Mogadishu (UM) – The Somali justice system has never really been its best national asset. The Somali people have lived with injustice for over two generations and the appointment of properly the youngest chief Justice in the world is not going to improve this.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo sacked the former Chief Justice Ibrahim Idle Suleiman on Sunday after a two-year service and replaced him with 36 year old Baashe Yusuf Ahmed, a junior lawyer with limited, if any, experience at all in public or Constitutional law.
The president said his decision was inspired by his plan to improve the justice system which is marred with poor decision making and wide spread allegations of corruption. These are both true as an independent, well trained and functioning judiciary has been non-existent since Somalia’s independence. But the question is, as the Judiciary should be independent of the Executive, did the President have the right to sack the former Chief Justice? It now falls to the new person he appointed to decide this if the question is ever seriously considered like it should. What a tragic constitutional joke.
The Provisional Somali Constitution safeguards the independence of the Judiciary. This is in line with the democratic ideals that Somalia is supposedly aspiring to. The Legislature is weak and corruptible, the Executive unstable and the Judiciary that should regulate the activities of both branches for the Somali people is hopelessly underfunded, poorly trained and staffed and, now, led by a young political appointee with ties to a Somaliland political Party without any public law or constitutional affairs experience. More frighteningly, Baashe Yusuf Ahmed has never sat as a judge and passed legal verdicts on any matter in the past. This does not mean his predecessor was any better as his silence and absence during the dispute between the former Speaker and current Prime Minister is a case in point. It is no wonder then that Somali courts are perceived as corrupt, inept and not fit for purpose by the Somali people who sometimes prefer to settle disputes through Al- Shabaab as mediators.
If the President is serious about fixing the Judiciary, he will abandon the 4.5 appointment system. If the President is serious about judicial reforms, he will respect the institution. He would also insist on better education, training and oversight from within the judicial bodies and better leadership from the Ministry of Justice. This does not mean handpicking political appointees he or his friends would like to sit on the bench but allowing the best and brightest legal minds to hold him and his government to account. Good governments and leaders should not fear legal scrutiny. They should support it by supporting the national judicial institutions.
The Constitutional review process is ironically still ongoing alongside these grave errors in appointments to the highest legal office in the land. The new Chief Justice, a member of a Somaliland political party, Wadani and non-practising law graduate, will have to preside over its future drafting, amendments and enforcement. The real injustice, Mr. President, falls on the Somali people. This will only hurt the credibility of your government.