I am impressed by the double talk of Somali political and cultural elites vis-a-vis the political, cultural and to a certain degree the economic system in Somalia/Somaliland and clannism. A second phenomenon that has become part of the political and cultural elite’s vocabulary in Somalia/Somaliland is “the international community”. The international community has become a “new clan” in the political discourse in Somaliland/Somalia.
These two phenomena have become intertwined in Somaliland/Somalia, political dynamics and strategy among the different political entities in Somaliland/Somalia. Everybody and the different nascent democratic institutions in Somalia/Somaliland emphasizes that “Clannism” and the international community directly or indirectly are the obstacle and the root source of bad governance and instability. In addition, both these factors caused the collapse of the Somali States, the civil war etc. However despite these insights, Somaliland/Somalia political and cultural elites in their actions and strategies use clannism and the international community to attain power to achieve political power. For instance, in Somaliland, clannism is the very fabric that hold together Somaliland political parties, its formation, leadership and it base. No doubt in Somaliland the different parties are a combination of different clans, but the sense of ownership of the party is often clear to the common man. This is not a recipe for nation building, equality and justice which is a corner stone for a democratic institutions and society.
In Somalia, federalism is similarly based on the clan division (geographically). Puntland political elite is dominated by a specific clan, and the same is Galmudug etc. The formation of the parliament, the upper house and its politics is a struggle about the future rulers of Somalia- it is a struggle between the Hawiye and the Darod, each of these two clans are attempting to shape the parliament and the upper house in order to become the dominant clan in Somali politics. It is not based on economic viability of the “different states” within the federal state. Thus, the political struggle is not a struggle of ideas or ideology, but a struggle between the political elites to ascend to power through clan lines. The political struggle is also an economic struggle. In Africa, but also in all developing political power means and often translated to economic well-being.
In the Somali political dynamics the international community has become a “new clan”. It is used by the different political actors to strengthen their position in relation to other clans. In this chess game the international community is a willing or unwilling actor drawn into the Somali clan politics. It ends up shoring a particular clan- a case in point is the current struggle between Galmudug and Puntland and the involvement of Americans. The question I ask myself and I think the political elite in Somalia/Somaliland should ask themselves: Is the role of the international community (as a mediator or mediating “clan”) in Somali local politics a calculated move by the international community to support the dominance of a particular clan in Somalia? If that is the case what does it mean and bode for the future of Somalia/Somaliland? Furthermore is the international community a homogeneous monolithic with a common interest? I doubt it. For the Somali political elite (clans) alliance with the international community is a strategy is to ascend to power. In this strategy, the interest of the people is subordinated to the personal interest- the personal moreover is equated to clan interest. I strongly believe in Somalia/Somaliland coming into power is not to bring change and welfare to the ordinary Somali but to accrue wealth for personal benefit.
The consensus among Somalis including the elites is that “clannism” and the international community are the major factors that negatively impact on the stability of Somalia and Somaliland. This then begs the questions: Why are the elites consciously using both as a stepping stone to power? Why do these elite lack the moral strength and back bone to deal with these issues head on instead of whining about it. Furthermore why is the international community maintaining and sustaining corrupt leaders if they are serious about the stability of Somalia/Somaliland. On the other hand, the maintenance of corrupt leaders is a strategy for the international community to exploit the natural resources of the country by getting lucrative deals in exchange for political support. These and many other question needs to be addressed if the political elites in Somalia and Somaliland and the international community are serious about the process of reconstructing the Somali State. In addition, the Somali/Somaliland political elites and the international community must address the elephant in the rum- the question of Somaliland. To do this, the political elites in Somalia and Somaliland have to think outside the box as evident in the developments in Somaliland whereby different political opportunist pop up and cause instability in relatively peaceful Somaliland.
Dr. Ali Osman, Stockholm. Sweden