Tribalism: Somalia and Somaliland’s political disease

By IndepthAfrica
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Dec 7th, 2012
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By: Allin Nuh

HARGEISA  – Looking back at Somalia in the 1960’s tribes was influential but no way near as influential as it is today. The big tribes, Hawiye and Darod, were always going for Presidency in Somalia simply because of their size and sheer dominance, not because what they can bring to Somalia and their political experience. It was once rumoured that when the British left Somaliland in 1960, they had advised Somali leaders to give important and decisive roles to the Muse Carre sub clan, who originate from the Isaaq Tribe. This was completely ignored by the ‘big tribes’ and they began to isolate the Isaaq tribe. Amongst other isolated tribes was the Gadabursi (Samaroon) tribe who were barely recognised by the rest of Somalia. With all this tribalism happening in the 1960s and onwards, separation and violence in tribalism was inevitable.

The Isaaq Tribe who originate from North Western Somalia, now known as Somaliland, are the third biggest tribe in Somalia. They settle in large urban areas like Hargeisa, Burco and Berbera. They worked very closely with the British Colonists in the 1920-60’s to make a better and more peaceful Somaliland, which was eventually successful before joining alliance with the Somali Republic. The areas which they settled in was never recognised and developed by the Somali Government. Instead it was seen as an area that should be completely ignored because the Isaaq people live there. It only took the Isaaq people a few years to regret joining alliance with the Somali Republic because they never knew they were going to be isolated like this.

The Hawiye tribe, who have most of its people in Southern Somalia, are the second biggest tribe in Somalia. They settle in large urban areas like Kismayo, Mogadishu and Barawa. They have been the most dominant tribe in Somalia in the last 60-70 years and hold the most prestigious roles in the government today. Five of the last eleven presidents of Somalia have been from the Hawiye tribe, which demonstrates their authority within Somalia.

The Darod tribe, who reside from so many different parts of Somalia and even parts of Ethiopia, are the largest tribe in Somalia. They hold all of Ogedania (Eastern Ethiopia) which belong to the Darod clan, Ogaden. They also hold Puntland, an autonomous state in Somalia which is occupied by the Majerteen, Warsangeli and Dhulbahante clans. They occupy the biggest regions in Somalia, Sanaag, Sool, Mudug, Bari and parts of Cayn. The most recognised and probably the most hated man in Somalia, Siad Barre, comes from the Darod sub-clan, Marexaan.

If you look closely each and every single self independent state in Somalia is based on the most popular tribe and/or clan. Puntland for example, majority of its inhabitants are Darod who live North-East Somalia and do not have a good relationship with its neighbours, Somaliland, who is mainly Isaaq inhabited. Then you look at Somalia, which is mainly occupied by the Hawiye tribe.

The reason why Somaliland broke away from the rest of Somalia is completely understandable and unquestionable, but Puntland’s reason for claiming self-independence is utterly shambolic and this is why tribalism is becoming a cancer in Somalia. Not very long ago, people from the region of Awdal were looking to claim self-independence from Somaliland calling itself ‘Awdalland’. They consist of the Gadabursi tribe and believe they are being treated unfairly by Somaliland so they believe it’s clever and right to try and break away from a country that’s developing extremely fast. These moves by tribes needs to be identified and sorted out as soon as possible because this can have dramatic effects on Somaliland and Somalia very soon.

Somaliland broke away from the rest of war ravaged Somalia as early as the 1990s and started to get itself together and form a new country which is what its people wanted at the time and still want. Somaliland broke away from the rest of war-torn Somalia for many different reasons but the main one is how the people from that region were treated by past governments of Somalia. Siad Barre worked hard on ruining the lives of Isaaq people and killing them off, this has had a huge impact on Somalia today. One thing people cannot do is compare Somaliland’s self-independence to Puntland’s one. Somaliland’s reason to break-away is very deep and has emotionally detached reasons. Somaliland now uses Puntland as a buffer zone from Somalia.

From as early as the 19th century, tribalism existed in Somalia with the Dervish State, led by Muhammed Abdullah Hassan. He was known to many around the world as an iconic leader for Somali people and led them to fight off the British colonists. But the people of Somalia know that he was an extremely tribalist leader who only recruited people from his tribe and isolated the rest. This shambolic behaviour has been ignited again by the people of Somalia in the 21st century which really starts to raise attentiveness on how Somali’s are towards each other.

Tribalism has been an illness and disease that has lived in the Somali culture for more than a century, but what people from Somalia and Somaliland do not understand is that this nauseating culture in which we embrace is only killing our people and making us hate one another. All you have to do is look at Puntland and what Awdalland tried to do to see what decades of tribalism has done to Somali people, it’s quite literally separated all of Somalia. Now people within Somalia want to be self-independent because of their tribes and the numbers within which they have and this will lead to people claiming their tribal names over what they really are: SOMALI’S.

One way of killing off tribalism is Somaliland encouraging other tribes such as Hawiye to become politically involved in Somaliland’s government and help make decisions. If this happens then there will be a balance in Somaliland and maybe there might be a spread in different tribes occupying Somaliland. But at the moment, each tribe sit in their own ‘Country’ which will lead to future wars over boarder line controversies. Hopefully this catastrophic and cancerous culture will soon die and Somali people can live peacefully amongst each another. But in the mean time, all we see is tribalism going to a new level in the next decade or so.

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