Successful constitutional review in post-conflict or conflict settings such as Somalia can be crucial in building trust and emphasizing a sense of commitment by the citizens to the state regardless of their status. As such, constitutional review processes must consider the views of all social segments of society and critical players.
Failure to do so may result in short-lived documents that, if adopted, become a recipe for more conflict. Inclusivity, therefore, is a crucial aspect of constitutional review processes to ensure legitimacy from both the political stakeholders (also legitimate) and the wider public.
In general, constitutional review processes undergo four distinct phases. These include:
- The preparatory phase- consultation of experts regarding the type of constitution and its principles.
- The drafting phase- nomination or selection of a constitutional review committee and further consultation of constitutional experts.
- Public consultation phase: generally characterized by public awareness and education campaigns regarding the draft constitution’s provisions.
- Constitutional adoption phase: Constitution is subjected to a public referendum.
The Somali Provisional Constitution was adopted in 2012 by the National Constituent Assembly following international pressure on national and regional stakeholders to establish a new constitution and end more than a decade of transitional governance in the country. Because it could not organize a public referendum at the time because of existing differences, it inserted a provision for a constitutional review in Chapter 15 to guarantee that after four years of the Somali Federal Parliament (in 2016), it would initiate the constitutional review process. Nonetheless, it did not meet these timelines.
For instance, it was until 2015 that the Parliamentary Oversight Committee (OC) and an Independent Provisional Constitution Review and Implementation Commission (ICRIC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding and a joint approach of working on different amendments of the constitution to facilitate subsequent political consultations and negotiations with the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs. This MOU for the constitutional review underpinned that the final Federal Constitution will be based on seven fundamental principles: Somali ownership, inclusion, transparency, participation; accountability; integrity; collaboration, and coordination.
While the Federal Government of Somalia has maintained a deadline for the constitutional review process to be June 2020, the deadline is highly improbable because several already existing factors are undermining the process. At the same time, these undermining factors touch on questions raised regarding the principles of ownership, transparency, participation, and inclusivity. Therefore, this study seeks to focus on the role the youth play in this constitutional review process and inclusive politics in Somalia.
Role of youth in politics and constitutional review process
The prolonged conflicts experienced in the country have limited the capacity of youths in Somalia to participate in important political processes such as constitutional reviews. Nonetheless, the Somali youths are politically aware and often engage in political debates through social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter that have rapidly gained popularity in the country.
While for the longest period political parties in Somalia have been dormant or non-existent, the youths are more capable of participating in political discourses through platforms such as political parties or civil society organizations. This is because for one, both political parties and civil organizations are capable of providing capacity-building training needed to make impactful contributions to constitutional review processes.
The Somali youths can therefore contribute to the constitutional review process by participating directly in public discussions and making contributions on issues that affect the welfare of the youths such as giving recommendations regarding constitutional employment quotas to be reserved for youth and women groups.
On the other hand, there are long-term measures and short-term measures that can increase youth participation in politics in Somalia. On the short-term, some of the measures may include:
- Increasing civic education on the importance of voting and encouraging youths to participate in the forthcoming elections. This should also include topics such as political competition, mobilization of campaign funding and how to mobilize both youthful and older generations’ support.
- Developing youthful platforms that enable them to vent their policy concerns. This can be done at the national, regional, and local levels.
- The requirement for age-limits on electoral competitions should be favorable to accommodate the youths. Additionally, hefty requirements for electoral nomination and election fees for youth should be reduced to encourage more youths to vie in elections.
- International organizations and local civil service organizations should also challenge part of their funding to support local youth organizations to empower them and enable them to gain confidence to compete with the older generations.
- The youths can develop skills in governance and policy-making processes that can be essential in political discourses from the experience acquired in addressing pertinent youthful issues. Colleges and vocational training centers can provide programs that nurture leadership and networking skills.
How can youths participate in the constitutional review process?
The participation of all citizens in political processes such as constitutional reviews is protected by both international and regional treaties. The participation of youths in this process therefore requires doing away with the barriers that impede the participation of youths in political processes. Even though Politics requires strong leadership, as such, in the long-term, leadership among the youths needs to be nurtured through educational platforms such as schools and colleges that provide an avenue for young people to participate in college student leadership as either candidates or voters.
As student leaders, youths can develop skills in governance and policy-making processes that can be essential in political discourses from experience acquired in addressing pertinent youthful issues. As many believed that poor communication regarding where public consultation forums are taking place; insecurity; internal barriers barring youth from active political participation; lack of proactive measures from local leaders to support consultative forums; high transportation and facilitation costs to the forums; use of communication channels that are not youth-friendly such as newspapers advertisements which many do not have access to; and, the general lack of awareness regarding the roles, responsibilities and rights of youths in decision-making processes.
The urgent need for more sensitization programs cannot be overemphasized any further. Forums that can be used to spread information regarding the importance of youth participation in the constitutional review process. Moreover, these target messages should highlight the importance of voting; the significance of voting youthful members of the society to parliament; and the role of different political leaders.
Eliminating barriers to youth inclusion and participation
According to the FGS and the UNFPA Somalia’s population was estimated at 12.3 million in 2014. Similarly, in several African countries, society was dominated by young people, with 75 % of it valued to be under the age of 30, and almost 50 % under the age of 15. According to the results of the research titled “Youth political Participation in Somalia ” conducted (Bincof, 2018), found that the Somali youths had a particular interest in political participation.
However, this interest was confined to space by the influence of clan identity politics in Somalia. As claimed youths, Political leaders have come to power through purporting to represent the wishes of their clan’s instead of promoting the national interest. Despite the fact, young people articulated that the adoption of the multi-party system across Somalia is crucial and abolished the contemporary institutionalized clan-based politics in the country.
There is less academic research on political participation, administrations, and youths in Somalia. Similarly, unequal participation in the political activities in Somalia is limited by age because only those who reached above 30 years were entitled to hold senior positions in public offices. Furthermore, the elected posts such as president, Prime minister, ministers, and other senior officials appointed to government agencies were restricted their ages to be 40 years old. In a remarkable accomplishment, the proportion of women seats has been enhanced from a high percentage compared to the previous year’s parliament election of Somalia. The result of various positive step efforts that were endorsed to increase youth’s representation in the governance.
About The Author: Dr. Mohamed BINCOF (Ph.D.), Lecturer, Consultant, and Researcher. You can reach him at email: firstname.lastname@example.org