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Somalia: What Is In a Clan Name?

By Abdullahi Dool
Friday, February 22, 2008


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Clan names are not a crime, but they belong to another era. The Somali nation has come a long way from the nomadic life in the open savannah. What defines our modern society are its nationhood and common identity. In the civil war era, there were no leaders to discourage division. The leadership of a nation is about promoting harmony, strengthening social cohesion and looking after all the people and their interests. To emerge out of the era of disintegration and dysfunction, one of the things we need to discourage is the use of clan names. The use of clan names is adding to the chaos. Clan names are a tool of disorder and division. Privately, everyone is entitled to talk about anything. Socially, people are free to use whatever they want which does not harm others.[1] But the official use of clan names in politics and in the media has to end. Clannism is a barrier to the nation’s aspiration to establish a better society. Anyone who promotes clannism and the division of our people is our enemy — not our friend. 


The clan-based system has in the past sown the seeds of its own demise. Along the many faces of clan malady, clan domination is the curse of Somali politics and governance. Clan domination has been a problem since the first administration in 1956. The quest to dominate the nation by clan is a major source of disharmony and conflict. It is the root of mistrust within the society. No clan should be allowed to dominate politics and governance in Somalia. The Somali people know too well the bankrupt and impoverished nature of clan domination. ‘CD’ is utilised by individuals who use the support of their clan (sub-clans) to stay in power. It is based on pampering a few members of the leader’s sub clan, while the rest of the nation is left to fend for itself. Clan domination takes place when members of a number of clans (sub-clans) forge alliance to stay in power. The aim of power is to deliver for the nation. Power should be sought to make a difference. What good can come if it is sought for the wrong reasons?


We love our people in the South. They are our brothers and sisters. The South has produced many individuals who have strived for independence and the progress of the Somali society. Adan Abdulle Osman, the first President of Somalia was from the South. He was a patriotic leader who pioneered the struggle for independence. Abdullahi Eisse, one of the pioneers of the struggle for independence was also from the South. He was the First Minister of the 1956 (Governo Somalo) administration in the South. Later in the early 1960s, he became the Foreign Minister of Somalia. We need all our people for the existence and progress of the nation. To move forward what is needed is to let go of the past no matter how difficult and unpalatable. If we truly feel so badly about the past we have to stop whinging and do something about it. We have to ensure the new nation we build is clean from the antics of the past. It is time to move on! If we did not rest the past, we will not move ahead and our nation may never have a better future.


The media is an educator. It is the eyes and ears of a nation. When it is doing its task, it can wield immense influence over society. One of the many tasks of the media is to demand better governance and fight evils. Clannism is no doubt evil. It is one of the evils which are holding the Somali nation back. The influence of the media is not by accident. Its influence stems from the fact that it is expected to be ahead of the public. That means the media can only educate and influence matters when it is ahead and not behind the public. For that reason, our media should put its acts together, if it is to influence and educate the public. A progressive government can uproot clannism from public life by putting in place mechanisms which will make clannism redundant and beyond use. Such mechanism should include a free press, an independent judiciary, watchdogs to oversee the conduct of equal opportunity, human rights and many more.


Discipline and a certain way are needed to achieve certain things. For instance, in Islam you cannot pray without meeting certain conditions. First one must cleanse one’s body, then take ablution and only then can one pray. The wisdom is: you cannot stand in front of your Creator and submit your prayers if you are not clean. The English also say: Cleanliness is next to Godliness. There are certain things which stand between our nation and its success. Clannism and clan names are pollutants of Somali politics and governance. If we are to succeed, there are choices we have to make so that politics and governance can work and deliver for the nation. Only when we ditch clannism and a host of other bad habits and practises will we achieve a just society where no-one can wrong no-one. People who do not know what they want will not get it. Those who do not know where to go will also not go places. It is not possible to promote clannism on one hand and at the same time achieve a better society. We need to be more serious than that! If we are to achieve the type of society which we deserve, it is time to let go of clannism!


State-building is a must for a nation in ruins such as Somalia. Unfortunately, state-builders do not come with CVs showing nations they have built just as company directors show lists of companies they have turned around. State-building is a first time task. It is also a one time job. It is not a job for hire. It is a burden shouldered out of a sense of duty and to build a nation. Those who embark have been prepared for the task. In 2009, what we need is to look for the type of leadership which can energise the nation and spearhead reconstruction and prosperity — not clan relatives who will heap misery and misrule Somalia. First there is a very important task (homework) we have to accomplish. We have to band! If we do not band together and soon, the window of opportunity will close. If we fail to act together, Somalia may cease to exist. Somalia may well become the first nation which lost its own sovereignty. Let us stop looking backwards. Let us look to the establishment of a better society built to last. That will not be easy. Let us take the first baby steps towards the realization of that worthy and necessary goal. 



1. Including clan relations.


Abdullahi Dool

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