision-making becomes even within the GNU. Given the very limited time remaining from the mandate of this government and the mammoth task at hand, the new cabinet can’t afford internal turbulence or political crisis.

Sharmarke is no stranger to forming ‘team of rivals’. During his last stint as a prime minister in 2009, he formed a unity cabinet comprising of two warring factions. Although bloated and largely ineffective, that cabinet laid the foundation for the first widely supported government in Somalia since 1991. A stable government is vital to crafting a workable plan of action and accelerating performance for the remaining 20 months. Much time, resources and goodwill has been squandered in the past.

To seize upon this rare opportunity, Sharmarke would be well advised if he focused on the following four areas during his first 100 days.

1. Inclusivity

A defining of feature of the last two and half years was a vertical decision-making system that contributed significantly to a climate of polarization, gridlock and mistrust among key stakeholders. As a seasoned politician, PM Sharmarke should have what it takes to navigate his way through and usher in a new area of inclusive politics, accommodation and magnanimity on the part of FGS. This will enable the new government to limit internal opposition and external meddling—two major impediments that plagued previous governments.

The next cabinet will design and oversee the process toward 2016 (s)elections. That process is likely to be deeply controversial and conflict-prone. Only an inclusive cabinet with horizontal power structures will be seen as the most neutral entity in order to legitimize the outcome.

2. Focusing on key tasks

Second, a clear and realistic plan of action to achieve the remaining key tasks would be vital. So many deadlines have been missed, to the chagrin of the Somali people and the international community. Yet the new cabinet can build on modest gains made in the last two years. Draft revisions have been made to the Provisional Constitution, but the thrust of the document, including the most controversial clauses, have yet to be discussed in detail. It’s hard to imagine finalizing all aspects of the Constitution and putting it forward for a public referendum by 2016.

The federation process is underway in a messy, hasty and an insensitive manner. Influential politicians are gerrymandering processes, producing desired results. Boundaries are being drawn along clan lines without due consideration to viability and inclusivity. The whole process has become elite-driven, systemically excluding various stakeholders. That defeats the very purpose of federation, which is to bring government closer to people.

3. Fighting corruption

Third, the new cabinet would have to address corruption and nepotism. Recent political infighting has sharply increased incentives for graft. Too much of the meager public funds are exposed to theft. It would be extraordinarily difficult to win back public trust with the current levels of actual and perceived corruption. The former PM had plans to appoint an ‘anti-corruption czar’. Vision 2016 calls for the formation of an anti-corruption commission, and the passing of supporting legislations. Dismantling corruption syndicates can’t wait any longer.

4. Addressing insecurity

Fourth, addressing persistent insecurity would have to be a priority. Too many innocent people are being assassinated on regular basis. Although the overall capacity of security institutions is improving, much work remains to address structural deficiencies of security apparatuses.

This includes a plan to retake national security and defense from AMISOM, who have sacrificed so much for Somalia. The same AMISOM soldiers who were protecting Sharmarke’s office and residence five years ago are still there, raising questions of over-reliance on external forces for basic protection.

Finally, the new PM would have to manage huge expectations. Despite the potential to finally get this right after two prime ministers and two and half years, major obstacles remain.

Prime Minister Sharmarke has a very short window to win over sceptical citizens, restless elite and frustrated donors. But he can still salvage Vision 2016—or what’s left of it— with smart decisions and bold action plan.

In Somalia, politicians rarely get second chance. Sharmarke’s first stint as a Prime Minister was less than stellar, he now gets another chance to leave a different legacy.

*Abdirashid Hashi is the deputy director of Heritage Institute for Policy Studies (HIPS)

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6 Comments

  1. Mohamed Nur
    Posted December 2014 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Good analysis; constitutional review, federalization and elections / electoral process are difficult issues and long-term. Amongst key tasks it would be good if new PM and cabinet take the bull by the horns: offer alternate solutions for better political outcome leading to 2016 without looking a procrastinators, it would build credibility with Somali people.

    Thank you HI

    Mohamed garibaldi

  2. Cidlowcarar
    Posted December 2014 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Thanks heritage institute…I believe Mr Sharmarke will win to reunite the Somali people because this is the only chance that he can to shoot the target.

  3. Jibril M. Adam
    Posted December 2014 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Prime Minister Sharmarke,

    Will have to work with the President first and foremost to avoid any clashes. Every step of the way needs to have consultations with his cabinet, the president , and MPs. Somali community has high hopes and expectations from him and the rest of those doing the work in Mogadishu. I wish him well.

  4. M Mukhtar
    Posted December 2014 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Well analysed article that touched facts and reality in Somalia. The author portrayed the situation in positive optimistic way.

  5. Ali MAK
    Posted December 2014 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    I do welcomed the re-appointment of PM Sharmake but on personal view; I have my reservation on any meaningful achievement he can attain at this point in time. Our beloved country needs committed politicians who can make different and MPs that can make sensible and justifiable tough measures because we are tired of the issue endless motions which routinely jeopardized the 2016 Vision. PM Sharmake had previous served and I believe this should give him a platform to redirected his previous failed approached and Somalis expect a lot from him. Can he leave a legacy that we can all remember with measurable outcome is what we (Somalis) wait till 2016 unless there is a motion!!!!!

  6. Posted January 2015 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    this is an eye opening article, I extremely thankful to the Author.
    I believe the new prime minister has the ability to transform somalia from corrupt and uncompromising state to prosperous and progressing nation . besides, I also welcome on his appointment on MR AYNTE . this clearly proves that academics,Authors and civil society play important rule on the new unity government.

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