Somaliland’s judiciary – like other branches of the government- had to be reinstituted after the demise of the central Somali government. Many a time, the successive Somaliland governments have tried to improve the justice sector; but unfortunately their efforts did not yield the anticipated results.
On responding to the public outcry on Somaliland justice system, which has been in a poor state of affair for so long, the current Somaliland President nominated Mr Adan Haji Ali as a Chief Justice in May 2015. The Chief Justice is selected from the academia, though he previuosly served as the president’s legal adviser.
The nomination of Mr Adan Haji has been widely welcomed across Somaliland, particularly within the civil society. This is partly due to the fact that any change made regarding the justice system re-energizes the public aspirations and this move, in particular, has attracted many people who expected Mr Adan would do a good job.
What does need to change?
The judiciary is one the most neglected and under-funded of the three branches of the Somaliland government. Lots of efforts are required to address the numerous challenges the system has been facing for the last couple of decades.
The transparent dispensation of justice is in the interest of everyone regardless of his or her status in the society. There is a widespread perception among the people that the law best serves the rich and the cases tend to move very slowly, drawing accusations that justice is not the objective of the process. The new Chief Justice must therefore devise a plan to restore the confidence of the public in the judicial process.
Critics believe there is corruption perpetrated by the judges which have entirely eroded the trust in the system. The question in front of the Chief Justice is how to build a transparent system which rewards the best judges and removes the unqualified from the system. However, to address the issue of corruption and nepotism witnessed in Somaliland justice system, the selection of judges should be on merit. Mr Adan must also be considerate about the monetary benefits of the judges as this will protect the justice procedures against any interference from outside.
In a recent interview with the local media, Mr Adan Haji acknowledged the need to improve the relationship between the enforcement bodies in Somaliland. Without adequate prison facilities and proper coordination between the police, prosecutors and courts, Adan argued, there would be inefficiencies and further delays in the judicial process.
Unlike other senior government officials, Somaliland judges do not enjoy physical protection and are thus vulnerable to harassment by members of the public. For instance, the new Chief justice does not have enough security personnel, and this may threaten his life particularly at times of political crisis in the county.
How should the change come?
The independence of the judiciary sector is of paramount importance, and as such, critics propose, their budget should not be in the hands of the Minister of Justice. The Chief Justice must rethink the financial independence of the judiciary. If this is done, it will be a massive leap for Somaliland justice.
The notion the membership of the High Judicial Council must possess a legal background is equally important. This will create a conducive working environment and will also promote the better understanding among the members to cater for improved service for the country.
While the reforms to the judiciary are very welcome – and long overdue –it must go beyond the system and the changes should equally be made on other sectors to achieve remarkable success. This is because the work of the justice sector is collectivelly influenced by the decisions of the actors in the executive and parliament who allocate and approve their budget.
Lastly, for the justice to be delivered in reasonably and timely manner, women who are the heart of Somaliland society must have a place in the judiciary system. Their inclusion into the system will make overall progress in reaching fair verdicts.