The 6th annual Judiciary Conference held in Jazeera Palace along KM4 in Mogadishu is a token of the rebirth of Somalia’s legal system that has long been dormant in the midst of ongoing civil conflict and political instability. These days, the Somali populace is increasingly and rapidly gaining confidence in the legal system. Such faith and belief in the legal system remained apparent throughout the conference, which was packed for two days.
This year’s theme centred on the role of the Judiciary in good governance and anti-corruption. Key attendees at the symposium were the Chief Justice Yusuf Bashe, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Hassan Moalin, the Speaker of the House of the People Adan Madobe among other heads of courts. Additionally, several legal researchers were also in attendance.
Sustaining last year’s efforts in the fight against corruption, the judiciary aims to promote good governance and curb corruption in all its forms this year. Somalia today is a country governed by the rule of law and the commitment to transparency and accountability.
To this end, the conference reiterated the importance of the role of the judiciary in ensuring Somalia’s institutions are governed by the rule of law. A country where basic values of the society including the economic, political, and socio-cultural issues and human rights are realized through accountable and upright administration with the judiciary complementing the other arms of government.
The chief justice said the judiciary would continue this year to sustain a judicial system that dispenses justice on merit in a fair, unbiased and meaningful manner and will maintain accountability and honesty. This is a departure from the past when the judiciary was perceived by the public to be a mere puppet of the executive and a frail unjust institution. In pursuit of such ideals, the role of the Judiciary in promoting good governance and fighting corruption was pronounced at the conference by the different speakers and the legal researchers.
The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Hassan Moalin Mohamud aptly commented on the independence of the judiciary at the conference. Noting that whereas the pre-1991 constitutions conspicuously left out the independence of the judiciary in the constitution, the current Provisional Constitution guarantees it in article 106. He affirmed the role of his ministry and parliament in finalizing the Provisional Constitution to realize the independence of the judiciary. The minister also added that the federalization of the judiciary is also tied to finalizing the Provisional Constitution. It is only when the constitution is completed can a constitutional court be established to enhance the judiciary’s role in good governance and fight corruption.
For good governance to be realized in Somalia, the minister said, there ought to be public policymaking, the prevalence of the rule of law and an independent judiciary. Lastly, the minister stated the need for a system of institutional checks and balances through horizontal and vertical separation of powers to functionally realize the independence of the Judiciary in Somalia.
The speaker of the House of the People Adan Muhammad Nur Madobe discussed the steps parliament is taking in fully operationalizing the judiciary. He highlighted the recent passing of the procedure for amending the constitution as a landmark step for promulgating a final constitution for Somalia. He also added that the independence of the judiciary and the federalizing of the judiciary will be achieved by completing the constitution.
Among the topics presented by the legal researchers at the conference included equality in accessing government jobs for the public at large. Panel discussions on the role of the judiciary in the protection of public funds and investigating financial crimes were held. Cabdi Axmed Maxamed Baafo, the director of Xarunta Dhaxalreeb presented some of the challenges faced in this area. He noted that a minister who assumes office employs own personnel yet there’s already a staff hence creating congestion and hindrance to access to government jobs for the competent.
It was also noted the recent role of the Banaadir Regional Court in investigating corruption cases within the government office underscored the judiciary’s role in good governance and fighting corruption. The Chairman of the Banaadir Regional Court Salah Ali reiterated the remarkable achievement of the court and the judiciary at large in fulfilling its role in protecting public funds. He noted that 2023 was momentous in dispensing justice from the courts with over 70 court decisions from the court fulfilled. Ali added that Somalis are no longer being forced to go to court but rather willingly submitting to the courts’ jurisdictions to obtain justice. Such is the increased faith in justice from the country’s judicial system notwithstanding much needed growth and improvement in the courts.
Corruption in its many forms was also a major talking point at the conference with the role of the judiciary in fettering this insidious vice in the arms of the government. Somalia’s judiciary albeit improving in recent years has been prone to corruption hence the focus on anti-corruption in this year’s conference. In addition to enhancing the judiciary’s role in stemming corruption in the other arms of the government, the judiciary must begin by redeeming itself. To this end, the Chief Justice reminded the public of their vital role in helping eliminate corruption in the judiciary. He urged the public to report to the relevant bodies any corruption they happen to witness in their dealings with the judiciary promising swift action from the leadership.
On the second day of the conference, the focus was on the insidious yet prevalent issue in Somalia of terrorist financing and money laundering. This issue is also tied to the current administration’s fight against terrorism on all fronts including ideologically, financially, and militarily. Curbing terrorist funds through halting money laundering and cutting the financial flow of terrorist activities is critical in countering terror financing. The work of judges, prosecutors and legal personnel in the judiciary is indispensable and vital to realize effective anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing.
On this issue, Attorney General Sulayman Mohamed Mohamoud, in his previous capacity at the National Anti-Money Laundering Committee said the committee took many measures to combat the challenges posed by money laundering noting the specific existential crisis of this issue in Somalia. He added that the judiciary and the attorney general office in Somalia must play their role in investigating and prosecuting money laundering cases. Investigation and prosecution of terrorist financing along with the seizing and confiscating of criminal proceeds must also be a top priority. This will enhance Somalia’s capacity to provide and receive international cooperation and mutual legal assistance in this area.
The research presented by the capable and insightful legal researchers at the conference underscored the importance of judicial control and oversight in the overall counter-terrorism and financing and anti-money laundering efforts by the government. Somalia’s laws on anti-money laundering and terrorism financing both at the local and international levels were proposed to great lengths with insightful discussions ensuing. In addition to the research presented and the specific Somali context, one may suggest also the establishment of a special court to deal with terrorism and terrorist financing.
Somalia in recent years, needless to say, has witnessed remarkable developments both in the political and economic spheres. Albeit small skirmishes here and there, there has been a peaceful political transfer of power by different administrations and significant economic growth. The economic growth is evident in the booming real estate sector and the businesses that continue to sprout up in the city. More so in the year of 2023, the country went through the most impressive and significant landmarks in recent history. These include the lifting of the arms embargo, and debt relief through the HIPC initiative among key developments. The judiciary as the third arm of the government to this end ought to play a puissant role in sustaining and complementing such developments in the country.
Attending the conference this year for me was an honour and an opportunity to engage with the brightest legal minds in Somalia. In my capacity as a legal researcher and consultant from a common law system, the transition to Somalia was never easy. Nonetheless, I believe the potential of the Somali judiciary and the legal system at large given what the entire country witnessed last year and in my own experience presents a promising future. The current leadership must maintain this momentum and developments in Somalia’s judiciary. Finally, the other arms of government must complement efforts by the leadership of the judiciary, namely federalize the judiciary and complete the constitution.