Mogadishu (UM) – Last week President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo appointed new judges to the High Court who will be tasked with reforming the Justice sector. These New Judges will be working with the youngest and most inexperienced Chief Justice in Somalia’s history at a time when injustice is rife and threatens the social fabric of Somali society.
Appointing new people has become the reform itself rather than been a part of the bigger process for this administration and this is a huge problem. New faces cannot deliver the justice the people need: only a transparent, fair and accessible process can. This does not exist at the moment and it is leading to great injustice which undermines all reforms in the eyes of the public. Legal appointments should not seek to satisfy clans but serve the best interest of the Somali people.
The court system in Somalia is fragmented, poorly administered and managed. The judiciary is appointed on a 4.5 formula and judicial education and training in Somalia is not fit for purpose. The best legal advocates mostly have foreign education and follow different procedures which does not help the people but confuses them. There is not a single legal society that addresses any of these issues yet lawyers and the judicial process are both expensive and unaffordable for most.
Faith in the Somali justice system is rock bottom. Alongside weak systems and enforcement, most Somali court judgements are driven by the ability to pay bribes than any factual evidence according to many who spoke to UM on the condition of anonymity. Many admitted that on important matters like land disputes, alternative settlements are sought through the traditional clan processes and even Al-Shabaab. This is the extent of the failure of the Somali Justice system.
The Nabad and Nolol agenda depends on justice to work. The President is concerned about his political program because it is behind schedule and the Prime Minister is obsessed with accountability and transparency. Yet, both are impossible if justice is not enforced fairly and systemically.
Tackling corruption is important and the Prime Minister’s focus on this is welcome but it must be done in a just manner driven by legal procedures which protect civil liberties including protection from unlawful arrest and the right to a fair trial. The rhetoric of tackling corruption will only transform into tangible political success once the right law enforcement and legal procedures are followed. If this fails, the judiciary would be committing the greatest of crimes: colluding with the state to undermine the rule of law. This will certainly return Somalia to clan justice which is not in the best interest of society.