Since its independence in 1960, Somalia has experienced numerous forms of administration. Civil governance, military rule, and the establishment of a federal government system. However, each era had its own unique strategy for hiring civil servants. Civil servants are pivotal in executing policies, maintaining stability, and ensuring expertise, neutrality, and accountability in government, ultimately contributing to the state’s success. The dangers of excessive political influence on civil servants lie in the potential for undermining their neutrality and expertise, which can erode the efficiency and fairness of government operations, making it imperative to prevent such interference.
As the Director of Somali Public Agenda, Mahad Wasuge, stated in his 2018 commentary, “In the civilian governance era, Somali civil servants faced one of the most immense reforms that had happened. Abdirizak Hajji Hussein fired thousands of personnel due to incompetence in the government’s jobs”. Unfortunately, those reforms were not effective and successful after the military took over the country’s administration. When the military regime fell, the country fell apart, and most civil servants fled.
After a long gap, the government civil servants were re-established during President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed’s administration under the law known as Law No. 11. The transitional federal parliament in Baidoa approved the law in late 2006. Somalia’s civil servants have different grades based on their educational certificates. According to the law, Grade A is the highest grade based on a first university degree; Grade B is a secondary certificate level; Grade C is for skilled workers; and Grade D is for unskilled workers.
This essay examines the primary factors that stimulate the involvement of politicians in the recruitment process and the impact of such involvement on youth. It concludes with ideas for how the government should address this issue.
The Interference Techniques of Somali Politicians
Somali politicians get involved in the recruitment of civil servants through the following sorts and forms of interventions:
Interference in Job Advertising and Selection Processes: Politicians manipulate and intervene directly or indirectly in job advertisements and recruitment processes, influencing exam results, interview panels, and final candidate selection, making it difficult for others to compete fairly. In a typical scenario, a government official exerts influence on a minister to secure a job for their family member, even though the family member lacks the necessary qualifications or experience. The minister then instructs the HR department officer to conduct an unethical recruitment process involving manipulating exams and interviews.
Political Pressure: Some politicians use their influence in the office recruiting process to put pressure on recruitment authorities to hire their individuals. This can take the form of high-ranking officials in a government agency facing political pressure to appoint a key department director to a campaign donor or supporter of a politician. The official being appointed can be less qualified than other candidates. Such actions raise concerns about leadership integrity and erode public trust in the decision-making process.
Clan-Based Favouritism: Politicians may assign family members, acquaintances, or devoted supporters to crucial civil service positions, often ignoring merit-based selection standards. In those cases, highly qualified and experienced persons from different clans apply for the job and perform exceptionally well in the interview process. However, politicians can pressure the hiring committee to select a candidate from their own clan who has less experience and qualifications for that position.
Politicians’ involvement in civil servant recruitment can negatively impact governance, institutions, and society, potentially undermining civil service effectiveness, contributing to corruption, and perpetuating political instability. It leads highly qualified individuals to leave the country if they believe civil service positions are not merit-based. These interventions are illegitimate and always foster corruption and nepotism.
Challenges to the Fair Recruitment Process
The various factors can add to the difficulties in selecting Somali government personnel based on their aptitude and knowledge. These considerations may include:
Security concerns: According to the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), the most recent report about the Global Peace Index in 2023, Somalia ranks 156th out of 160 countries worldwide. It indicates that Somalia is still plagued by insecurity and violence.
Nepotism and ineffective recruiting processes: As is widely recognized, the number of young people graduating from colleges (both domestic and international) has increased rapidly in the previous decade, and the government is one of the leading employers in the country. Some of the most significant difficulties are nepotism and the lack of open hiring processes. Therefore, recruitment decisions may be based mainly on personal connections rather than qualifications, knowledge, and competence.
In fact, over the last five years, the Federal Government of Somalia has hired a large number of temporary workers rather than civil servants recognised by the National Civil Service Commission (NCSC). Given that this technique is not recognised by the National Civil Service Commission (NCSC) and lacks a clear procedure, it is one of the most common causes of nepotism and lack of transparency.
In the 2022 Transparency International report on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Somalia ranks 180th out of 180. ‘Nepotistic appointments in the civil service‘ is one indicator considered for the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).
The Federal Government of Somalia should create transparent and merit-based recruitment procedures to transform this situation into an opportunity. This could include establishing independent sub-committees to oversee recruitment and ensure that qualifications and abilities are the major selection criteria. Furthermore, establishing a robust legislative framework and anti-corruption measures would aid the development of a more professional public service.
Furthermore, investing in education and skills development programmes for Somali youth can improve their competitiveness for civil service careers. The government can attract high-level professionals who are committed to serving the country’s interests by focusing on professional development and offering avenues for promotion.
Additionally, moving the civil servant recruitment process from political influence to meritocracy could assist the Federal Government of Somalia in amassing a pool of talented individuals and ensuring the efficient operation of government institutions.
In conclusion, overcoming these difficulties will necessitate a determined effort to reform employment practices to increase transparency, provide training opportunities, and build a meritocracy culture within the Somali government. This is not to say that the Somali government does not have institutions and policies for the employment process; rather, they must be implemented without meddling.
 Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), Global Peace Index 2023, <https://www.visionofhumanity.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/GPI-2023-Web.pdf> accessed 8 November 2023.
 Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index 2022(CPI), <https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi/2022/index/som> accessed 8 November 2023.