Constitution, Government & Legislation

Somalia has been without a central government since its last president, dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, fled the country in 1991. Subsequent fighting among rival faction leaders resulted in the killing, displacement, and starvation of thousands of persons and led the U.N. to intervene militarily in 1992. Following the U.N. intervention, periodic attempts at national reconciliation were made, but they did not succeed. In March 2000, formal reconciliation efforts began with a series of small focus group meetings of various elements of Somali society in Djibouti. In May 2000, in Arta, Djibouti, delegates representing all clans and a wide spectrum of Somali society were selected to participate in a "Conference for National Peace and Reconciliation in Somalia." More than 900 delegates, including representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGO's), attended the Conference. The Conference adopted a charter for a 3-year Transitional National Government (TNG) and selected a 245-member Transitional National Assembly (TNA), which included 24 members of Somali minority groups and 25 women. In August 2000, the Assembly elected Abdiqassim Salad Hassan as Transitional President. Ali Khalif Gallayr was named Prime Minister in October 2000, and he appointed the 25-member Cabinet. Administrations in the northwest (Somaliland) and northeast ("Puntland") areas of the country do not recognize the results of the Djibouti Conference, nor do several Mogadishu-based factional leaders. In October 2001 the TNA passed a vote of no confidence in the TNG, and Gallayr was dismissed as Prime Minister. In November 2001 Abdiqassim appointed Hassan Abshir Farah as the new Prime Minister. Serious interclan fighting continued to occur in parts of the country, notably in the central regions of Hiran and Middle Shabelle, the southern regions of Gedo and Lower Shabelle, and in the Middle Juba and Lower Juba regions. No group controls more than a fraction of the country's territory.

Leaders in the northeast proclaimed the formation of the Puntland state in 1998. Puntland's leader, Abdullahi Yusuf, publicly announced that he did not plan to break away from the remainder of the country, but the Puntland Administration did not participate in the Djibouti Conference or recognize the TNG that emerged from it. In July 2001 Yusuf announced his refusal to abide by the Constitution and step down. This led to a confrontation with Chief Justice Yusuf Haji Nur, who claimed interim presidential powers pending elections. In November traditional elders elected Jama Ali Jama as the new Puntland President. Yusuf refused to accept the elders' decision, and in December he seized by force the town of Garowe, reportedly with Ethiopian support. Jama fled to Bosasso. Both Yusuf and Jama continued to claim the presidency, and there were continued efforts to resolve the conflict at the end of 2001. A ban on political parties in Puntland remained in place.

In the northwest, the "Republic of Somaliland" continued to proclaim its independence within the borders of former British Somaliland. Somaliland has sought international recognition since 1991 without success. Somaliland's government includes a parliament, a functioning civil court system, executive departments organized as ministries, six regional governors, and municipal authorities in major towns. During 2001, 97 percent of voters in a referendum voted for independence for Somaliland and for a political party system. Presidential and parliamentary elections were scheduled to be held in February 2002; however, President Egal requested and Parliament granted a 1-year extension for the next elections.

Source: U.S. Department of State