Somalia: Fishing licenses weaken federal member states

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Somali Fisheries Minister Signing the agreement in the presence of Deputy PM
Somali Fisheries Minister Signing the agreement in the presence of Deputy PM

Many Somalis who support a permanent Somali government’s right to enter agreements with foreign companies now oppose fishing licenses given to foreign powers, Argue Liban Ahmad

Two weeks ago the Federal Government of Somalia  (FGS)  gave Chinese companies fishing licenses. Puntland administration, which the former Minister of Fisheries  Dr Abdirahman Mohamed Abdi Hashi accused of foiling Seychelles conference on sharing revenues, had not issued a statement on the agreement. Only Somaliland government  has issued  policy statement on not granting  new fishing licenses to foreign companies. ” People have got to start eating fish because of recurrent droughts” Somaliland Minister for Fisheries, Mr Hassan Mohamed Ali,  said.

Puntland and Somaliland governments have had the privilege to grant fishing licenses to foreign companies but no federal member state has ever disclosed how revenues  from fishing licences are managed. While Puntland asks for a formal agreement on sharing revenues from fishing licenses, Somaliland does not recognise the fishing agreement the Federal Government of Somalia signed with Chinese companies.

There is little the Somaliland government can do about federal powers of Mogadishu government to sign  fishing agreement with foreign companies.  Puntland and other federal member states united under the Council of Inter-state Cooperation might accuse the Federal Government of centralism but such an accusation will not galvanise people in federal members state with whom leaders    never shared data about revenues from fishing licences given to foreign companies.

Unlike the Federal Government of Somalia, Puntland and Somaliland governments have never disclosed data on foreign trawlers in Somalia seawaters over which each administration claims jurisdiction.

Somalia politics entered an interesting phase. It is no longer easier to divide Somali people along clan lines. The division caused by resurgent federal institutions now is based on two opposing forms of governance: 1- Governance based on the influence of unaccountable federal member states to check in the Federal Government of Somalia; 2- Federal institutions   that invest more powers in the FGS to sign agreement with foreign companies.  Proponents of the second type governance argue   FGS is more accountable than federal member states, and that it is absurd to deny the government privileges that enabled s federal member states to give fishing licences to foreign companies unaccountably.

Somali Fisheries Minister Signing the agreement in the presence of Deputy PM
Somali Fisheries Minister Signing the agreement in the presence of Deputy PM

Puntland, which has long advocated federalism, finds itself in a difficult position. Since its institutions are less accountable to people, its leaders will not be able to challenge Mogadishu government whose federal powers get boosted by the political stagnation in federal member states. Trawlers trawlers with no federally issued fishing licenses  can face accusations of illegal fishing.

President Farmajo and Prime Minister Kheire keep reinvigorating Somali politics
President Farmajo and Prime Minister Kheire keep reinvigorating Somali politics

The new federal powers Mogadishu government exercises   put anti-federalism camp in a bind. The federal powers to grant fishing license bestow upon the FGS  some of the characteristics of a government based on centralism. Those federal powers unnerve some pro-federalism Puntland politicians, who always liken federalism to political unaccountability.  

Liban Ahmad

libanahmad@horndiplomat.com

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Horndiplomat editorial policy.

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