In orthodox federal theory success of a federal experiment is predicated on the presence of trust among the federal partners, and, where that fails on occasion, a central Supreme or Constitutional Court which can adjudicate disputes among the partners. Conversely, the absence of these two elements makes the chances of success very slim if not impossible. However, in fragile countries where federalism remains the last option open to peace and stability, these two elements are most often absent. The question is then whether such countries (Somalia and Yemen) should abandon any attempt at a federal solution, falling back on a military solution to the conflict (Sri Lanka) or separation. It is argued that a new federal paradigm should be explored where a federal solution to fragile countries is not based on trust or even a supreme court. This question will be explored with reference to Somalia which since 2012 has been pursuing a federal solution to its ‘failed state’ problem.