Somalia: National Constitution Assembly Conference Kicks Off
By George Okore
MOGADISHU---The troubled Horn of Africa nation begins the journey towards a new constitutional dispensation with the convention of the 9-day National Constitution Assembly from Wednesday this week.
The milestone conference will discuss, vote on and probably adopt the draft constitution, which will enable governing of the country’s federal institutions after the term of the current Transitional Federal Government ends in August. It will also provide the basis of further constitutional discussion before finally being adopted at a referendum later. The meeting will be officially attended by about 825 delegates, painstakingly selected form all the Somalia clans and society.
On June 22, 2012, signatories to the Roadmap process signed the provisional Somali Constitution at the Principal’s meeting in Nairobi. The draft text will be discussed at the meeting, which according to United Nations Special Envoy for Somalia Augustine Mahiga, represents full spectrum of Somali society. The meeting comes against the limited time left before the Transitional period expires on August 20, 2012.
The International Development Law Organization (IDLO) Country Representative to Somalia Shirwa says the meeting, widely expected to adopt provisional constitution will indeed be a watershed. “The Somali people will have ample opportunity to provide input and amendments to the document ahead of a public referendum to be held before the end of the new parliament’s first term. The draft constitution is fully compliant with Islamic law and written by Somalis after consultation with Somalis, specifically through Independent Federal Constitution Commission and the Committee of Experts,” says Mr Shirwa.
The international community has assisted with the Somalia process with funding and expert technical advisors who have developed constitutions in other countries, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Nepal, Indonesia and South Africa. It is a living document which provides a framework to end the transition as foreseen by the Mbagathi and Djibouti Agreements of 2004 and 2009 respectively.
Critically, it will also set the stage for establishment of permanent institutions, such as New Federal Parliament, the Executive and an independent Judiciary. The provisional Constitution will provide the base for future progress and development. It will protect human rights, ensure adequate women’s participation and guarantee fundamental freedoms without discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, origin, or other status.
The end of transitional period will be an important benchmark and Somalia and international community says adopting the constitution is an important plank for its future political dispensation. At recent major international conferences and meetings in London, Istanbul, Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Rome, delegates agreed to seize the moment and work together to seize the golden opportunity for peace.
The republic of Somalia has very interesting constitutional history. After independence in 1960, the Republic of Somalia adopted a written constitution by national referendum. This was replaced by a new constitution in 1979, adopted again by national referendum. Following the total breakdown of governmental structures in Somalia in the 1990s, the Transitional National Charter, adopted in 2000, was the first attempt to reestablish governmental functions by means of a constitution.
The Transitional National Charter expired in 2003, and was replaced by the Transitional Federal Charter in 2004. Today, this remains the transitional constitution governing the Transitional Federal Government and its institutions. The National Constituent Assembly is now empowered to provisionally adopt a new constitution to replace the Transitional Federal Charter. This constitution would then become the permanent constitution for Somalia if adopted by this week’s national referendum.