Listening to the people: developing a constitution for Somalia
2 August 2012
For the past 20 years most people in Somalia have been excluded from the decision-making processes that shape their lives. Saferworld is supporting non-state actors in Somaliland, Puntland and South-Central Somalia to change that through three ‘non-state actor platforms’.
These structures draw legitimacy from representing a broad range of geographical, clan and sectoral interests whose voices are not often heard. They are catalysing policy dialogue between the state and society at different levels, and influencing decisions on peace, security and development as a result. Building the capacity of these platforms to develop policy positions and advocate on key issues has been an incremental process since 2008 which is now bearing real fruit.
In 2011-12 Somalia drew up a new federal constitution, and an inclusive process was seen as a way to begin to remedy the mistrust between people and state caused by 20 years of conflict. The constitution is seen by many Somalis as a conflict resolution mechanism – with participation in the consultations on the draft constitution a way to finally have a voice on matters that directly affect them.
“We are happy that we are giving our recommendations towards the fate of the Somali people, I think it is the first time for Somali people to comment on their Constitution, and it is a lifetime chance. After 21 years of civil strife, I think that the federal system will solve the problem of injustice, which has cost the nation a lot since that time. Federalism will basically narrow the gaps.”
- SOSCENSA member from Lower Jubba region
SOSCENSA – a focus for constitutional dialogue
The consultation process around the constitution revealed how little most Somalis know about government, its functions and structure. The Somalia South-Central Non-State Actors (SOSCENSA) platform tried to change that, becoming the focal point for much of the local dialogue on the draft constitution. During the first half of 2011 the platform conducted a series of consultations, explaining the issues involved in the constitution and gaining the input of 220 representatives from across the 11 regions of South-Central Somalia. The members represented local NGOs, professionals and the business community. The consultations were held in Mogadishu but people travelled from all 11 regions to attend the meetings.
This is important because the Independent Federal Constitution Commission (IFCC), which produced a final draft constitution based on these consultations, had been unable to reach as many Somalis as had been hoped, due to the prevailing security situation. Non-state actors such as SOSCENSA are able to access communities through their member organisations and can begin to bridge the divide between the desires of the people to be involved in the processes that affect their lives, and the limited reach of the government.
Many participants expressed the desire for the consultations and awareness-raising on the constitution to continue until ‘every man with a camel’ and ‘every woman who digs in the field’ understands what the document contains. “The most important thing about it [the consultation] was that we were asked about opinions, and that nothing was dictated”, said one woman from Middle Jubba region. Many participants also said that they would carry what they had learnt back to their home areas despite the security risks involved in doing so.
SOSCENSA produced a report making recommendations on each article of the draft constitution which was shared with the IFCC and UNDP in 2011. The IFCC and UNDP have taken a keen interest in the recommendations from these consultations, and have suggested it is some of the most substantial data they are working with.
On 2 August the National Constituent Assembly (NCA), made up of 825 prominent Somalis, agreed the constitution, opening the door for some important parts of the political transition to take place.
More information on the work of the non-state actor platforms can be found here: