Somalia - Government



As of mid-July 2003, Somalia had no permanent national government and was ruled de jure by a transitional parliamentary national government (TNG) and de facto by regional governments and warlords. The interim TNG, established October 2000, consists of a president, prime minister, and 245-member national assembly. Since 12 November 2001, the prime minister has been Abshir Farah Hassan. The cabinet, appointed by the prime minister and sworn in on 20 October 2000, was demoted to caretaker status following a no-confidence vote in October 2001. Somaliland, Puntland, and traditional clan and faction strongholds are beyond the token control of the TNG.

From July 1961 to October 1969, Somalia was a parliamentary democracy based on the principle of separation of powers. After the army's seizure of power in October 1969, Maj. Gen. Siad Barre was named chairman of the 25-member SRC, which then elected him president. A constitution, approved in January 1979 by the ruling Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party and ratified by popular referendum on 25 August, vested legislative authority in the People's Assembly of 177 members serving five-year terms. This assembly could be dissolved by a two-thirds vote of its members or by the president. The People's Assembly was given the right to elect the president to a six-year, renewable term. (This was changed in 1984 to a direct popular election for a seven-year term.) The president was authorized to appoint members of the cabinet and to act as its chairman. He was declared commander in chief of the armed forces, with the power to declare war and to appoint the president of the Supreme Court. An article of the document allowed him to invoke emergency rule. On 24 October 1980, Siad Barre issued a decree suspending those constitutional provisions that were incompatible with the state of emergency triggered by the conflict with Ethiopia.

Large-scale fighting among clan factions from 1989 to January 1991 brought about the collapse of the Barre regime and his flight from Mogadishu. An interim administration (based on the 1969 constitution) was created by the United Somali Congress, but it collapsed in November 1991 and its two warring factions plunged Somalia into total civil war. The northern province declared its independence on 18 May 1991 as the sovereign state of "Somaliland," the name it bore under British colonial rule. That independence, so far, has brought relatively orderly rule. On 5 May 1993, Mohammed Ibrahim Egal was elected president by members of the central committee.

Since Barre's overthrow in June 1991, Somalia has had no viable central government. Some 15 armed factions have been fighting, except for the relatively peaceful early months of UN-US administration from December 1992 until around June 1993. UNOSOM II was technically in control until March 1995, when the UN withdrew the last of its troops from the country. With the UN's departure, the country split into zones controlled by the various factions. Gen. Aideed's death on 1 August 1996 renewed prospects for political stability as rival warlords Osman Ali Atto and Ali Mahdi Muhammed declared a cease-fire. It was also hoped that the moderate Osman Atto, Aideed's clansman and a former advisor, would assume control of Aideed's forces. But Aideed's immediate successor, his son Hussein Muhammad Aideed, renewed the fight against his father's rivals.

Although unrecognized as an independent nation, Somaliland maintains an army, a police force, a currency, a judicial system, and levies taxes. Although it has not been free of the factional fighting that pervades the south, it appears to enjoy more stability and less lawlessness.

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