Tribalism is a Social Problem (By: Khadar Da’ud Abdirahman)


Tribalism is a way of being or a set of attitudes that are based on being loyal to a tribe or other social group. It is the very first social system that human beings have lived in. Tribalism can also be said as the possession of a strong cultural or ethnic identity that separates a person as a member of one group from members of another group.

Tribalism in Somaliland has been a major stumbling block to democracy as well as socio-economic development. It affects every sphere of development, from social, economic, political to educational spheres. In political spheres, tribalism persists since it provides an avenue via which state goodies and favors trickle down from those in power to their tribesmen. Therefore, loyalty to a tribe is given ever greater relevance than loyalty to the country.

In every sector of development, tribalism has also been widespread. Employment has been tilted, with members of the certain community being given certain positions. Public institutions in Somaliland present a case where the members of staff are employed tribal. Effective performance of duty, therefore, becomes a big issue since tribalism affects work ethics. The ethical practice of the members of staff is called for in order to save the situation. The government has the mandate to apply the provisions of public officers’ ethical provisions owing to the very ills of tribalism.

Tribalism is responsible for a lot of ills in Somaliland including underdevelopment, corruption, rigging of elections and droughts. In terms of employment, people are given jobs based on tribe regardless of having low qualifications. Hence the inefficient use of available skills. Thus, the very rationale of being educated lacks meaning. Bad governance and lack of accountability have also been linked to tribalism as people do not question a government run by their tribesmen. Delivery of services is also hindered as the culture of impunity is also inculcated. Delivery of services in both public and private institution where tribalism is widespread is also highly affected by tribal affiliations and politics.

 Possible causes:

  • Bad leadership
  • Selfishness by serving personal interests instead of the needs of the people
  • Corruption
  • Contribution from our political leaders – careless words and incitement by politicians.
  • Strong ethnic divisions.
  • Polarized political issues.
  • Political manipulation.
  • Socio-economic disparities
  • Lack of economic opportunity.

Effects of tribalism:

  • Encourages hatred among people of different tribes.
  • Brings corruption.
  • Promotes selfishness.
  • Leads to discriminations against members of different tribes.
  • Contributes in slowing down the economy, since only people of the same tribe want to help each other as the rest suffer.
  • Creates conflicts among people and may end up being fatal if these conflicts get out of hand.
  • Encourages hypocrisy.
  • Undermines security.
  • Erodes prospects for development.
  • Contributes to social disintegration, and makes the resort to violence more likely and more deadly.

Possible solutions:

  • The political leaders should be at the forefront in admitting that tribalism is a problem and they should be giving people guidance on how to deal with it.
  • Our leaders both political and religious should be loyal to serve the society wholly without giving into the demands of tribalism. They should remain neutral at whatever cost.
  • Acknowledging that Allah created us equally and that there is no one superior to the other in His sight and so we should treat each other as equals.

So let us try at least to minimize it.

By: khadar Da’ud Abdirahman