Thursday, August 16, 2018
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Clan Politics in Somalia: Genesis Misuse and Way forward

By Ahmed Hassen

 Do not ask me about my tribe
I am not only a tribe
Ask me about my profession
I am not only a tribe’’ Sahra Koshin

Somalia is at a crossroads, and heading towards complete disintegration and the risk of being wiped out of the map of the world by two major forces: clannish politicians whose interest is to fill their bellies and pseudo elders on one hand; and the external forces including countries near and far that manipulate the head and heartless clan politicians and prevent honest politicians and nationalist from accessing power by any means in the other hand. This unholy influence of the duo has so far managed to perpetuate the clan political system and keep the country in perpetual chaos. Efforts by few leaders to bring the country out of this unfortunate situation failed miserably. Hence, it’s high time for all Somalis to pull out themselves from the abyss they are in or they will be finished in this heartless world. This paper attempts to understand the underlying issue and thus suggest options to address the challenge. But first how did we end up here?

How we got here?

Traditional meeting under a tree (photo credit- sayfsm)

Clan identity was a belligerent idea, turned into reality in 1991, a fateful year; when the Siad Barre government was ousted from power. This brought a grim reality to many, especially those living in and around major towns of the country. Within few days, individuals lost not only their property and the lives of their dear ones but also other identities that characterized them as rational human beings – (Humanity); left with only lifesaving identity – the clan.

As a result, relocation from major cities and towns to areas where one’s ancestors came from became mandatory, as protection of the individual by his/her community swiftly became the norm. This in any way does not mean that division along clan lines started following the collapse of the then government. But, the collapse of the government exposed years of sectarianism along clan lines among Somali communities. This assertion might strike us to ask one important question the reader to ponder over as they read this article: could the collapse of the government be the result of its politicization of clan (i.e. taking it out of context and made it a tool of injustice)?

This time, it was different. A new order emerged as the weak gave in to the whims of the powerful. Savage killings and other untold atrocities were perpetrated. Even those who were traditionally spared from the spear (Biri Ma Geydo), ceased to benefit from old existing norms as the cultural norms melt-down in front of their eyes. Clan identity stood out among the other identities that characterized the individual and it became a blessing and at the same time a curse showing its two faces; like a gun which you use to protect yourself but also to kill others. A blessing because it provides security, social safety net, and sense of belonging; a curse also as you might be gunned down for the crimes you have not committed and where your only crime is belonging to the wrong clan. (This paradox of clannism never ceased to amaze me and thus we shall return to the concept shortly to see if we can benefit from it).

Read more: Clan Politics in Somalia- Genesis Misuse and Way forward

Ahmed Hassen

Mr. Hassen is a development worker with over a decade experience working in East and the Horn of Africa. He can be reached at:

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