The Rule of Law and the burden of the traditional order-Somaliland



Democracy is an attractive commodity with a charming appeal to the ordinary people, but it has many shortcomings, it does not warrant that the most competent, honest and most skilled candidates will win any competition and assume power. Democracy is not a tool to gratify the moral convictions and political ambitions of a dominant group, neither it grants any assurance to self-appointed guardians of traditional order. Actually, through the exasperating manoeuvres of democracy ordinary people create the right circumstances to challenge the status quo, explore new potentials and try to curb some of the previously unchallenged authorities of traditional power.

Besides elections, the democratic system is firmly built on vital principles and fundamental concepts without which the process will indeed transform into a crippled and tedious façade. There should be equal access to public media platforms for all vying parties, free and independent press, freedom of assembly and expression, and above all, the rule of law. Those are among the essential, indispensable prerequisites for a viable, credible democratic competition.

 In particular, the Rule of law is the central fixture for any evolving democratic system; and in our society where there are incredibly polarised views about everything and anything, many believe that it is the magic wand that when found and established everything will eventually fall into place.

Since we strenuously grabbed our independence from the white man’s clutches and assumed, triumphantly, the full responsibility of our affairs, there was an unabated whimpering about a lack of accountability and complete disregard of the rule of law. There has never been a period when a considerable majority of our society, officially or otherwise, expressed their satisfaction with the way their country is managed. Likewise, there was no common understanding about the culprit who would be blamed for all the things that go wrong.

 One issue that never ceased to perturb the public consciousness was the state of the justice system and our willingness to comply with the constraints of the law.  We fantasise obsessively about a country where the final say is exclusively for an impartial court, where citizens accept court’s rulings grudgingly or otherwise.

Nevertheless, that dream remains elusive and unattainable, partly because the enduring social order counteracts with the basic concept of the rule of law. Furthermore,the successive administrations failed to construct and install appropriate and correctly functioning mechanisms that would help empower and enrich the Law enforcing agencies.

The precipitating factor behind this failure has always been the wicked fragmentation of the society along tribal lines that precludes accountability and shelters criminal offenders from the law under the protection of their dependable clansmen. In many occasions, when severe murder cases- like the unfortunate killings in Eel-afwayn-  happen and imperil the stability of whole communities, it is imperative that the Law is firmly implemented by the designated authorities to make sure that the victims get a swift and assuaging justice.

However, instead of a final judiciary verdict, the rule of law has become a hostage for the concessions negotiated by the tribal elders and unqualified self-proclaimed brokers with various titles and undefined roles.

This culture of justice manipulation weakened our public institutions tasked with the preservation of the law and delivering of justice. It infringes on their constitutional responsibility, restricts their reach and helps to create an unchecked, beyond the realm of law arbitration system, not accountable to the elected representatives of the people.

Because this system does not have the legal apparatus to execute its rulings, it only helps the criminals evade punishment and increases inter-tribal tensions and conflict. It makes an entire community culpable for a grave atrocity committed by few individuals.

The way that barbarity was wrapped up by a group of religious and political figures sums it up. The killers from both combatants walked free; the relatives of the victims swallowed anguish and disappointment, and a guiltless community are compelled to atone for a crime committed by a few callous murderers. The true spirit of the justice was offered as a sacrifice for the perpetual tribal appeasements to last and claim many more victims and any hope for an efficient justice to vanish.

A direct outcome of this subversive tribal justice is the perception many people started to hold; that one is cushioned against legal liability for his actions by the clout of his clan, and any villainy from his part will be collectively shouldered.

For the law to work for everyone and to create a society where the rule of law is conducted through the formal constitutional agencies, we have to invest in the justice system. This investment comprises of financial support, moral and confidence building as well as guarantees of legal protection and provision of the expertise they may need to carry out their duty. A strong resistance must be applied against the tribal encroachment, and a solid allegiance for the Justice and the rule of law must be cultivated among the young generations.

let us not be in no doubt about the significance of an efficient Justice for the community cohesion and integration, and it’s weakening will inevitably lead to the unfortunate disarray of an already fragile state.


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