Resolving The Puntland-Somali Federal Government Standoff through Asymmetrical Federalism

Published on 20th February 2024

The ongoing standoff between Puntland and the Somali Federal Government has underscored the need for a more nuanced approach to federalism in Somalia. As tensions persist, there is growing recognition that a one-size-fits-all federal arrangement may not adequately address the unique needs and aspirations of regions like Puntland. Embracing asymmetrical federalism offers a promising path forward in resolving the impasse and fostering greater harmony and cooperation between Puntland and the central government.

Puntland, a semi-autonomous region in northeastern Somalia, has long stood apart from other federal member states, both geographically and politically. Its distance from Mogadishu, the seat of the federal government, has contributed to a sense of detachment and a desire for greater autonomy. Moreover, Puntland’s history of successful self-governance has fueled its determination to assert its sovereignty and pursue its own development agenda.

Keen observers note that Puntland’s achievements over the past 24 years far outstrip the cumulative progress made under the central government from 1960 to 1991. The region has made significant strides in expanding education, healthcare, economic infrastructure, electricity, communication, banking, and trade. From the construction of roads, airports, and seaports to the growth of the private sector and urbanization, Puntland has emerged as a beacon of development and self-reliance in Somalia.

Recognizing these achievements, the concept of asymmetrical federalism offers a framework for accommodating Puntland’s unique status and aspirations within the federal system. Unlike traditional federal arrangements, which prescribe uniform powers and responsibilities to all subnational entities, asymmetrical federalism allows for differential treatment based on the specific needs and capacities of each region.

Under an asymmetrical federal arrangement, Puntland could be granted greater autonomy in certain areas while maintaining its allegiance to the Somali Federal Government. This could involve devolving additional powers to Puntland in areas such as governance, resource management, and economic development, while preserving the integrity of the federal state.

Moreover, asymmetrical federalism could provide mechanisms for resolving disputes and fostering cooperation between Puntland and the central government. By acknowledging Puntland’s unique governance model and development trajectory, the federal government can build trust and partnership with the region, paving the way for mutually beneficial collaboration.

Importantly, asymmetrical federalism does not imply a fracturing of the Somali state, but rather a strengthening of its federal fabric through greater inclusivity and respect for diversity. By accommodating the distinct needs and aspirations of regions like Puntland, Somalia can harness the full potential of its diverse population and resources, driving sustainable development and prosperity for all.

In conclusion, resolving the standoff between Puntland and the Somali Federal Government requires a bold reimagining of the federal system. Asymmetrical federalism offers a pragmatic and inclusive approach that can reconcile competing interests, foster cooperation, and pave the way for a more prosperous and harmonious future for Somalia. By embracing asymmetrical federalism, Somalia can chart a path towards unity in diversity and build a more resilient and inclusive federal state.

Mohamed Ali


Courtesy: Wardheernews

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