In my previous article If or when dated on September 1, 2012) I asked the reader several questions about clan/clanism and the prevalent unwavering loyalty to it. The rationale was to generate introspectively frank discussion and a much needed public discourse that will lead to genuine reconciliation. To give you an overview of the divers’ reactions generated by the article, here are some of the feedbacks that I received from readers:
by Asha-Kin F. Duale
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
1. “Clan is an archaic institution that has offered practical form of identity and protection. It has its customary laws which have functioned for over centuries and have kept order within clans and their interactions with others. To date the Somali society failed to find an alternative to clan/clanism therefore it will be operational until ‘agreed’ societal changes are brought in.”
2. “In its pure form of ID there is nothing wrong with clan, it is mentioned in the holy Qur’an and opting out altogether may equate being tainted by alien ‘cultures’. However, in Islam practising clanism to gain power, discriminate against specific clan/s or hurt people because of their clan affiliation is anti-Islamic and evil.”
3. “Clanism and religion in Somalia have been manipulated by outsiders with the aim of dividing and strengthening their strategies in Somalia: they work against the establishment of an independent nationalist Somalia, with a stable central government working for the interests of the Somali people.”
4. “Clan should be institutionalized within the political system such as the Guurto (Upper Chamber). Each clan should have representatives at the decision table. If Somalia is left alone, they could establish a stable government based on clans.”
5. “Clan based socio-political system has been in few instances helpful in restructuring political representation in favour of some (minority) clans, however in the majority of cases has led to the domination of major clans over the others.”
6. “Citizenship is a fallacious identity that can fade away once resemblance of government fades away; while clan will be there in both war and peace time to protect its members.”
7. “Business crosses every boundary of clans/clanism and clannish mentality.”
Having judiciously studied and analysed the above feedback from readers, I realized that utilizing clan for the sole purpose of identity per se is a harmless issue. It is in fact a religiously condoned system of identity affirmation. And in a poor country where street addresses are practically non-existent, affirming someone’s identity based on location and clan affiliation is a necessity. Furthermore, the remittance and communication companies have flourished everywhere in the country because business enterprises are not constrained by clan boundaries or clan enclaves. Money is clan-less, and everyone seems to identify with it.
However, clan/clanism remains vigorously operational in all socio- political spheres and any attempt to flush it out is likely to prove an exercise in futility.
In the 21st century nowhere other Somalia does clan and clanism play prominent role in government and all public institutions. The highest offices such as those of the President, Prime Minister, Speaker and Members of the Parliament are all based on clan affiliation having used the clan formula of 4.5/5.0 formula . It is also expected that the restructuring the whole governmental apparatus and appointing higher public officers including Diplomats, Director Generals, Senior Military Officers and Judges the same formula will be the primary criterion.
The current condition of Somalia, as some would argue, is similar to a shattered glass and as such it would take a painstakingly arduous process to reassemble all the pieces together. However, focusing solely on clan representation and clan-based power distribution as the appropriate recovery processes may have the effects of repeating the cycle of self-inflicted destruction. Institutionalized clanism cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution to every aspect of the Somali conundrum and in particular to good governance.
Although, some would claim otherwise, the much proclaimed successes of Somaliland and Puntland have recently been showing signs of turmoil mainly emanating from disgruntled clan (s). The same grievances that the dominance clans within Somaliland and Puntland had against the past military regime and those clans who subsequently seized power when the military apparatus crumbled are now being expressed against them.
Establishing a clan-based system of governance may initially appear sustainable but it would inevitably show its ugly face as an unjust system that thrives on rights afforded to certain clans over others. Clanism destroys trust and the very thread that weaves the social fabric of a nation that is why under such system it is impossible that all clans be loyal to serve the greater good that sustains the unity of purpose which is the sine qua non condition for nationhood.
Simply put, clanism works against nationhood.
Furthermore, to assume that the true loyalty of a public servant, selected on clan basis, would be more to the nation than to his or her clan is to set oneself for painful disappointment. Claiming a sustainable balance of the dual responsibilities of serving simultaneously the clan and the nation is simply camouflaging disloyalty to the nation. The criteria for being a nationalist and the one for being a clanist are mutually exclusive.
Contrary to the nationalism, clanism requires demonstrated specific skills and high level competence in the following:
§ Sound ability to provide covert nepotism for one’s clan folks.
§ Profound skills in prioritizing clan’s interest over competing ones
§ Proven ability to act as an advocate for the interest of one’s clan enclave
§ Excellent communication skills of economizing the truth over strategies supporting one’s clan interest at the expense of the national unity
§ Proven ability of building constructive links and agreements with foreign partner/s that may not have the nation’s interest at heart.
§ Strong ability to keep an inventory of one’s clan grievances and inflated accounts of injustices committed by others while relentlessly denying all that his/her clan may have committed.
How then could a public servant who meets the above criteria diligently serve the best interest of the Somali people? How could they uphold the law of the land and promote the national interest of the state?
So we continue to shed crocodile tears for peace, justice, human dignity and social responsibility yet we fail to take full responsibility of our own intellectual dishonesty and hypocrisy; and that, needless to say, defies all logic.
So we look for changes with little vision, courage and determination. On the contrary, at this specific time of our existence, having led, participated, being victimized or having just witnessed our own tragedy we should ALL be driven by a powerful motivating force for changes.
Such changes require:
1. A robust Governmental policies—particularly in setting up anti-corruption and monitoring systems of recruiting competent public officers improving accountability, implementing whistle-blowing protection policy and protecting against abusive dispensation of public funds and resources.
2. Civic education needs to be introduced in the school curriculum at all levels as well as making available basic educational campaigns on citizenship rights and responsibilities at grass root levels
3. An independent institute for a national census should be established allowing Somali people to finally have “one man, one vote” system within the lifetime of this government
4. Independent and privately owned institutes for policy development should prioritize the discourse of clanism versus nationalism and revive the sense of Soomaalinimo.
“Blaming the wolf will not help the sheep. The sheep must learn not to fall into clutches of the wolf.” M Gandhi
Asha-Kin F. Duale
Human Rights Lawyer