Opinions of Somali public divided in latest round of consultations on constitutional review process
The latest round of public consultations on Somalia’s constitutional review process ended this week, with members of the public giving more views on what should go into the outcome document to protect their rights on a range of issues .
“We need special treatment for people with disabilities, and the biggest issue is education. Education will help develop everyone’s life. The visually impaired and physically disabled need special institutions to meet the challenges they face. These should be included in the constitution, ”said Ali Sheikh Rashid.
The visually impaired 73-year-old father of six added that he hopes the constitution, when finalized, will guarantee the rights of all Somalis and in particular ensure equal access to opportunities for people with disabilities.
Mr Rashid was among 50 people who attended a three-day public awareness session on the constitutional review process in Jowhar, the administrative capital of Hirshabelle.
Besides Hirshabelle, similar consultations took place in two other federal member states, Galmudug and South West State. They were conducted by the Federal Ministry of Constitutional Affairs of Somalia (MoCA) as part of its efforts to gather stakeholder views on the new constitution.
“Speaking on behalf of people with disabilities, it is appropriate for the government to ensure that people with disabilities can access education and health care, and meet our special needs,” said Abdi Jama Ahmed, President of an association of disabled people in Dhusamareb, the administrative capital of Galmudug.
Opinions of the Somali public
The consultations, supported by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), is part of the MoCA’s ongoing outreach efforts to capture the views of a wide range of Somalis across the country to feed into the review process currently underway. Since 2012, Somalia has an interim constitution.
In addition to collecting views from the public, MoCA officials also presented the progress made so far, the challenges faced and the way forward.
“The participation and response from the public has been overwhelming, and participants have asked us to expand the public engagement meetings to the district and village levels. According to our assessment, over seventy percent of the public today has a better understanding of the constitution compared to four years ago, ”said MoCA Director of Public Outreach Abdikani Ali Adan .
“We have gathered views, answered questions and shared the information we have gathered over the past four years,” he added. “We hope that this constitution will be fruitful for the people and the country. “
The topics discussed during the three consultation sessions covered the full range of issues and concerns affecting Somali society. In addition to the rights of persons with disabilities, other topics included justice, security, fair and equal representation, power sharing, rights of women and youth, sharing of resources and the status of Mogadishu.
Youth and women
A youth representative to the Dhusamareb consultations in Galmudug, Bashir Mohammed Salat, said it was vital to ensure that youth perspectives are included in the review process, especially in light of the fact that they represent such a large percentage of the Somali population.
“To guarantee the rights of young people, we want a provision in the Constitution stipulating the age range of young people and when they are allowed to run for leadership positions. Currently, a person does not have to be under 30 to take a leadership position – we want the age lowered to 20 to give young aspiring leaders a chance, ”said Mr. Salat.
“It’s an opportunity for young people as they make up about 75 percent of the country’s population, but they’re not in the decision-making process. It’s an opportunity for them to contribute, ”said Abdiaziz Gure Farah, Hirshabelle consultation participant.
The role of women and the guarantee of their rights also featured prominently – both in the participation in the review process and in the outcome document.
“To fight against inequalities, women must participate in the constitutional review process and political campaigns, and express their views and recommendations to reach the 30% quota. [for women’s representation in parliament]. We can achieve this if women campaign for education and political participation. The constitutional review focuses on our self-determination as a nation and the development of women, ”said Hawo Omar Abdirahman, a civil society representative in Baidoa.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).
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