Somalia:The Jurisprudence of Tribalism

Elections, Somalia

Often I shy way from participating or commenting on political matters concerning my land of origin, partly due to my lack of contextual knowledge, and partly because it is illogical to partake in something fundamentally flawed in relation to one’s principles.

This fault is the reason why my previous A-political stance has altered, and also due to my unwavering belief that we are each capable of becoming catalysts of positive change so long as it is truly desired.

Since the civil war ended in Somalia, subsequent governments have all based the administrational structures of the country on the clan quota system. This tribal established structure known as the 4.5 formula, which empowers the four main clans namely Darood, Digil, Hawiye and Mirifle while grouping the rest of the country’s inhabitants as the others (0.5), is what I consider illogical.

Traditionally in Africa such systems have been used to unify different ethnic groups who found themselves forced into the legacy of colonial borders. In the case of Somalia, a country that is dominated by one ethnic people, I question why it is the only perceivable solution?

Even those who argue that this form of governance is needed to ensure equality amongst the warring factions, have no response when the question of numbers is posed. A country that has had no credible population census or more appropriately clan member survey cannot have any foundations in egalitarianism, if we are to go by the figures.

This is the same logic that states, when there is a Hawiye president there must be a Darood premier and visa versa. Clearly this is far from a united country and this perceived federal state is being forced through to legalise tribalism.

Add the major fact that the 4.5 system did nothing to clarify the small matter of how power is shared or to what degree would the federal states contribute financially towards the national treasury, shows how little everything else seems compared to securing tribal interests.

The international donor’s lucidity and backing of 4.5 regardless of the serious inequality implications is also a cause for concern. The polarisation of the Somali peoples and politics is now a stable part of global commentary on rebuilding of failed states.

Supporting of this system by the international community is far from the principles of democracy, as it will undoubtedly marginalise members of the society, therefore this encouragement is not due to the lack of understanding of the country’s political nature.

Rather one can argue that the foreign input is purely to fester the receptive atmosphere required for the implementation of capitalist ideals. After all its just another hungry but resource rich African country, there is no harm in disguising it as imported instrumental democracy.

The logic is simple and I believe majority of Somalis fully understand the conflict between tribalism and natural law, even if they may deny its existence, if it so suits their clan. The two cannot co-exist in the same sphere; tribalism transcends all justice so long as it is outside ones clan. While natural justice repudiates all wrongs along the lines of morality regardless of clan, class, race or religion.

Let me further explain, when a person is killed by another person, natural justice would entail that the perpetrator of the crime be bought before the authorities and that the law takes its course. Under the Somali understanding of tribal jurisprudence, which is seemingly innate, it is completely wrong for a clan member to hand over his kin to the authorities for any crime let alone murder.

Believe me when I say, the “clan” has refrained from asking me to contribute towards blood money as I am always looking to make a citizens arrest, irrespective of the relationship. Now if we were to apply this maintained insanity to the governance context of Somalia, how would justice or natural law pertain? Furthermore how is this outright discriminatory system the only viable governance option for the founding of new Somalia?

The foundations of anything worthwhile must be strong and must satisfy the requirements of all vested interests, leaving no room for prejudice. I don’t agree with my peers or elders who say that the 4.5 systems is a bitter pill to swallow, and ingest it we shall. Either way there can be very little peace or prosperity derived from tribal jurisprudence.

By now you the reader must have queried the reasons for my complete disenfranchisement with the Somali political structure, let me further confuse you. I don’t come from the so-called 0.5; my clan because it is important for contextual purposes is that of the so-called 4.

I don’t agree with injustice, nor will I ever condone it, simply put Somalia needs much in reconciliation efforts and this system will not only push that goal further away, it will create pockets of clan based insecurities, Galmudug state will justify my hypothesis in the next few months.

For now we can ride the waves of euphoria, the country is healing gradually, and for once the politicians are talking without guns pointing at each other. Instead we are subjected to oversized suits and constant irrational political maneuvering, that I refer to as “logoyu” best I can translate “the action synonymous with wasting ones time”.

The process of questioning is truly how the human was created to evolve; tribalism has manifested our deepest animosity for decades yet we are legitimising it through our politics. My instinct is to fight it, as I see no good from such a primitive and unjust path.

If you happen to agree with my reasoning, I urge you not to remain silent and hope for the best, because the worst is yet to come. The choice is yours, a house of cards or a house of bricks and mortar, which would you prefer as your shelter.

Hamza Egal-