by Abdul-Aziz Mohammed
Saturday, August 16, 2014
From the onset, no 2 Somali clans or sub clans had gone to war so far over the ongoing federalism system in Somalia. In fact, more and more Somalia regions are joining the Federalism scheme. People in their regions, as Al-Shabaab’s totalitarianism is removed, appear to be eager to come and decide together their own regional fate without severing a national link under federalism!
Mohamud M Uluso’s latest article, ‘Ugly Clan Federalism Sparks Fresh Turmoil,” is way off the mark on both the current situation on the ground in Somalia and historical governance character of the Somali people.
The formation of federal Member States (FMS) without legal and political consensus sparks fresh political and social turmoil in all regions of Somalia. It is unequivocally clear that the federal system based on clan ownership of territory has become major obstacle to national reconciliation, peacebuilding, and state building in Somalia. It polluted the notion of state, citizenship, and Islamic values and intensified clan rivalry and vanity within the Somali society everywhere.
To suggest the ongoing Somalia Federalism, all be it clan based, “polluted” a supposedly existent notion of state in Somali society is laughable. The undeniable truth is that a concept of “state or nation” is yet to be in Maryooleey minds. Citizenship? What citizenship, other than clan citizenship? Also, while we Somalis are generally firm in our belief in Islam, Islam also for the vast majority had been secondary to the undisputed force or current which permeates in Somali society, which is the clan system.
The three highlighted sentences above by Uluso, with which he had begun his article , exposes his elitism and how a lot of learned Somalis like him have become susceptible to Western mentality, which renders them grossly out of touch with their own society. Mr. Uluso, we are Somalis and we are to date based on clans single handedly. Hardly nothing else separates one Somali from another. What else should we base our federalism on? Remember, the goal is to replace the clan identity and territory with regional and national citizenry!
If at first I thought Uluso was after the [process] by which the formation of Federal Member States (FMS) the federal government in Mogadishu has not gone about, which should have been through legislation and by political consensus, the second sentence though smashed the [principle] of Somalia federalism based on clans. Pejoratively, he even calls it “Clan Federalism.” It reminds me of “Obama Care, “a term coined by the detractors of the Affordable Care Act legislation.
By the way, for your information, Somali clans own land in regions indirectly. While there is no clan corporation, which trades in real state, its individual members—owners of land and property in specific areas—collectively dominate areas. Thus the claim and recognition of clan ownership of prairies, regions and towns.
Federalism, if anything, is the only hope for the Somalis to once and for all exorcise their clan system demon, which has been and still is—since we declared the state of Somalia— a “nationhood killer.” It already almost destroyed Somalia. That said, it should be understood that the clan system in its intended environment and circumstance served the Somalis well—that is when they were nomadic people moving about in search of green pastures and water for their livestock. Our ancestral clan system deserves our utmost respect. We should put it in the right prospective as regrettably (although the best system for us at one point in our lives) a poison to our very existence since 1961! This is the 21st century, where globalization is happening, for Somali sakes! As an old relic, we should put it in a nice museum with kid gloves! But, the question is how do we Somalis replace the clan system?
There is one thing I am certain of, that without the full participation of clans in their habitats or regions in both regional and national decision making, Somalis will always cling to the clan identity and system. To change a system, there must be a different system with different rules to overtake and render the old system obsolete. For that to happen, clan members, including its Sultan, Garraad, Ugaas or Malaaq must participate. Bringing different clan elders to agree on a regional administration, even on a name for a region is part of this new exercise which will steer these people into the clear from the deep rooted forest of clan system.
Before this current federalism, Somali elders of different clans and subclans only came together on usual clan consequences of war and other grievances. The rest of the time, life went on, and Somali clans were like ships passing each other in dead night. Today, they are volunteering to come together on standing up an administration in their respective regions—that is an undeniable progress away from the old clan system. We should see that for what it is.
Uluso, remember that Somalia as a country cannot even handle the security of its capital at this point. We depend on the generosity of our African brothers and baby sister Djibouti. The fact that different Somali clans are coming together on their own and agreeing on the type and outfit of respective administrations actually restores my faith in my peoples’ human spirit! They are taking the initiative. Things or rules can be adjusted later. President Hassan Sheikh is correct on that. I hope some of these newly formed regions will even further surprise the world in going to the polls before 2016 elections! Why not?
Also, you must not be serious when you, Uluso, insinuated in your article that the rivalry between Somaliland and Puntland as one based on clan-based federalism. Rather, It is a unionist/separatist land jurisdiction based on colonial era borders and on a potentially oil rich area. You can throw that out of the window as yet another one of the supporting evidence by Uluso for clans at war because of clan federalism.
Nepotism, injustice, economic and financial mismanagement, rampant corruption, and abuse of political power, have caused the total collapse of the Somali State.
Yes, we Somalis did that with the clan system, which rejected an exclusionary one party, central system based in Mogadishu. Federalism, on the other hand, puts the onus on clans both for self-administration locally and full and fair participation in national governance. What better way to supplant the clan system, which is a respective individual, private subclan polity, than to force multiple clans or subclans of clans into a new system whereby they must work together in fairly sharing both responsibilities and rewards. That exercise changes the old traditional dynamics of polity from individual clans into group clans with one agreed name, be it Puntland, Somaliland, Jubaland or Southwest Sate, whatever! Even language and terms will slowly and surely change from clan perception to one of regional and then to national.
“No Somali citizen wants and deserves to be considered a minority in any part of Somalia.”
That sounds very noble, but far from the truth and reality of human existence, including us Somalis. After all, we even have a Somali term for it “laan gaab!” (small-branched) or a stub, compare that to the term for majority in Somali “laan dheere,” (long-branched). Being a minority is not an insult, if you are a minority. The insult and injustice are when the majority discriminates against a minority because of that. That is the “strong preying on the weak.” Strong and multi-layered local, state and federal anti-discrimination laws will be needed.
For the clans to transition into the citizenry which Uluso inspires to, this must be done in honest baby steps pointing away from the individual clan institution into a regional identity. There will be a misreading of federalism by some into a carte blanche for their majority clan to dominate and subjugate others. In time, the federal government should be able and willing to intervene and remedy that promptly!
By the same token, there could be some competitions between regions on whose region is fairer and more inclusive a community!
In conclusion, the problem of Somalis continues to be one of being frozen in the clan institution by default. There is no special love for the clan system by Somalis, I would strongly argue. The clan institution remains only because until now Somalis had not come up with a viable system to practically overthrow and replace the clan system. Personally, in time, I believe federalism will bulldoze the clan system! History tells that Somalis are capable and willing to change. When, for the first time, Allah’s word was brought to the Somalis, they trashed Waaq (as in Caabud Waaq) and his or its religion in favor of Allah and his Islam. We Somalis, I believe, are natural in embracing change—so long as the real McCoy (as the white man says) which will add to our prosperity and betterment is given to us.
It would seem that our great ancestors were very capable to define the societal rules and regulations in the most resourceful system for their times. First, they organized themselves by clans and its subclans; and then they invented and designed the clan rules or laws Xeer. Our immediate forefathers and mothers, however, had not a clue on how to adapt to their new reality of 1960 nationhood. The first 9 years from independence, we parroted Western Democracy, but it was the clan we believed in. The military regime, from 69-91, had done a lot to highlight Somali culture and language, but it was a personality based system—which invoked in other personalities, using the tried and tested clan system and neighbors, to overthrow it in the end. The clan system won again! Then, the disaster of all disasters we Somalis created for ourselves—anarchy in civil war for the last 23 years, from which we are still recovering. The clan system, misapplied to modern statehood, trashes the state every time!
I challenge Mr. Uluso, now that he identified the problem as he presented in his article, to spell out to all of us in his next article whether he believes in federalism or not; what form of federalism and what it should be based on, if not on clans? If not federalism at all, then what other system? Also, please elaborate what you meant by “without legal and political consensus”? Give us the load, frame by frame, on how you would have gone about making everything perfect before federalism was opened for business.