The Deficit and Discontent of Governance and Democratic Process in the Horn of Africa Region

Mohamed A. Mohamoud-Barawani University for Peace, Costa Rica
Mohamed A. Mohamoud-Barawani University for Peace, Costa Rica

By: Mohamed A. Mohamoud

According to governance tenets, knowing and unknowingly the African state as a whole emanated from the colonials set up and Eurocentric notion of state-building through decolonization. The indigenous systems in Africa versus the modernity have had specific tensions and contestation in the post-colonial state in Africa, and the misnomer of two styles fatally inactivated the governing system in Africa.

Many people in the region are so pessimistic and upset on the slower and penurious governance indicators, as efforts to intensify the democratic multiparty system elections and governance botched in the region. Some of the current presidents in the region are incumbent for decades-long and this is a sign of how undemocratic leadership in the region is virulent and repellant.

For instance, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni remains in the power since in 1986, former Sudan President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir who forcibly step-down in 2019 ruling Sudan 30 years, while Sudan now is in political transition since Bashir overthrow through the civilian uprising. But the transitional political system is dominated by the military hegemony, and no grantees the Sudan political system to recycle or return its old style of despotism.

Djibouti President Ismail Omar Gueleh is incumbent since 1990, Eritrea President Isaias Afwerki is ruling this post-conflict country since in 1991, South Sudan President Salva Kiir ruling this nascent and post-conflict fragile country since its independence in 2011. Sudan and South Sudan are now in precarious situations, especially South Sudan state-building aborted in the onset and ineptness of the Africa Union/IGAD leadership is the fallout of this ceaseless conflict in South Sudan.

Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta is incumbent since 2013 and Kenya’s last election in 2017 was denounced by the opposition parties particularly the main contender Mr. Odinga, however, Kenya’s democratic process is a more open-minded and more civilian political project. In contrast with many states in the region. Kenya’s constitutional amendments in 2010 are among the commendable steps that Kenya made in a path to advance the democratic process and power devolution but the ethnic tensions are not that far despite the election is a most canonical factor to such overwhelming ethnic confrontations in Kenya.

Ethiopia Democracy: A Pipe-dream?

In Ethiopia, the EPRDF/TPFL ruling since March 2018, and Ethiopia people mostly experienced either monarchic or authoritarian political rule. The former Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles Zenawi who was ruling the country since 2012, created ethnic federalism political system more relevant to a socialist era than a democratic, modern state of this age.

Again the new party formed by Dr. Abiy Ahmed – Prosperity party (pp) seems to be heading towards the same path as that of the EPRDF supremacy. Reports around PM Abiy are indicate that he is grudgingly for this ethnic federalism prototype political system, and power devolution of regionalization, and ethnicity.

Nonetheless, when Dr. Abiy Ahmed became the Ethiopia Prime Minister, he instantaneously made some imperative steps for democratizing Ethiopia as releasing political prisoners, interrogating previous human rights violations, and welcoming opposition parties, were all metaphorical and inspirational sign of democracy in Ethiopia political history, most Africa in general.

Moreover, Ethiopia’s political transition was smoothly administered. The young Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel peace prize a few months later, because of his successful, and encouraging political steps. Nevertheless, Abiy’s narrative of democratization in Ethiopia became parochial and distorted. Contrary to the democratic aspirations of the Ethiopia people, political incarcerations, prosecutions, and massive arrests of the civilian became the order of the day in Ethiopia, again; and the internet was shut down to suffocate public expression.

But there is still a hope that the agenda of democratization in Ethiopia can be pursued with the assistance of the international community coupled with the political ambition of Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed. However, it is unlikely to sustain the one-party rule in Ethiopia for much longer in the future. It is – all the signs point out – untenable and unpersuasive locally and internationally.

The purposeful to accentuate this course of Ethiopia democracy is because Ethiopia is the most populous, the most ethnically diverse nation in the region. And, yet, this country remained undemocratic in many centuries successively reigned by either monarchs or dictators. Regional elections as the Tigray elections in September 2020 may not validate the bigger dream of Ethiopia democracy unless there is a competitive, free, fair and multiparty elections held through a convincing political atmosphere upholding a democratic culture of healthy competition and compromise. The anticipated Ethiopia multiparty elections were not only a breakthrough within Ethiopia but – hopefully – paved the way for democratic transformation in the Horn of Africa.

Somaliland, and Somalia Democratic Contrasts

Somaliland is an astonishing nation for its track record in democratic and multiparty elections. Since 1991, when the country regained its sovereignty, five presidents succeeded one another through a democratic manner which makes the current Somaliland President, Muse Bihi Abdi, the only elected president in the region right now for his first term.

Among the shortcomings of Somaliland democracy, however, is the failure to hold elections on scheduled times with the House of Representatives election is overdue for many years. Grievances related to regional representation in the parliament are among the most potent in underlying, unresolved issues which contributed in part to parliamentary election postponements in the past.  At the moment, there is a momentum and political consensus to have House of Representative elections in 2021 as the House of Parliament ratified the election bill on October 2020.

In stark contrast to, Somalia is yet far away from all benchmarks to hit poll stations. Instead, it is under the protection of the foreign troops for nearly two decades to hold it together. The efforts to hold popular elections in Somalia has become an improbable scenario because Somalia is categorized as one of the most failed states in the world. Clan federalism is the center and the main driver of Somalia politics, and there are many domestic and external actors battling in Somalia.

However, the externalization of the Somalia state-building and peacebuilding coined the perpetuation of political deficiencies and failure to accomplish a proper state formation and state-building. Somalia’s political system is so condensed and now the political situation is further disintegrating because of the absence of an agreed or ratified constitutional political system.

The clan federalism is poorly performing and the political situation of Somalia is inflammable and divergent. The international community project of holding popular elections and President Farmajo’s imitations and insincere commitments now lapsed by recycling back to the 2016 clans’ elections modality.

In this regard, the international community must admit that the political ailment of Somalia cannot be preserved with this longstanding top-down approach. In other words, without a constitutional political system, Somalia will remain such a delicate political system and perpetually repeating past mistakes.

About the Author

Mohamed A. Mohamoud – Barawani is Independent Researcher, political analysis, based in Hargeysa, Somaliland

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

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