The Ways of the Somalis
By Ismail Warsame
To succeed in Somali Politics requires more than hard work and luck. Like in many communities in other parts of the world, name recognition would move someone to a fifty percent chance. The 2nd prerequisite is to have an extended clan and sub-clan links and relationships. Having such linkages across different clans would produce and move up to forty percent. Only the remaining ten percent would come from the political skills of the candidate and his/her resources.
In Somali clan politics, you have to have or develop personal relationships and political alliances with key personalities from the five major clan system of Darood, Hawiye, Dir, Digil & Mirifle and coalition of the so-called the “fifth Clan” consisting of amalgamation of many minority clans put together for clan power sharing purpose and thus ensuring minorities have their political rights protected to prevent tyranny of majority clans. Tentacles of Somali clan politics go deeper into these alliances through marriage, kinship and associations with key figures of clans. There is a Somali saying that advises father-to-be that the best help he could give to his future son is to weigh his choice in marrying son’s future mother
To prove that one’s success in Somali clan politics critically depends on such relationships, let us take of account of the rating of past and present political leaders of Somalia.
Start with current Federal President of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo. He hails from Darood sub-clan of Mareexan. He is related to former leader of Somalia, Siyaad Barre securing name recognition by association. His wife is from Hawiye sub-clan of Murursade. His mother is from Darood sub-clan of Dhulbahante. Although Farmaajo came from humble family, he has a name recognition in his affinity with Siyaad Barre and has alliances through marriage and by birth.
Take Aden Abdulle Osman (Aden Cadde), the first President of Somalia. He was from Hawiye sub-clan of Udaajeen, married to a wife of prominent Darood sub-clan of Majeerteen. The story goes to every successful Politician of Somalia.
Variations in Alliances by Marriage and Birth
They are known to be totally consumed by their own sub-clan rivalry and have no time and consideration for someone else. Alliance with them by marriage doesn’t amount much to support an ambitious politician from non-Isaxaaq clans. In addition, any politician would burn out himself financially before he is able to get started.
Dhulbahante a Sub-Clan of Darood. Marriage, kinship, and birth relationships amount nothing to Dhulbahante, unless you are already a strongman from other Darood sub-clans. They have no history of their own self-government, and are all unlikely to support any seemingly weak hopeful politician from other sub-clans. However, they could be dangerous too to hurt the chances of a promising and potential candidate. On the top, they have a unique problem of the blunders and plunders among themselves during the Derwish Movement of the 19th century that have not been settled yet for reconciliation.
Digile & Mirifle
They are the most suitable group of Somali sub-clan system that adopts a politician/candidate by birth or marriage.
Only Mahamud Suleyman is worth speaking here in terms of numerical superiority, potential support and higher quality of support and available resources.
Habar-Gidir/Sacad is worth mentioning here as they are known historically to support a politician related to them by marriage or birth.
Based on the experience of the author, this essay isn’t ignoring the rest of Somalis, whose descriptions fall into negligible portion of this story.
Check out the new popular books by the same author at: