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SPECIAL REPORT: Judges on stipends, courts merge jurisdiction in the road to justice in Somalia

Storyline:National News
Credit: National Dawn

The President of the federal Somali Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo pledged on 4th June 2017 to restructure the justice system of the country within a three month period.

“You have to know within the coming three months what we will achieve (judicial reform). The struggle by our troubled Somali people to get their rights is over.”

“We tell the old men who are judges if before there was one plot you used to decide a ruling over five times for different ways, that period is over. To see a mother crying or a person for his right that you violated, that period is over. Justice is needed from you. If you don’t exercise justice, you don’t represent us or the public. You will end up in a jail” President Farmaajo said while addressing the public in Konis stadium, Mogadishu in marking his 100 days in office.

The President went on inspiring hope and reading the riot act to those hell-bent on infringing on other people’s rights, “It will never happen again. I will pledge and the government too. No Somali will go to the court to face injustice. This is what has made the country to be backward which Allah cursed us as a result and we lagged behind from the world. We shall never accept this because of two or three bad people. We shall not allow anyone to act the in the name of the government to humiliate the people and we shall not tolerate any acts of injustice.”

The President’s statement not only sent hope across the land but also put him on the pedestal-the public’s expectations hit the crescendo.

In light of these, Goobjoog News sought to understand the progress thus far upon the expiry of the 90 days and the general state of affairs in the country’s judicial system. The situation in most parts of the country remains unchanged; judges (where they exist) still go without salaries, states lack enforcement arms (police and prisons department) while the capacity of the courts to deliver justice remains very marginal owing to lack of infrastructure support and personnel.

Banadir regional administration

Banadir is the most populated region in Somalia and hosts the capital Mogadishu. It is composed of 17 districts and compared to other regions in the country, residents of Banaadir can access justice relatively easier than citizens in other parts of the country. For example all the 17 districts in Banadir with the exception of Bondhere, Shibis and Kahda, have district law courts.

The district courts cannot impose a fine of more than US$ 35,000 and a jail term of more than 3years or more than 3 million Somali Shillings. The Banandir court presides over criminal cases, property law suits, financial litigation and civil cases.

The region has a high court and appellate court.

A total of 1,209 people are incarcerated in the Central Prison of Mogadishu while 114 convicts were pardoned by President Mohamed Farmaajo during the Ramadan period in July.

HirShabelle state

The newly created state is made up of 10 districts from Middle Shabelle and Hiiraan regions which together make up the state in line with Provisional Constitution. Jowhar, the capital of HirShabelle state has three courts. The Appeals court is in practice non-functional since it has no judges. The district court has two judges. Bal’ad, Warsheikh, Adale, Bulo-Hawadley and Mahaday towns have no courts though they used to have from 1960s till the collapse of the central government in 1991.

The state has level one, two and appellate courts each with two judges. The judges told Goobjoog News they do not receive salaries from the Federal Government but occasionally get stipends from the state government.

Hiiraan region

Beledweyne town the headquarters of Hiiraan region has level one and two courts but due to financial constraints, the level two court serves as appellate court.

Bule Barde, Jalalaqsi, Mahas and Mataban districts have no courts. Lack of salaries is a consistent narrative in these region in addition to lack of a prosecutor, prison department and transport and logistics for the courts.

Galmudug state

Galmudug state which was formed in 2014 has no court and in effect prosecutors, police or prisons. The traditional judicial system under customary (Xeer) and religious law are the only available avenues for legal redress in any matter.

The state however has judges but cannot function owing to lack of infrastructure, police, or prison departments. “We would like to work but there are no support mechanisms. We cannot pass rulings without an enforcement arm,” a judge told Goobjoog News

Southwest state

South West State affirmed to Goobjoog News the presence of a High Court, Appeals Court and regional courts in Lower Shabelle region, Bakol and Bay regions.

Similarly the law courts in Baidoa, Burhakabo, Hudur, Wanlaweyn, Afgoi and Barawa are fully functional. However, like most courts in other regions, judges go without salaries and there are no police or prisons rendering court rulings difficult to effect. Judges do not receive salaries from the Federal Government.

Residents of Lower Shabelle region take their cases to Banaadir Law courts.

Jubbaland state

Jubbaland state is made up of Lower, Middle and Gedo regions with Kismayu in Lower Jubba region as the state capital.

Kismayo town has law courts including one for the district, Lower Jubba and an Appellate court. Each court has 4 judges, 2 assistants and one chairperson. They also have a military court.

There are no courts or prisons in the two regions of Middle Jubba and Gedo regions. Judges working in Kismayo town receive capacity building and monthly stipend from Jubbaland administration.


Puntland which was established in 1998 benefits from the most established judicial system compared to all other states in the country. It has a high court, constitutional court, appeals court, and level one and two courts. The state has three high court judges.

The Provisional Constitution establishes the national court structure thus: The Constitutional Court, The Federal Government level courts and The Federal Member State level courts. The highest court at the Federal Government level shall be the Federal High Court, whilst the highest court at the Federal Member State level shall be the Federal Member State High Court.

Similarly, under article 109(A) the Supreme Law contemplates the formation of the Judicial Service Commission which is responsible for the discipline and transfer of any member of the judiciary at the Federal level, decides on remuneration and pensions of members of the judiciary and decide on other work matters of the judiciary. Article 109 (B) provides for the formation of the Constitutional Court which is the apex court in the dealing with cases which require the interpretation of the constitution. Both of these two institutions are not yet in place.

The administration of justice in the country remains constrained by not only financial challenges but also structural bottlenecks. The clan question stands out here as well. Former attorney general Abdulkadir Mohamed Muse wonders why the Bar Association in Mogadishu, a professional legal body must be reduced into a clan distribution formula. “The Bar Association is formed along the 4.5 system. For example out 91 members, 30 are from Puntland while Southwest has 34 in line with the clan system.”

In its response to our findings, the Ministry of Justice presented its achievements in the last three months but did not make reference to the question at hand. The following are some of the assignments the ministry has effected in the three months period:

  1. Review of the progress on the judicial system and protocol
  2. Implementation the activities relating to drafting of bills in the ministry
  3. Completed formation of Independent Committee on Combating Corruption.”
  4. Review and completion done on “law on the office general attorney.
  5. Review done on “national telecommunication law.”
  6. Review done on General education bills, Petroleum and NGOs bills
  7. Implementation of activities on preparation and writing of ministerial legislations.