The Privatization of Tribalism in Somaliland (By: Mohamed Ilmi)


Somalis where ever regions they live are a long time victim of tribalism, a problem that is worse than everything else; – disease-calorie, poverty, drought, corruption, and unemployment, despite for the fact that they are homogenous who shared the same ethnic background, religion, language and culture, its yet to see a change “democratization process” from the political culture of camel to a fully democratic society.

Somaliland regained and declared its independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991, but remained unrecognized by the international community. The state has already experienced two decades of major shifts in its security situation, political system and economy with major improvements. These stabilities and progress stemmed from the Borama peace conference in 1993 which had a significant impact on the future of the country in terms of establishing framework for managing security, political structure, foundation of independent state, transfer of a power from militia to a civilian government and establishing multi-political parties which held its sixth rivalry elections on 13th November, 2017, hence, the problem of tribalism currently remained unsolved after 7 years of abuse of power with almost most of the politicians in the government involved in clan based politics-a threat to the nation’s hope and progress.

The term Privatization can refer to the act of transferring ownership of specified property or business operations from a government organization to a privately owned entity, as well as the transition of ownership from a publicly traded, or owned, company to a privately owned company, over the past 7 years, Somaliland people saw a similar incidents, a transfer of ownership from the government to a group of psychopathy-psychopaths are without conscience and incapable of empathy, guilt, or loyalty to anyone but themselves who wants to increase their wealth and income, these are said to have a  propensity to break rules and tread the extreme boundaries of acceptable behaviors, taking advantage of people who trust whom they serve.  This transfer of ownership to an in-group private clan networks (called Jeegaanta) with International NGO’s had a governance framework that was characterized by the systematic abuse of state power, a lack of transparency, accountability, the mismanagement of the public resources, the exclusion of people from participation in the governance process and the lack of public services.

However the problem can be traced back to the prior of the European colonialism, Somali society was stateless and were divided in to a sequence of clans and sub-clans, they were pastoralist, who shared land, pastures and water wells who competed and cooperated traditionally over access to these water and other pastoral sources, if one of the members of the clan’s camel was attacked and taken by another, it was and still is like that the whole clan’s camel was attacked, owing to the fact that this kinship system was a function of the environment from which Somalis pastoralist have derived and obtained a livelihood living, and which required cooperation between groups and individuals for survival.  Such mentality was correct and right in that environment, land, and have had many benefits in that context since there were no state and police to protect them, that kind of outlook/attitude is imported to the modern Somali politics, and now the government is related and associated with the pastoralist culture which is incompatible to go hand and hand, like the camel culture, clans are claiming their seats in the government and the ministries, if one talks about it, receives criticism from the clan of the minister who though that their camels were taken. The ministries and the president can be any one of the society, as a result of these, what has happened in the past years of Kulmiye administration in Somaliland was a networks of patronage and the creation of clandestine economic channels for personal gain, with this pastoralism culture application in the government, now created the wealthiest criminals (hundred men of millionaires) who got rich the illegal way. Prior to the Kulmiye Government and before the creation of Jeegaanta, the situation were better, but now the revival of these strong behaviors and loyalty has been experienced by the majority of Somaliland people, historically, the aim of HAGBAD was not to enrich another group, but was a simple mechanism since there were no savings and borrowings-financial institutions.

The latest presidential election of Somaliland was no different, it has had many challenges and irregularities though the result was accepted, and there are many lessons if not to be drawn on next elections will have a negative consequence on Somaliland democratization process and the peace resolutions.

The solution is to bring this pastoralist culture back to the countryside and start understanding the rule of law and the government system said by Gariye in his interview with RDT in Djibouti, I do strongly agree with him, either we should fully employ the pastoral culture or we should rethink and build nation-state based on ethics, good governance and democracy, there is nothing in between the two.

Will the current government proceed the same creation of injustice and illicit economic channels? Or will they take different route/direction, the choice is theirs.


Mohamed Ilmi,

Senior Consultant, Researcher, and Trainer.


[i] Gaariye Interview-RDT-Djibouti: Dhaqanka Soomaalida iyo dowladnimada

Somaliland Facing the challenges of free and fair elections by Social Research and Development Institute

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