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Rift Valley Institute

Making local knowledge work



Amid the major changes to Somalia’s political landscape seen over the past two decades, an abiding feature has been the reliance on clan-based power-sharing models, including the ‘4.5’ formula. Despite the Somali Provisional Constitution containing no reference to the formula, it continues to determine the allocation of seats to clans in the Federal Parliament’s House of the People (HoP) and Council of Ministers. Related clan power-sharing arrangements are in place in the Upper House, within key national leadership positions, in the political dispensation of the Federal Member States (FMSs), and at the local level.

The 4.5 formula was first conceived in 1997 as a temporary arrangement for managing political representation following Somalia’s civil war, assigning a full share of power to four clans and a half-share to a consortium of other clans. Formalized in 2000 at the Arta Peace Conference in Djibouti, the formula was generally agreed among political stakeholders to be a stop-gap mechanism until a new constitution set out the mechanisms for representation in the country’s legislatures. In theory, the Provisional Constitution of 2012 brought this transitional arrangement to a close, as Article 4 guarantees universal participation in elections based on a political party system. More than ten years after adoption of the constitution, however, no progress has been made in moving past the supposedly temporary system. No referendums or direct elections have been held, with representation in the HoP still based on 4.5. Moreover, clan-based power-sharing remains prevalent more widely.

The 4.5 system’s enduring role has provoked significant controversy among Somali political leaders and the wider public, with many arguing that democratic governance will only be possible if clan-based power-sharing mechanisms are set aside. Efforts to move past the system in recent years have, however, failed, as different actors have conflicting views and interests regarding when, how and to what degree this might be achieved.

This lack of consensus, coupled with a wider reliance on clan power-sharing, is a major obstacle to continued political progress in Somalia, especially in terms of deepening democratization and enabling effective, meritocratic governance. Meaningful, inclusive dialogue directed at reaching agreement on the issue is therefore essential. As such, this report aims to promote and inform such discussions on 4.5, as well as clan-based power-sharing arrangements more generally. With this in mind, it provides a summary of the extensive research conducted by the Platform on the subject, including key informant interviews with Somali experts; a review of relevant literature and policy documentation; and analysis of how 4.5 is applied at the national level. Below, the report sets out a brief overview of the historical development of clan-based power-sharing in Somalia, before detailing how the 4.5 system has been applied since the Arta Conference. Following this, the implications of 4.5 for Somalia’s political settlement and democratization processes are laid out, with a number of options for going forward offered in the conclusion.

This briefing is a product of the Somali Dialogue Platform in collaboration with the Somali Public Agenda. The Somali Dialogue Platform is a programme which supports Somalis to achieve consensus on contentious political issues and is implemented by the Rift Valley Institute. The Somali Dialogue Platform is funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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