News / Africa

Survey Shows Somalis Have Mostly Shared Vision for Future

A fruit seller looks across as a Somali government soldier stands guard in Afgoye, west of the capital Mogadishu, in Somalia on June 7. A recent survey reveals widespread agreement on many key provisions of the draft constitution.A fruit seller looks across as a Somali government soldier stands guard in Afgoye, west of the capital Mogadishu, in Somalia on June 7. A recent survey reveals widespread agreement on many key provisions of the draft constitution.
A fruit seller looks across as a Somali government soldier stands guard in Afgoye, west of the capital Mogadishu, in Somalia on June 7. A recent survey reveals widespread agreement on many key provisions of the draft constitution.
A fruit seller looks across as a Somali government soldier stands guard in Afgoye, west of the capital Mogadishu, in Somalia on June 7. A recent survey reveals widespread agreement on many key provisions of the draft constitution.
Harun MarufMatthew Hilburn
A new Voice of America Somali Service survey reveals many Somalis share similar opinions on key issues regarding the draft constitution that is scheduled to become a provisional ruling document in July.
The survey was part of a larger program to engage Somalis around the world in a discussion of the kind of government they want after more than two decades of strife have decimated national institutions.

According to Jibril Mohamed, the head of the Somali-focused non-governmental organization, SomaliCAN, the survey  provided a much needed platform for Somalis to discuss issues and voice their concerns. Furthermore, it allowed the general population to interact with those drafting the constitution.

VOA's Somali Service, using open source software from Google Ideas, polled more than 3,000 Somalis over three months. It was conducted in three parts and polled Somalis around the country and in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.

Sharia Law

In a country torn by conflict over the past 20 years, the one thing Somalis surveyed agreed with most strongly was that “Sharia is the foundation of Somalia and should be applied as a civil and criminal code throughout Somalia.”

Eighty-seven percent of those surveyed agreed strongly, with another six percent agreeing. Support for Sharia was strong among men and women, across age groups and geographic location.
sharia law
According to Abdulwahid Qalinle, director of the Islamic Law & Human Rights Project at the University of Minnesota Law School, there are two drivers of this overwhelming support for Sharia Law.

“Since the collapse in 1991, Somalia has undergone major Islamization,” he said. “People have become much more religious, and that can be explained by the collapse of law and order. During the times of crisis people seek refuge in faith. Many people relied upon faith to go through the catastrophic difficulties of the last 20 years.”

Qalinle also said Islamic groups did a good job filling voids in social programs, particularly education, citing that many Islamic schools were opened over the past 20 years.

He said that religious movements have a free hand to propagate their message and that in Somalia today there is “no organized secular discourse.”

“There’s nothing countering the Islamic movement, which dominated the public discourse, education and public service over the past 20 years,” he said. “People of all ages are flocking to the mosque, and Islam is more active in the central lives of Somalis.”

The current government appears to support the opinions expressed in this provision. Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali told the VOA Somali Service that it is natural that people responded in this way saying, “We are 100 percent Muslims and we believe the new constitution should be Sharia compliant, not necessarily Sharia itself,” he said.

However, according to Abdirizak Omar Mohamed, editor of the Somali focused HiiraanOnline, there are some contradictions in the draft that still need further discussion and clarification. Specifically, the lack of provision providing for capital punishment and the acknowledgement that women should have a role in the political sphere do not mesh with the tenets of Sharia, he said.

Role of women

But contrary to what a strict reading of Sharia would say about the role of women in politics, most Somalis think women should be involved in the political process. According to the survey, 77 percent of women agree while only 58 percent of men do.

referendum That such a majority of Somalis surveyed believe in some role for women in politics is particularly noteworthy given that the survey interviewed roughly three times more men than women. The dominance of men, said Mohamed, is something to be expected in Somalia where the men tend to be more politically active.

In a recent interview with the Somali Service, Prime Minister Ali was very matter of fact in acknowledging the role of women. 

“What prevents them from becoming head of state? Women [make up more than 50 percent of the Somali population] and they deserve better treatment than we have been according to them in the last few years,” he said. “We believe they are a big component of the labor force of Somalia and they deserve to be part of all the branches of government. At the same time, there is nothing that denies them from becoming leaders. There are so many Muslim countries in the world where women have been leaders - Bangladesh, Pakistan," said Ali.

Mr. Ali’s sentiments were echoed by Maryam Qasim, leader of the progressive Tayo Party.

“For instance, that women can participate in all elected and appointed positions, I see that as a positive step,” she said. “Although a Somali woman even doesn’t want to be president at this time, but to state that they can become one is important.”

Still, over a third of those surveyed oppose any role for women in politics.

“It is something people are divided on,” added Qalinle, who pointed out that this question remains an ongoing debate in many Muslim countries.


In the survey, Somalis were in agreement about whether a person born outside Somalia to either a Somali mother or father should be considered citizens, with 78 percent agreeing or strongly agreeing.  But the older those surveyed were, the more support for broad citizenship eligibility declined.

There was more division about whether someone who has been a lawful resident for the past five years should be considered a citizen, with 61 percent of those surveyed disagreeing or strongly disagreeing.

In a recent interview with VOA’s Somali Service, Federal and Constitution Minister Abdirahman Hosh Jibril said the issue of citizenship was being deferred for now.

“Just like any country in the world, immigration and citizenship issues will be administered by the parliament through special legislation,” he said. “[Citizenship] is one of the issues that people were concerned about and complained about on VOA and other places … the constitution belongs to the Somali people, therefore we do not want to put forward an idea they don’t agree with.”


On July 10, 825 members selected from traditional elders, intellectual and civil society groups plan to adopt a provisional constitution. The vast majority of Somalis surveyed - 61 percent - said it should be approved through a national referendum, but security concerns and lack of logistical capacity make that impossible now.

Men between the ages of 35 and 44 had less support for a referendum, possibly because they are likely “unfamiliar with a constitutional process” and “unfamiliar with how the government works,” said Qalinle.
“They have grown in an era where the role of elders was central to Somali life,” he said.
What kind of government will emerge once a constitution is in place remains to be seen.  According to the survey, 83 percent supported a strong central government as opposed to 13 percent who wanted a weak central government.

However, there was discrepancy between those polled in Mogadishu, where 92 percent favored a strong central government compared to 77 percent in Puntland and 83 percent in Somaliland.

While there is strong support for a robust central government, the survey indicates many respondents would like to see it balanced with stronger regional government.

Half of those surveyed in Somaliland disagreed with the notion that regional states should be able to make their own constitutions. In Puntland, over 62 percent agreed with the idea. In Mogadishu, there was a nearly even split between those who agreed and those who disagreed.

While a lot remains to be determined, the draft constitution and the subsequent discussion sparked by the survey, has provided an initial framework for a country lacking basic civic structures for so long.

“The constitution-making process is not just about writing down articles by lawyers. It is a discussion and dialogue that, once agreed, turns into a social contract,” said Jibril. “The work on the constitution brought people and regions closer to each other.”

Data analysis by Dino Beslagic

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: runle from: usa
June 21, 2012 8:34 PM
no one will take you serious filtering people's responses.You show what you want just like this article.

by: gedi from: usa
June 21, 2012 4:50 PM
What a nonesense in putting somaliland as if they part of it.Every thing written by somali reflects his alliances in clan/fundamentalism/region.That's why most somalis won't take at heart.It's meant for foreigners who don't know better.
In Response

by: Samatar from: U.S.A
June 22, 2012 7:32 PM
Wait a minute mr gedi, it isn't nonsense that somaliland (North Somalia) is part of the story, Somaliland is part of Somalia and will be part of Somali Republic, no argument about and it's not in the topic whather it's or it isn't. This survey represents the views of the citizens of Somalia, from north to South, East to West. So history is known whether it's Somalis or forreigners, so read and research the facts before calling the article a nonsense.!

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs