Daily Archives: May 12, 2019

Somalia’s State-Building Paradox.


Somalia’s State-Building Paradox

Somalia’s State-Building Paradox – Lerew, 2017 (click to download pdf)

Student Name: Samiya Lerew

Date: 15th May 2017

Professor Name: Antoine Bousquet

Methodology: Empirical & Theoretical Framework

Subject: Somalia, Conflict Resolution, State-Building and New Wars



Somalia’s State-Building Paradox



From 2012, Somalia has changed names from Federal Transitional Republic to Federal republic of Somalia with neither multilateral acceptance of the system by the regional stakeholders nor prior education to the public on what constitutes a federal system and what the stakes are for people, individually as well as regionally. On the other hand, in the absence of a clear understanding of what federalism means and how to apply it, particularly in a period of high levels of clan-based hostilities, mistrust, lack of an effective central authority, poor political and economic governance, to handle federalism to function in such a context as in Somalia symbolizes one of the massive paradoxes that hinder state building.

Another hindrance to state building in Somalia is marginalization and politics of subordination, subjugation and otherness. Marginalization of the minority clans in Somalia, although concrete and reliable demographical evidence is lacking, arises due to the strong-arm politics held by the dominant clans and their representation in the political system of Somalia. The government of Somalia has little accountability, which will be examined. The aim of this study is to examine the paradoxical nature of Somalia’s conflict resolution and state-building measures. The sponsors of state-building in Somalia through the United Nations have not fully understood (or have wilfully ignored) the intricate details and complexities of Somalia’s cultures. The United Nations (UN) office for Somalia is based in the green zones of Mogadishu near the airports, which geographically represents its detachment from the core of Somali society and the country’s burning issues. This study will highlight in depth the international reluctance and passivity to the culture of violent culture has resulted in the ongoing feud and conflict that have been plaguing Somalia for over a quarter of a century. It will also discuss on how war-economy contributes to corruption in state bureaucracy as well as in the humanitarian aid system in Somalia.

While a new president has been appointed recently, his new prime minister has assembled a cabinet that is symbolic of the paradoxical nature of clan appeasement and a disguise of western style of ‘democracy’ which does not respond to the cultural and traditional modes of leadership as known in the country. These factors are, and always will be, incompatible since no administration has adopted a viable leadership system that can make the two conflicting leadership systems (the traditional and the western) compatible with each other. Based on the argument of the inconsistencies between the Somali traditional clan system of leadership and that of an alien style of democracy hastily and uncritically copied from the west, this study will examine several factors as creating the paradoxes in the Somali peace-building system.

First, the study will discuss how the entire world, including the UN, was misled into the mythical ideology of Somalia as a homogeneous nation of one Arab origin, same culture, one language and one religion and the impact of these factors from the perspective of clan supremacy and state-building. Second, the study will be examine how the primitive clan system in Somalia thwarts modern state building, which requires oversight, justice and accountability; ideals which the clan system rejects. Third, attention will be drawn on an examination of the effect of pastoral nomadic clans and their claim to Arabness as a strategy to seek ethnic superiority and therefore to degrade other ethnicities so as to access state leadership; the 4.5 power sharing framework is hinged on this ideology of clan supremacy.  Fourth, this work in writing will additionally examine the manner in which the clan system consumes the state institutional structure yet the democratic system makes a requirement of legislature that has been democratically elected and the function of the rule of law in providing protection for citizens’ rights as equal and based on the democratic order. Fifth, the study will compare the United States of America’s style of democracy to state building based on the Somali clan system and failure of the international community’s need to apply realism to the hubris clannish men. Finally, the nature of war economy and how it perpetuates instability and durable disorder will be examined.

Background to the Study


Lindley (2009) reports that the area of Somali territories “covers a large part of the Horn of Africa, reaching into present day Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti” (p.6). Somalia’s republic is reported to have been divided into three sections (Lindley, 2009). The Somali region in the north west or the breakway Republic of Somaliland was established in the early 1990s and has been more peaceful than the southern part of the country for the most part since the late 1990s. However, it is characterized by “large-scale refugee repatriation, and host people seeking refuge form the southern Somali regions and the Somali region of Ethiopia, and labor migrants from elsewhere in the Horn of Africa and further afield” (Lindley, 2009, p.6). Puntland in the northeast was established in the late 1990s and has remained stable for the most part although some reconstruction that is post-conflict has been occurring with return migration limited as well as people who were displaced from Ethiopia’s region of Somalis and the south-central area of Somalia (Lindley, 2009, p.6). Stated to be a useful point of major transit for those seeking to travel to Yemen and forward is that of Bosasso port (Lindley, 2009, p.6) which contributes to the attraction of immigrants whose purpose is to cross the sea boundary of Somalia. The work of Elmi (2016) entitled “Developing an Inclusive Citizenship in Somalia: Challenges and Opportunities” states that in the world today, citizenship is “linked to the modern nation-state system” (p.6). Citizenship can be defined as “how an individual in a polity relates to other individuals and the state in which he or she is a member” (Elmi, 2016, p.6). According to Elmi (2016) the colonists created in an arbitrary manner the nation-states in contemporary Africa with boundaries that were artificial in nature and resulting in these “imperial boundaries” separating ethnically related social groups and additionally binding them in with another (p.7).

One of the most problematic legacies of colonialism is that in many of the countries in Africa there are those and most specifically leaders in the political arena that use ‘autochthony’ to access leadership position or retain it for long on the premise that they (their clan members) were the first in the area and that others were not qualified to enter into competition in the political arena since their parents were either born elsewhere or came later those claiming autochthony (Elmi, 2016). The work of Upsall (2014) refers to the Fund for Peace Failed States Index to highlight that the state of Somalia “has been the number one failed state in the world since 2008” (p.1). Primary to gaining an understanding of the politics in the society of Somalia is that of kinship and the associated social contract since “the Somalis are dependent on their kinship lineage for security and protection, responsibilities, duties, rights and liabilities” (Gundel, 2009, p.7). Kinship in Somalis is upon the basis of the patrilineal lineage and is commonly understood by the term ‘clan’ (Gundel, 2009). The traditional Somali structure is comprised of three primary elements including: (1) social structure which is the traditional structure of the clan; (2) laws that are customary ‘xeer’; and (3) the authorities that are traditionally known as “juridico-political structure” (Gundel, 2009, p.7).The Somalis who pursue a nomadic pastoral culture as a mode of living have the system of the clan as the primary factor in their social life; however, there are several forms including: (1) family; (2) clan; (3) sub-clan; (4) primary lineage; and (5) mag-paying group with variations in the size of divisions (Gundel, 2009). The clans may be comprised of up to twenty generations and are reported to “act as a corporate political unit, and do tend to have some territorial exclusiveness” (Gundel, 2009, p.8). However, the clan is lacking in a government or administrative centralization (Gundel, 2009) yet the ‘clan-family’ is reported to be the “upper limit of clanship” (Gundel, 2009, p.8). A report published by the World Bank Group states that almost all conflicts that are armed in Somalia are those breaking out “along clan lines” (p.15). It is additionally reported that the identities of clans are malleable in nature and can be “shaped by leaders to pursue control of resources and power” (World Bank Group, 2005, p.15). In addition, there is belief that, while the identities of the clans do not form the “basis for conflict” but instead, their deliberate manipulation results in the creation and exacerbation of divisions (World Bank Group, 2005) that contribute massively to the disagreements and confrontations prevalent in the country’s leadership and system of governance. These facts about the clan institution notwithstanding, the clan groups are such that they may be manipulated to “serve as destructive or constructive forces as well as tradition conflict moderators” (World Bank Group, 2005, p.15). Menkaus (2016) reports that the armed groups in Somalia which have been going strong since the early 1990s have thrived due to the fact that these groups “provide at least some degree of protection and other services to their constituent groups. Efforts to arrest or marginalize some of the more noxious leaders of these armed groups” have resulted in rallying and protesting since the militia leaders are very adept in manipulating the identity of clans to their own advantage (p.7). Menkaus (2016) additionally notes that the strength that endures on the part of the non-state actors in Somalia when “combined with the chronic weakness of the formal Somali state, has resulted in a central government that can only claim nominal jurisdiction over territory if and when it has negotiated access with the local actors controlling that terrain” (p.7).

The geographical location of Somalia and conflict in the political realm between those actors who are internal and external has resulted in competing agendas with each attempting to secure its own interests. Despite the attempts made towards peace and reconciliation, there is great complexity in identifying a common approach to Somalia’s conflict (Harper, 2012). Resulting from the lack of state government in the country, another major global concern has been the fact that many terrorist organizations are finding a safe haven in Somalia (U.S. State Department, nd).

State-Building in Somalia


Menkaus (2003) states that conventional wisdom in relation to the crisis in Somalia is inclusive of several explanations including the fact that diplomacy external to Somalia has been either uniformed or extremely misinformed in an ongoing manner and that efforts at mediation have been incompetent in nature. Additionally, Menkaus (2003) holds that leaders in Somalia have been stubborn and refusing to reach any compromise while states external to Somalia including Ethiopia have continued to perpetuate the collapse of state and the continuation of war towards their own ends and interests in the country. Menkaus further notes specifically that “collective fear of the re-emergence of a predatory state structure undermines public support for peace building process; and that the powerful centrifugal force of Somali clannism works against coalitions and central authority, making quests to rebuild a Western-style central state a fool’s errand” (2003, p.1).

Menkaus (2009) also reports that by the time Ethiopia’s military occupied Somalia for two years in the early part of 2009, Somalia was changing its course and that there was some optimism. Since the military forces of Ethiopia had withdrawn, the Transitional Federal Government in its new form had in effect brought about a political environment in which radicalism could be defused and a government that was more moderate in nature could be constructed in an atmosphere that the Somalis would support. It was also in 2009 when Barak Obama became president of the United States and it was held that there was a reason for optimism for Somalis who were hoping that the leadership that was new would capitalize on these opportunities and bring about positive changes. The general hope stated was that leadership in Somalia that was new “would quickly seize on these opportunities, first by forming a cabinet that reached out to a wide range of constituencies via a process of consultation with important civic, clan and business militia commanders” (Menkaus, 2009, p.10).

Menkaus (2015) describes what he refers to as the ‘wicked problem’ in state building and states specifically that the term means “governing authorities who have neither the will nor the capacity to govern” which “invites capacity-building interventions that are destined to fail” (p.1). Within the ‘wicked problem’ of state-building Menkaus states that the “Political elites who have vested interests in actually perpetuating conditions of durable disorder and state failure or interest” results in a negative outcome. They are only interested in receiving checks but not in making it actually succeed” (2015, p.1).

United Nations and Somalia


The work of Phillips (2005) describes Somalia as being a case that is unique in that the involvement of the United Nations was not post-conflict but instead began “in 1992 at the height of the ongoing civil war” (p.517). The United Nation’s operation was not able to render an end to the conflict and withdrew its program in 1995 from Somalia (Phillips, 2005). The United Nations became involved in Somalia due to the threat it presented to security in the entire region of Africa. In 1992 the President of the Security Council was informed by Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar that he had the intention for restoring peace and that the League of Arab States along with the OAU and OIC held this favorably (Phillips, 2005). In 1992, a United Nations team of officials traveled to Somalia for the purpose of working on political reconciliation so that the country could gain international aid access. Although that visit did not result in a cease-fire agreement, the support for the UN working toward reconciliation nationally was unanimous (Phillips, 2005). Phillips (2005, p.526) declares that the UN Security Council has put “Somalia on its agenda” in January of 1992.

Despite outlining the Somali issue in its agenda, the work of DeCuttry (2013) reports that over the past two decades the relations between Somalia and the United Nations has been problematic. UNOSOM is reported to be in charge of providing Federal government assistance in Somalia relating to the coordination of support by donors internationally as well as providing assistance to Somalia’s security sector including maritime security; in addition to “working with bilateral and multilateral partners, and in full respect of the sovereignty of Somalia” (p.58). However, an additional component of the mandate of UNSOM is related to delivery of assistance in the Federal Government’s capacity building in the promotion of human rights and specifically those who are the most vulnerable in Somalia (DeCuttry, 2013). UNOSOM is additionally charged with investigating, monitoring and reporting to the Council in regard to violations or abuses of human rights in the area of international humanitarian law that occurs in Somalia. This important task was to be accomplished by deploying observers of human rights (DeCuttry, 2013) in the country in order to compile solid and realistic reports based on the situation on the ground. Complicating the human rights activities is the fact that individuals and operations with humanitarian aid are not allowed to enter into some of the rural areas in Somalia which Al Shabaab presently controls although certain community elders have been able to go to certain places such as Baidoa to get the aid (DeCuttry, 2013). In some cases, the humanitarian aid agencies were able to conduct “post-distribution monitoring activities to ensure that aid was not diverted”; however, this was not always the case (DeCuttry, 2013, p.72). Clan activity and power is effectively making humanitarian aid in Somalia difficult to deliver and even more difficult in monitoring and ascertaining that the aid reaches those who are most in need of it. Despite these problems of accessibility and lack of monitoring, coordination and lack of accountability n good governance, the United Nations reported on the 17th of March 2017 that it had approved a budget in the amount of $22 million for the purpose of boosting work in the agricultural industry so that famine is prevented in Somalia (UN News Centre, 2017).

Somalia’s New President


Farole (2017) reports that Somalia has a new president, specifically one who was a “former prime minister,” namely, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmajo) (p.1). This occurred in what was a smooth transition and in fact only one of two such power transfers since 1960 (Farole, 2017). The election of new president Mohamed Farmaajo occurred in an indirect manner in which the parliament instead of citizens of Somalia elected him (Farole, 2017). The main reason for the indirect election is suggested to be the central government’s concern, along with international community’s, regarding “the terrorist group al-Shabaab” which has been in control of large areas in Somalia for the past decade (Farole, 2017, p.1). Additionally, Farole (2017) suggests the challenge that the new president of Somalia will face in filling the seat in parliament since in 2012 this process relied on what is known as “a 4.5 formula – a power-sharing agreement among Somalia’s dominant clans” (p.1), but which many scholars, analysts and human rights activists have seen as a form of apartheid (Eno and Eno 2009; Samatar 2007). This formula works through the allocation of one of the four available seats to each primary Somali clan and only ½ of a seat to clans that are classified as minority in Somalia (Farole, 2017). The election of the new president was accomplished by large clan elders totalling 135 members chosen by the administration that was leaving for formation of delegates using the 4.5 formula (Farole, 2017). It is reported that the Somali provisional constitution sets out electoral colleges totalling 275 which is comprised of 51 delegates that are chosen by the clan elders (135 total) and the 14,025 delegates electing “275 Lower House” parliament members (Farole, 2017, p.1). There are problems with the use of clan quota since the institutionalization of the clan system of Somalia risks clan loyalties being further deepened during the elections likely to result in “rigid ethnic voting in future elections based on universal suffrage” (Farole, 2017, p.1). The quota that is clan-based puts the minority clans in Somalia at a serious disadvantage since the clans who are minority have been marginalized historically, speaking in terms of the political process (Farole, 2017).

The parliament is designed to be bicameral with the primary objectives of advancing reconciliation on a national level, institution of measures against corruption, and reforms to the security and socio-economic sectors (Musau, 2013). However, there has never been a “cross-board, social, economic and political institutions” in Somali (Musau, 2013, p.15). Musau reports that in 2012 the United Nations ‘Assistance Mission for Somalia’ set a mandate inclusive of making provision of advice on policy to AMISOM and the SFG specially in the areas of state building and peace-building related to “governance, security sector reform and rule of law” however, this has not yet been realized in Somalia (Musau, 2013, p.15). There are indications that among the factors slowing down the process of state-building is “the absence of domestic political institutions coupled with no capacity to support comprehensive transitional justice processes and how these would relate with the clans” (Musau, 2013, p.15). According to Odowa (2013) failure of educated political leadership in Somali has been characterized by the attempts of the leaders and other prominent local actor to, Musau stated “exploit clan politics to assert themselves over the illiterate” towards their own ambitions politically, personally, and economically (p.22). The ongoing misuse of the structure of clans and their dynamics on the part of leaders locally is what has contributed to the divisiveness of the Somalis according to the clan loyalty tightly knotted to the system. This means that it is problematic in understanding the conflict in Somali and the role of clanism and clan-based politics that characterizes the Somali situation (Odowa, 2013). In addition, there is a need to understand the traditional legal system in Somalia or that of the ‘xeer’ also reported to be paradoxical in that “it has provided the benefit of a social safety net and means of support and protection for members, while simultaneously creating poisonous and at times violent relationships within communities and the wider society” (Odowa, 2013, p.22). According to Jibrell (2013), parliamentarian selection is done by the leaders of clans and since clan leaders are not provided money by the institutions, these individuals “are generally opportunistic and ask for a high price when the time comes for their services to be used” (p.27). That is why the endorsement of the cabinet raises stakes since it is done by those parliament members who see the need for their approval of the cabinet as an unprecedented opportunity for individual income before voting for the endorsement (Jibrell, 2013).

Humanitarian Aid Issues in Somalia


Gonnelli (2013) writes that the government which is imported in nature to Somalia while having the best intentions of those who are elite and in rule in Somalia and which was hoped to be used in overcoming the issues in Somalia in fact “proved de facto instrumental to sowing the seeds of discord and destruction” since these were “deluded by supposed clan supremacy and mobilized along kinship and loyalty lines” (p.9). Menkaus (2016) reports an investigation that stated the conclusion that “the combination of political economy drivers and deep-rooted socio-cultural practices of non-state security provision constitutes a ‘perfect storm’ in Somalia, reinforcing the role of non-state security provides and working against a quick assertion of state monopoly on the legitimate use of force inside the country’s borders” (p.8). The efforts that come external to Somalia in attempting to provide strength to the state’s formal sector of security and to work in weakening the providers of security that are non-state are in reality “swimming against powerful currents” (Menkaus, 2016, p.8).

Gonelli (2013) reports in relation to the humanitarian issues in Somalia, the United Nations and its missions which are integrated in nature and that are set out for implementation in Somalia may be such that they “compromise the principled aid in blurring lines of political and humanitarian action” (2013, p.9). Jibrell (2013) notes that humanitarian aid monies do not make their way down to the lower ends of clan power and specifically to those who are “makeshift foot soldiers who are young, naïve and from pastoral environments” (p.26). Menkaus (2016) reports that the realization has been in relation to humanitarian aid funds that there is a “growing culture of protection fees and other financial injections from humanitarian organizations [which has] resulted in humanitarian assistance becoming increasing embedded in the political economy of violence (p.14). Hammond (2012) reports on the misuse of humanitarian aid funds that this can be explained according to the view that clans in Somalia have of these funds. Stated specifically by Hammond (2012) is “The long-established rules about clan ownership and protection which oblige people to respect the property of a clan or pay restitution typically are not as binding on money provided from foreign sources. There is, therefore, a level of impunity that means that businesspeople may not feel compelled to be as responsible with funds from international sources as they would be with money provided by Somalis, particularly those with whom they have clan ties” (p.11). While clanism involves an atmosphere of complete trust among members and members who are male willing to die for their clan, there are abuses of this trust as well as manipulation “by organized and politically ambitious men.”  This results in the young soldiers’ confusion and disorientation as well as ending up in the streets in uniforms of the military and as vulnerable agents utilized by the system or anyone who can afford to pay them for security purposes (Jibrell, 2013, p.26). These ‘security forces’ are generally “high on the stimulant kaat/mira” and are often under-nourished; they have eyes that are wide, and their “hunger and disillusionment” are suppressed by consuming drugs resulting in their death due to disease (Jibrell, 2013, p.26).

Clans in Somalia


Musau (2013) accounts that Somali clans can be defined as being “culturally a consensual identity inherited from patriarchal ancestors and clannism, as a political ideology” and as such one that makes the determination of all matters in Somalia including those of distribution of resources, power, territorial expansion and promotion to influential positions (p.13). Musau confirms the statement of Gonnelli that the import of the West has resulting in the divide between clans being further enhanced and their tactics on rule further integrated into Somali politics with the argument that states that “whoever can claim to represent a clan in Somalia would have the right to claim some local power and the resources that go with it” (2013, p.13). This is not just Musau’s recent observation but a description given about the Somali society by colonial writers who are considered as the pioneers of Somali studies. However, according to Musau, the largest challenge in Somalia is that of finding a balance between the interests of clans and the political power resource which requires condemnation of the present “clan-based political formula currently being framed for the federal political system” (2013, p.13). In the best-case scenario, the clan system can be considered as an institution that “works for the society-providing the required social security welfare system, and protecting the society members in all aspects” (Musau, 2013, p.14). Aside from that positive view point, there is adequate evidence that the clan system in the worst-case scenario results in destructive situations such as bloodshed, conflict, masculine control of the society and xenophobia among the various groups of clans (Musau, 2013). Furthermore, the identity of clans works in exerting influence over politics and therefore not necessarily always the root of conflict; but instead “a compelling mobilization instrument with any local political actor using this to garner their support” (Musau, 2013, p.14). Political and economic power in Somalia rests in the hands of clans. Institutions such as banks and courts are the objects of desire for clan power, never to be surrendered to the state or the people. It simply ‘ought to be’, according to them, that they own said institutions (Musau, 2013). Support of the UN for the two clans of Darod and Hawiye has resulted in the other clans rallying around these two but at the same time bitterly resenting them for the UN’s bias in favouring certain clans at the disadvantage of others; hence the UN being observed and actually blamed itself as violator of the rights of certain groups at the appeasement of others. Because the support the UN built around them, these two primary clans are sought after for support by other clans not so seen and not equally accommodated by the UN. Therefore, the less powerful clans “rally around these two for state power and control” (Musau, 2013, p.15), which in many cases becomes a reason for corruption, mal-governance, and sabotage of crucial peace building and reconciliation projects needed for bringing the different clans together. The clan in rule or the one the head of state hails from, the Hawiye, has several clans that are sub-clans to it, same as the Darod clan does. The Majertenm sub-clan of the Darod are those in control of Puntland and Habargidir sub-clan are in control of Gal-Mudug region. These two rival clans share habitat as well as kinship. (Lerew, 2017). It is reported that these two sub-clans are alone in control of the entire northern area of Somalia since these two sub-clans fought over this supremacy and was granted the same providing them with a regional state of their own resulting in the application of the nickname ‘clan federalism’ (Lerew, 2017). The minority clans who represent a larger population than these two sub-clans combined are marginalized in every way and relegated to refugee camps referred to by Somali intellects as ‘contemporary concentration camps’ (Lerew, 2017). Individuals are kept in these refugee camps in terrible conditions where sanitation is extremely poor and in what is a systematic slow genocide (Lerew, 2017).

Social Stratification in Somalia


Kusow and Eno (2015) recently produced an award-winning report on social stratification and inequalities in which they “examine the institutional and personal ways in which Somali Bantu and Somali outcaste individuals (Gabooye, Midgaan, Tumaal, and Yibir) articulate the kind of discrimination and social exclusion imposed on them” by the dominant four groups in the country (p. 418).    Kusow and Eno state that the social structure of Somalia is such that, among others, it recognizes three groups of minorities including: (1) Bantu Jareer; (2) Banadari Reer Hamar; and (3) occupational caste groups (2015). The Somali Bantu Jareer and the occupational/cultural caste population represent “the largest and most socially othered groups” (p. 413). Although the latter are very similar to the dominant clans with the only difference being that of clan affiliation, the Somali Bantu are otherized due to their African origin (Kusow and Eno, 2015, p. 413; Lerew, 2017)). Kusow and Eno further comment that dominant Somali clans employ various narratives of which “the Somali formula narrative provides the master frame through which the nature of social stratification and inequality is produced and maintained (2015, p.415). Dominant Somali groups utilize Islam’s religious identity and descendency of Arabness as an ethnic identity in the construction of “the process of othering and boundary making” and that in relation to the occupational caste groups “the Islamic identity of the ancestor was used as a strategy to impose otherness on those who allegedly insisted on retaining their pre-Islamic identities and values.” This has resulted in the outcast groups being removed from the Somalianess boundary and thereby forcing them into the status of the outcast (Kusow and Eno, 2015, p.415). Stated otherwise, the society of the Somali people is divided into two groups in regard to status; those who are the offspring of the original immigrant ancestor and hold that they are the “true or noble Somalis,” and those who are not related to the Arab ancestor but trace their origin to African ancestry or held indigenous faith other than Islam (Kusow and Eno, 2015, p.415). Kusow and Eno report that the varying boundaries which are symbolic in nature and create the otherness are such that they “have been institutionalized at the constitutional/political level” (Kusow and Eno, p. 417).


Somali clannism to individuals who are not Somalis can be quite confusing as well as complex (Lerew, 2017). The majority of countries in Africa have a great many tribes that live in harmony with other tribes in towns and villages with no identity confusion occurring. As reported by Lerew (2017), an example is that of the Zulu tribes comprised completely by Zulus with the same being true for the tribe of the Kikuyu in that these two tribes “do not divide themselves into numerous clans and sub clans. Everything is so clear cut, one could almost colour code them” (p.1). It is very different in Somalia since, as stated by Lerew (2017)

“clan ‘A’ could suddenly split themselves into number of sub clans, e.g. clan A1 or A2. These sub-clans could be in disagreement with clan ‘B’, despite the fact there had been a prior agreement between the original clan ‘A’ and clan ‘B’” (Lerew, 2017, p.1).

The entire clan’s culture is that of the Pastoral-Somalis described as nomads and wanderers who seek grazing land perpetually living in constant state of nature (Lerew, 2017). Menkaus (2016) reports that the “pastoralists or agro-pastoralists” live in a “content of statelessness. The key unit around which communities organized, self-identified and sought protection, access to key resources (land and water) and access to customary law was segmentary lineage of clan” (p.9). In the context of the pastoralist clans the control of the territory on the part of the clan is critical for group survival and for this reason territory is highly guarded (Menkaus, 2016). When the pastoral clans are in distress and desire to relocate into the territory of another clan, it is possible for them to accomplish this through “being adopted into the lineage, a process known as ‘shegard’ (Menkaus, 2016, p.9). However, doing so resulted in their relegation to a low-status standing in the clan but did install them as members that were real to the lineage and provided them with some level of protection along with resource access (Menkaus, 2016).

At the time of the collapse of Somalia’s central government during 1991 the capital of Mogadishu was overtaken by the pastoral clans who came heavily armed with no willingness for adapting to the Weberian western formulated states with the same kind of institutions and would only do so if it benefitted them (Lerew, 2017). This resulted in the sub-clans viewing such institutions as being “a point of exploitation and the result is that the attempts of the United Nations for institutional establishment was faced with clans vying for ownership of ministries as individual or clan property because a report suggests that “Clan-institutions, clan-federalism and clan lead security armies are shifting loyalty from one sub-clan into another sub-clan all of whom are competing resources, turning vital institutions into unworkable bodies  (Lerew, 2017, p.1). The clans stand to make a great deal of money from humanitarian aid funds and resources and because of this, this has become “a central objective of both the political and business communities. It also becomes a tactic of war” (Hammond, 2012, p.11). It is reported that al Shabaab and the TFG are noted to have diverted resources gained from humanitarian aid in order to draw individuals to areas where they hold control as well as in preventing individuals from attempting to gain assistance in areas that are not within their control (Hammond, 2012). Hammond (2012) states that “all of these uses and abuses of aid resources make it even more difficult to disentangle international political and humanitarian engagements and political and humanitarian space” (p.11).

Lerew (2017) reports that one clan owns the ministry of education while another clan holds power over the minister of Foreign Affairs and another clan holds office of Mayoral of Mogadishu with these being only a few examples (Lerew, 2017). Clans view institutions of the state as prizes to be won and a method for benefitting their own clans (Lerew, 2017).  The problem in Somalia with the clan system is that clans have a method of dividing their larger clan into smaller clans and then demanding to participate in parliament in order to gain numerical size and use it later for own benefit. Lerew (2017) provides an excellent example in nature using a metaphor of Starling birds to explain the methods being used in the Somali clan system to gain control over more and more institutions and positions as follows:

“When observing a flock of Starling birds flying together in one direction, it can be seen that they may suddenly change direction as a unit. They may rapidly divide their unit and subdivide themselves and subsequently re-unite again, all of a sudden. Watching these birds in fascination, one can tell how futile it is to draw a particular pattern in which the birds fly. Similarly, Somali clannism follows in a similar changeable and unpredictable fashion. This constant shape-shifting and ever more difficult clan fiefdoms deprive the numerous but marginalised groups such as Somali Bantu, coastal ethnic groups, societies and communities from Somali-sedentary groups ever becoming part of the political structure in a meaningful way” (Lerew, 2017, p.1).

Lerew (2017) states that the clans of Somalia can be divided into two specific groups and those being the ‘nomadic’ and ‘sedentary’ groups and notes the myth that “Somalis are homogenous” is one that is quite often repeated (p.1).

Life of the Somali pastoral clans is rough and hard with daily struggles; always on the move, seeking where it has rained to find land to graze their herds and instances of their livestock being stolen which results frequent fights to regain the property (Lerew, 2017). Much of the clan fighting is in self-defence, as reported by Lerew, and that “State of war is ever present” which is due to the way that nomadic clans fight in settling disputes and proving that they deserve status or point-scoring, prize-winning and respect gaining pursuits (Lerew 2017, p.1). Superiority is important within the clan system since there is little more to take pride in. The nomadic clan habitats are in central Somalia expanding to the “north and north east of Somalia, their land is arid to semi-arid” (Lerew, 2017, p.1).

Compared to the pastorals in the north and central, the southern Somalis are sedentary and “divided into coastal dwellers, farmers, fishing, merchants and artisans” (Lerew, 2017, p.1). The genetics of the southern Somalis is mixed in nature due to the integration common in urban areas and urbanized life. The sedentary Somalis are peaceful people and earn a living from fishing, trading as well as farming with their identity being “defined on place of habitat” (Lerew, 2017, p.1) in many cases rather than clan affiliation. The following chart is included in Lerew’s work in writing.

Figure 1: Somali Sedentary Ethnic Groups and Somali Pastoral Clans

Somali Sedentary Ethnic Groups Somali Pastoral Clans
These groups are by and large heterogeneous and speak ‘May-May’ language, Banadiri dialect and four minor languages (Jiido, Bravani, Mshunguli and few other dialects). These groups are homogeneous and speak one language (Somali)—their culture is based on nomadic life, with attack and defense being their constant priority. Raiding others in order to rob their camels or defending one’s own is their core value.
Identity revolves around the place of birth (or place of ancestral birth or place of habitat). There is room for immigrants to integrate, hence they have an absorption capacity which their culture permits. Identity revolves on lineage and hinges on the pride of one’s descent; these groups are divided into clans. Though clan members may intermarry, they have patrilineage which is defined biologically. To become one of them, one has to be born into them—they have no absorption capacity.
Work is blessed, therefore hard work is a virtue. Pastoral based clans see work as for ‘the inferiors’. Being idle and orator is permitted amongst nobility.
These groups are farmers, fishers, traders, hide-curers and artisans. These groups are pastorals. However, over the last fifty years, they have had plenty of opportunities to migrate and settle in various parts of Somalia, as well as settle in western countries.  Their moto is ‘where one of us owns the rest of us defends’ (“one for all, all for one”)
Law; these groups have a rich culture and live among each other in harmony. Their laws are just and fair. Their assembly is called ‘GOGOL’, where the people gather to negotiate law and every ethnic group is represented. They have laws of farming, livestock, marriage, dowry, divorce, and also discuss border disputes and settlements. Law; these groups have something called ‘xeer’

Which favours the strong.

These groups are governed by reason. These clans are governed by emotion.
These groups practice restraint and respect the sanctity of life.  Most of them are humble and respect order. These groups have the tendencies to be arrogantly proud, to compromise is to admit defeat and no mercy is showed to the defeated.  Being vindictive and fanatical is virtue.
Geographically, Somali-sedentary groups live south parts of Somalia along the rivers starting from lower Hiiran to all the way down to Jubbaland. Geographically, Somali-pastorals live from Galgaduud (middle Somalia) all the way to the borders of Djibouti.


Source: Lerew (2017)

The division between the Somalis who are sedentary and those who are nomadic is important in demonstrating that the Somalis are not homogenous whatsoever as reported by colonial writers and so-called early generation Somali intellectuals who did not critically observe colonial as well as official state historiography. The United Nations and the international community have succumbed to this trap of Somali homogeneity, got stuck in it and rather than find an appropriate method to approach the matter. Rather, they keep sending a great deal of financial support for rebuilding Somalia although the local recipients of those funds do not care about the country as much as they care about their clans. Marginalization of the sedentary groups is exercised by the nomadic groups who desire colonialism with orientalism mindset and have enforced the 4.5 system (Lerew, 2017). In 1960 when independence was gained from the colonialists a great injustice ensued in that these two separate and distinct groups were integrated as one people and given the label of all being Somalis without any distinction whatsoever. However, over the last half a decade there are suggestions that a process of slow elimination of the sedentary groups of the country by the nomadic section of the society have been in progress. Stunned by the nature of the problem and the international community’s silence over the situation, Lerew reveals.

Missed opportunities


The clans in 2012 did not have any regional states characterised by a power base that was strong; and at that time President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud “was new to the office” and was given the chance to replace the PMs twice, enabling him to make use of the efforts at state building as a method for returning again to office. In addition, although he did not hold membership to diaspora groups he did in fact have ties with non-governmental organizations that were Nairobi-based. Furthermore, he had on his side an Addis Ababa “proxy The outcome is that Somalia will be on a trajectory characterised by conflict among clans that is ongoing and as stated in the work of (Lerew 2017). “The entire clan federalism using 4.5 is engineering a violent extremism and leaves room for insurgency” (p.1). In order to build peace, and viable state, the polarization as well as the marginalization of clans should be put to a quick end (Lerew, 2017). The 4.5 system is reported to be directly in violation to article 55 of the UN Charter that states as follows:

“With a view to the creation of conditions of stability and well-being which are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of people, the United Nations shall promote: higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development; solutions of international economic, social, health, and related problems; and international cultural and educational cooperation; and universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion” (UN Charter, Article 55).

The 4.5 system from all appearances is a UN sponsored system that condemns those who are half clan or 0.5 as compared to those clans held superior or 4.0 containing the primary four clans in Somalia (Lerew, 2017). In reality, the four largest clans are not really the largest in that the minority clans such as the Jareer Weyne and Somali vocational groups are more in number than when combining the Darod and Hawiye who are held as major clans and have gained this status through the system having been rigged to favor them (Lerew, 2017). The clan view of democracy is one intent on getting what they can get while it is possible to get it and then to “get away with it with impunity. No oversight. In Somalia one of the long list of casualties is Democracy itself” (Lerew, 2017, p.1).

In addition, the minority clans and their experience of injustice is such that results in many of them joining with groups that are extremists and being easy to be radicalised, however, the establishment of justice along with creations of jobs and provision of education would do much to address the despair that the minority clans in Somalia face in the present state of the system. Mogadishu increased its size from four to seventeen districts and is a bustling city for those who trade and work, despite that fact, the civil war that has been ongoing the city is still “robust and in line with other Sub Saharan countries in terms of its capacity and the facilities it can offer as a city” (Lerew, 2017, p.1). The problem at present is that with decentralization of authority, clans are claiming the city as their own and in a city that is presenting host to the parliament of the federal government along with many foreign embassies and the UNSOM and AMISON offices and all located in an area reported to be approximately “the size of New York central park” (Lerew, 2017, p.1). It is reported however, that “Mogadishu cannot be both the capital of the nation as well as power base for a clan” (Lerew, 2017, p.1). Lerew (2017) reports that there are two primary languages as well as two cultural identities in Somalia which is problematic for state-building (Lerew, 2017). Another hindrance to stat-building in Somalia is new wars.  Somalia has the whole marks of Mary Kaldor’s new wars. (Kaldor, 2013). Al-Shabaab, Al Qaida affiliated terrorist groups have made in recent years’ peace and stability a goal too far.

(Gridneff, 2017). Historically, al-Shabaab has profiled as a movement that rises above the system of the clans and that adheres to its following of Islam however, most recently, the group has had trouble keeping this falsehood under wraps (Gridneff, 2017). Gridneff (2017) reports the statement of associate professor, Hansen at the University of Life Science in Oslo that a contradiction exists in Shabaab and that is their playing the game of the clan but noting that this is necessary for survival in Somalia. The fight of al-Shabaab is reported to have become asymmetric in nature and because of this it is reported that this group began the embrasure of clans as centric to strategy and that al-Shabaab is manipulating the clans as well as providing support that is opportunistic taking advantage of the differences among the clans and their grievances in the political arena. It is reported that al-Shabaab calls the military units of the clans their helpers and announced in the latter part of 2016 that a “congress of clan leaders” had been established (Gridneff, 2017, p.1). Simultaneously, it is reported that al-Shabaab has taken part in overtly intimidating some of the clans and using violence and then negotiation in what is a cycle used to bring these clans into the fold of the jihadists (Gridneff, 2017, p.1). This is occurring in the already challenges environment to implementation of the electoral model in Somalia that is inclusive of buying of votes, fraud as well as intimidation (Gridneff, 2017). According to the report, international partners along with the United Nations have made accusations against the National Leadership Forum in Somalia “of having extended a blanket of amnesty for some of the most blatant irregularities witnessed during this electoral process (Gridneff, 2017, p.1). As well, Somalia’s leadership forum has been accused of “contravening the commitment to respect the rule of law” (Gridneff, 2017, p.1). Dheere in his interview made it clear that al-Shabaab was against constitutional rule and would be averse to the new government transitioning in Somalia as well as rejecting any potential peaceful compromise (Gridneff, 2017).

The work of Ainashe (2017) relates that every day there are people killed in Mogadishu as well as occurrences of suicide bombs, mortars, car bombings, other explosives that are improvised as well as assassinations. Over the last four years it is reported that in excess of 20 individuals who belonged to the federal parliament were killed in assassinations along with quite a few senior officials as well as government ministers (Ainashe, 2017). It is additionally related that al-Shabaab has become bold due to the AMISOM failure as well as the failures of the security forces in Somalia and has launched attacks that were deadly as well as being spectacular on the military barracks of AMISOM (Ainashe, 2017). It is reported that Michael Keating, Secretary-General special representative for the UN along with his team are hidden out at the airport and cannot leave at the time of this report in January and this in light of the 2 billion USD spent each year on Somalia’s security sector (Ainashe, 2017). Presently there are reported to be in excess of 22,000 AMISOM soldiers who have tanks as well as being in possession of heavy artillery located in Somalia and approximately 25,000 Somali National Army soldiers as well as approximately 12,000 police officers who are armed and approximately 3,000 NISA soldiers along with nearly 3,000 others that are Somali military and armed (Ainashe, 2017). Furthermore, it is reported that there are approximately 10,000 soldiers in Puntland and Jubbaland claims approximately 5,000 soldiers which means there are in excess of 70,000 armed military soldiers presently in Somalia (Ainashe, 2017). Despite this fact, Mogadishu which contains approximately 1 million “cannot be secured” (Ainashe, 2017). It is reported that AMISOM is requesting additional funds along with a request for 4,000 more soldiers along with helicopter gunships being requested (Ainashe, 2017). In contrast, it is reported that al-Shabaab has approximately only 7,000 fighters with many of them not being ready for battle (Ainashe, 2017). Ainashe states specifically: “A multi-national effort of over twenty years and billions of dollars spent on reconstituting the Somali security apparatus has achieved nothing thus far and the end result is a colossal failure and much needed resources wasted. Not to mention the loss of human life as a result. The basic blueprint and tools required for reconstructing a viable security system in Somalia are not there yet” (p.1). Presently, no security architecture is present in Somalia, the national security is not coherent and neither is the defense strategy and while millions are spent paying Somali soldiers the question that remains is where are they and what is being done by them? (Ainashe, 2017). It is reported that “the international security partners seem confused, out of place and above all frustrated with their Somali partners” (Ainashe, 2017, p.1). The reality is that the military in Somalia is only in the books of the government as well as on their payrolls with payments being doled out but there is no existence of the training that is needed nor are the structured for control and command in place and there is no cohesion on the vision for Somalia upon which to base their fight (Ainashe, 2017).In addition, there is no presence of the equipment that the military needs and that is critical in nature however al-Shabaab is in possession of weapons such as machine guns, AK-47s, grenades that are rocket-propelled as well as mortars (Ainashe, 2017). The question set out in the work of Ainashe (2017) is one asking “why would a soldier risk his life if he does not understand the rationale and the objective of the war he is told to fight? Are Somali leaders and military commanders giving their soldiers a reason to fight?” (p.1). The problem that exists is that the majority of the soldiers for the military are “more sympathetic to the enemy they are told to fight than the government that sends them to battle and the international partners that pay their salaries” (Ainashe, 2017, p.1). In fact, it is reported that the military strategy of AMISOM is one that appears to “have evolved from a benign defense, which meant minimizing the damage the enemy could inflict upon them, to some kind of minimalist forward defense strategy which is, simply put, enlarging the distance between them and enemy. These strategies are yet to produce a decisive military victory over Al Shabaab” (Ainashe, 2017, p.1). While the mandate set for AMISOM is one inclusive of equipping and training the security forces in Somalia this aspect of the AMISOM mission has not been fulfilled (Ainashe, 2017).


Summary and Conclusion


The clan system in Somalia has served to divide the country and to present barriers to peace due to dominant clans holding themselves as being superior to minority clans. While the minority clans have large numbers of members the influence exerted over the minority clans is due to the dominant clans having more power in the 4.5 system meaning that the dominant clans have double the number of seats in parliament as well as holding positions of power and thereby having a larger voice than the minority clans. Making the situation even more tenuous is the influence of al-Shabaab in Somalia operating under the guise of Islam, the one true path, but in reality, manipulating clans and playing them one against the other where division already exists. Al-Shabaab is willing to launch attacks to ensure that democracy and constitutional authority is not implemented in Somalia and the fact is that until some cohesion and cooperation can be realized among the various clans in Somalia that there is simply no hope for establishment of a sound government structure. Power is sold and bought in the form of positions of leadership in Somalia as clans fight as to whose clan will be represented in these positions of power. The ultimate failure in this situation was the failure of the United Nations to properly analyze the situation in Somalia before entering into Somalia with peace-keeping missions and alongside other international actors as well as ANSOM, UNSOM and AMISOM. Had the United Nations understood the situation with the clans in Somalia and had they been provided with the correct information rather than being informed that the clans in Somalia were homogenous then millions of dollars could have been saved in what has been a failed process and one that across 20 years looks no brighter than it did when the initiative had begun. Al-Shabaab is making an already problematic situation much worse with their meddling which is the intent and focus of al-Shabaab as related in the statement of Dheere and reported in this study. The provision of education in Somalia is a cornerstone to bringing about change as is the clans being informed and coming to an understanding that they must work together rather than against one another if they are going to have a safe environment free of bombings, killings and assassinations on a daily basis. However, with the clans view that are centered on self and their clan and on getting what they can while the getting is good it is unlikely that the clans of Somalia will ever reach the point of collaboration with one another so institution of a democratic type of government in Somalia is going to require military force firstly against al-Shabaab and then against clans who are not willing to come together to work toward the common good of all people in Somalia. It is certain that the marginalized groups are vital for bringing peace and stability, after all the elite that ran the country from 1950 to 1988 were the marginalized groups especially the Beizanis. Furthermore, if the INT/COM wish to get out of the Somali quagmire they should bring the marginalized on-bard in a meaningful way.




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Posted by on May 12, 2019 in Somalia