Somaliland:Somaliland presidential election through a clan ‘Lens’

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(Somalilandsun) – “Analyzing the clan factor in Somaliland politics is true that clan neglects other important dynamics in the crisis; nevertheless, clan political discourse still animates the politics of Somaliland. Clan rivalry—even if it is a result of a false consciousness—is part of ‘tradition’ in Somali society in general, particularly oral tradition.

The discourse of clan is well preserved in oral poetry and genealogical memory, and is readily activated when need be” (Lewis, 1961).

One of the foremost academic experts on the history, culture and politics of Somaliland, I. M. Lewis, in his seminal work characterized pastoral, Somali society as “…democratic to the point of anarchy…” .
It is generally assumed that presidential campaigns are behind the political tensions in Somaliland, and this will possibly magnify the attitudinal meaning of the campaigns, indeed, it is believable that the key principle lies under clan structure; however, it is obvious that the clan interests may be behind the campaign of the interest group. Party leaders and their kinsmen along with some other clans are the major driving forces of the presidential election movements.

There have appeared various analyses, by Somalis and non-Somalis alike, of the causes and effects of this crisis and the likely impact it will have on Somaliland’s future. These include descriptive summaries of events with personal opinions tacked on as conclusions, e.g. Markus Hoehne’s treatise entitled “The current election crisis in Somaliland: outcome of a failed ‘experiment’?”. By contrast, the report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), “Somaliland: A Way out of the Electoral Crisis” is a good example of a well-researched, scholarly analysis.

The first two terms that needs to be defined is’ Democracy and Clan’, and how this are inter-related, since this concept lies at the very heart of the issue under discussion. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines democracy as “a: government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections”.

The important point to note here is the phrase “…usually involving periodically held free elections…” Free elections are not, in and of themselves, a necessary pre-condition for a democratic system of government, although they usually comprise an important element of such a system.Indeed, the sociopolitical structure of traditional Somali, pastoral society is extremely democratic, yet there are no elections in this structure and no provision for any electoral process.

Historically, Somali clannish politics became the public preoccupation of Siyad Barre’s military ‘revolutionary’ regime that overthrew the civilian administration in October 1969. However, it is also widely recognized, although it wasn’t publicly pronounced and manipulated that the clan politics through presidential campaign has dramatically shown how clans became ally and support to the political parties.

Analyzing the clan factor in Somaliland politics is true that clan neglects other important dynamics in the crisis; nevertheless, clan political discourse still animates the politics of Somaliland. Clan rivalry—even if it is a result of a false consciousness—is part of ‘tradition’ in Somali society in general, particularly oral tradition. The discourse of clan is well preserved in oral poetry and genealogical memory, and is readily activated when need be. As one recent author has put it, clans or genealogical descent groups, are ‘not only good to fight with (or play politics or do business with), but good to think with’ (Lewis: 1961).

Many Somalilanders are in confusion, they have in their minds and asking many questions that have not answered yet. What will happen next? Will the presidential election be fair? will Somaliland go back to civil war and clan clashes? How long could the ‘Guurti’ lead the nation and save the country? Should the president leave the office if he lost the election, and allow this country and these people to resume their natural progression toward democracy and continued stability? Will the people be happy to a new administration or will it end into blood shed and misery?

Written by Mohamed Guudle
June 2010
Republished

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