Somalia’s Puntland state this week paused what it called active operation as a federal member state in Somalia, until the country passes a substantive constitution clarifying powers and functions of each level of government.
The decision, which could now fuel a rift with Mogadishu, may also revive old cracks in the structure itself.
Puntland president Said Abdullahi Deni had, last Sunday, celebrated three years in office in a ceremony held at the presidential palace in Garowe, the state capital.
But in a widely televised speech, Deni raised the controversial issue that had been circulating for weeks concerning his refusal to sign two outcomes of a National Consultative Council (Forum) meeting held in Mogadishu late December.
The Forum gathers leaders of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), namely the president, prime minister, deputy PM and leaders of the federal member states (FMS) to discuss pressing national issues.
Those who signed
The FGS officials and leaders of the states of Jubbaland, South West, Hirshabelle, Galmudug plus the mayor of Mogadishu signed the final document, which Deni refused to initial.
Deni explained that he suspected that President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was not willing to implement the federalisation process.
“I expected a judicial system (for Somalia) that is independent enough. But, what was cooked was something different,” Deni said.
“The proposed power-sharing between the FGS and the FMS appeared contrary to the constitution of Puntland and the Provisional Constitution of Somalia,” he added.
On January 9, the day after Deni’s speech, the Puntland government issued a statement explaining that it has the right to function like an independent state, suggesting that it was severing direct relations with Villa Somalia.
The three-page statement indicated that both the Provisional Constitution of Somalia and the Puntland Constitution allow the region, that is situated in the far-northeastern corner of the country, to function independently.
“Until the Provisional Federal Constitution, which Puntland co-framed, is completed and endorsed through a popular referendum, Puntland will have an independent status,” the statement read.
Article 4 of Puntland’s Constitution says that Puntland may act as independent state until a Federal Constitution, ratified by Puntland, and approved by popular referendum is in place.
And the state indicates that it reserved the right to exercise this clause if Somalia fails to agree on a federal system.
“The instabilities and wars in other parts of Somalia continue indefinitely,” it noted.
Puntland wants to separately negotiate with the federal government on issues relating to state-building agreements, especially on the process of completing the constitution, political accord related with power sharing, building the security structure and resource sharing.