The political conflict in Somalia is no longer characterised as a conflict between clans vying for the presidency. The conflict is over the form of government Somalia would adopt to be become a viable state again. There are many factors that contributed to this transformation. One of them is the international community’s renewed interest in and commitment to helping Somalis to end the ‘failed state’ status of their country. Another factor is the threat of transnational Islamist movements in Somalia. This essay argues that clan narratives form the undercurrent t of an intractable political conflict. What makes large-scale, inter-clan conflict less likely in many parts of South-central Somalia for now is  the presence of African Peacekeeping troops.

The former armed opposition fronts that brought to an end the military dictatorship in 1991 shared no post-dictatorship political goals. After successive attempts at reconciliation conferences, two transitional administrations were formed before the  current Somali Federal Government based , in theory, on  federalism, had come into existence in 2012.  Twenty two years after the overthrow of the military dictatorship in Somalia   the political class in Somalia are divided on not only how federalism would be applied but how power would be exercised at the centre as well.

The political conflict is centred on two forms of government – federalism and centralised unitary state, and one political goal, secession. The proponents of federalism have   in common with proponents of centralised unitary state the goal to  safeguard the political unity and  territorial integrity Somalia.

Unlike the 1990s political conflict the current political conflict is shaped by individual experiences of the three groups of supporters for federal Somalia, a centralised unitary state, and secession (Somaliland).

Somalis share the bitter experience of living under a military dictatorship and being let down by armed opposition movements that squandered the opportunity to put Somalia on the road to democracy again. Somaliland’s desire to secede from Somalia is partly based on the human rights violations against supporters of the former armed opposition outfit (Somali National Movement) and the destruction of northern towns by the former Somali Army after Somali National Movement (SNM) forces captured Burao (Burco)  and Hargeisa in May 1988.

There was contradiction in the manner the military dictatorship   had dealt with armed opposition groups. It viewed each opposition group as a political platform for one clan and yet the regime indiscriminately targeted clans whose political leaders formed opposition movements based outside Somalia. Arbitrary detention, torture and extra-judicial killing turned out to be measures that alienated clans and swelled the ranks of armed opposition groups. Since SNM was the   most organised opposition group to wage a war against the regime inside Somalia, clans and sub-clans in districts thought to be traditional supporters of SNM suffered at the hands of the government troops. More than 100,000 people sought refuge in Ethiopia in 1988. Those experiences form some of the core arguments of proponents of secession. Somaliland has held three two presidential elections and have political parties but the case for secession has weaknesses (see table 1.)

Proponents of federalism cite post-1991 massacres and dispossessing of thousands of people in Mogadishu for sharing clan affiliation with the late dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre. Puntland, the major proponent of federalism, was formed in 1998, “ as a choice between… secession  [ in the North]   and …civil war in the South.”[1] Fifteen years after the establishment of Puntand, the regional administration   created Transitional Puntland Electoral Commission (TPEC) ahead of local elections to be held in June.  Many people view the Puntland model as a recipe for clan-based regional administrations.

Supporters of a Somalia based on centralised unitary state hail from powerful clans traditionally associated with Mogadishu and  have not   experimented with  self-rule  in the form of a regional administration after state collapse.    Warlords ruled Mogadishu and neighbouring regions for fifteen years until the Union of Islamic Courts defeated the Alliance for Counterterrorism formed by a group of warlords in an attempt to rebrand themselves to keep their grip on Mogadishu and nearby regions.


Supporters of centralised unitary state, federalism and secession live or control in 16 of Somalia’s 18 regions. Roughly 89% of Somalis are divided into three groups in disagreement over the political future of Somalia. In other words the three groups are three of the five major clans under the new power-sharing arrangement ( Hawiye, Dir and Darod). The other two clans are Digil iyo Mirifle and the Fifth clan (formerly  0.50 clan). This does not  mean Digil iyo Mirife and the Fifth Clan have no political aspirations. Mogadishu-based centralism proponents use seat of the government and associated advantages as an organising principle for centralised unitary state; Puntland and Somaliland  supporters use their self-rule achievements as organising principles  and bulwark against a centralism-based government. This makes federalism and secession proponents an alliance of convenience.



Table 1: Inter-clan struggle over Somalia’s political future

Form of government/political goal Support base Weaknesses 


Centralised unitary state Mogadishu ·         Concentrates  power at the centre·         Empowers  clans at the centre

·         Marginalises clans at the periphery

·         Susceptible to emergence of dictatorship

·         Ignores post-1991 bottom up administrations

Federalism Puntland ·         Entrenches interests of powerful clans·         Marginalises minority clans

·         Promotes clan identity at the expense of citizenship

Indepedence Somaliland ·         Lacks broad-based support  of all clans in ex-British Somaliland·         Misuses the principle of sovereignty and colonial borders as justifications for secession


In Understanding  the Somalia Conflagration , Professor Afyare  Elmi argues that  reestablishment of “the coercive capacity of the state” will lead to peace. Such an emphasis “will shift the agenda of the Somalia debate from organizing peace conferences to building the capacity of the state.”[2] For a country to function a strong a state is vital. The question is :  does the goal of ‘re-establishing the coercive capacity of the state’ come before  or  after helping Somalis to agree on a viable form of government for their country  as a part of  genuine political reconciliation?  Somalis have coined a verb: dowladee  meaning “ Of clans) to act like or pretend to be a government)”. It shows the extent to which Somalis are disillusioned with coercive power of the state and liken it to a property waiting to be looted. If , as Rothberg argued, the  raison d’être  of the  nation-state is to give, among other public political goods,  security of persons and property[3], the pre- and post-1991 Somali state has failed to deliver the goods.

Liban Ahmad





  1. The problem in Somalia is not that the people in Somalia cannot be reconcialed but it's more of the fact that their destany are being negotiated from all Somalis in every Somali teritory whilst those in the Somalia don't have the same luxury. Somalia needs to revert to its Italian colonial bounderies to find peace. It has to put down a mark tell those from all other teritories that the Italian Somaliland is what is suffering therefore, your presence only prolongs our suffering. Until they realise that, there will not be an end to their suffering.

    • I'm German and relatively new to the Somaliland/Somalia problem, I've been following it since 3-4 years, and there is one question I couldn't answer until today: why do the people of Italian-Somaliland/Somalia do not want to get back to the old borders? It's not like that there are all the resources in Somaliland, as Somalia also has oil reserves. So what is the driving force, when Somalia's people say, they want to keep the current borders?

      I'd be happy to see some opinions or explanations for this, since I have no clue. I don't take sides, I'm just interested!

      • @Rene

        why do the people of Italian-Somaliland/Somalia do not want to get back to the old borders?

        I will answer your question

        British Somaliland merged with Italian Somaliland on July 1, 1960 to form the Somali Republic freely all somalis from all corners of life voted freely without been forced.

        what happened in 1991 is entirely different story.
        In 1991 President Barre was overthrown by three opposing clans

        *Somali National Movement (SNM ) which was an Isaaq tribe they went on to create Somaliland Somali *Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) which was an Majerteen tribe which belongs to large tribe Darood they went on to create Puntland
        * And United Somali Congress (USC) which was Hawiya tribe but the USC split into sub clans led by General Aidid and Ali Mahdi Mahammad and fought in Mogadishu because they both wanted to become the President of Somalia just before they (USC) split they slaughtered the Darood clans from Mogadishu, they took their properties, raped their women's etc.

        Darood clans went back to their inhabited areas like Puntland, Jubaland etc.

        In 1998 the rebel group (SSDF) a Majerteen tribe of large Darood clan united with two other Darod clans Duulbaahaante clan and Warsangeli clan from British Somaliland.

        The Duulbaahaante and Warsangeli clan occupy and dominate large areas of Eastern part of the former British Somaliland Maakhir state and Khaatumo state.

        Puntland was created in 1998 to unite
        *the Darod clans of Majreteen, Duulbaahaante and Warsangeli
        *to protect the darood of being divided into parts of Somalia and Somaliland
        *to fight off the secessionist northwestern Somaliland region

        If somaliland is recognised then the Darood clan will be minority in both sect in Somaliland and Somalia where the majority will be the Isaaq clan from Somaliland and the Hawiya clan from Somaliland so Darood clan interest lies under united Darood in Somalia.

        Ps you need to understand that Somalis are clan based society people and everything goes through clan elders.

        please don't hesitate to ask me if you have any further questions .

        • Note Isaaq clan from Somaliland and the Hawiya clan from Somalia so Darood clan interest lies under united Darood in Somalia.

  2. we will see how tribalist Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is because Hassan Dahir Aweys, Awey kinsmen the morons Habargidir have requested clemency from Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

    Hassan Dahir Aweys must be prosecuted for his serial criminality under Al shabaab the bombings which occurred in bosaso, hargeisa the killings of millions of Somalia in Mogadishu and in the south since 2007 till now and the famine which led to the deaths of up to one million people.

    I have always supported a unified Somalia but If this Hassan Dahir Aweys isn't put to death, it just further demonstrates how our once great country has become a tribalist society.

    Hassan Dahir Aweys is a evil man and deserve to die.

    • You made Abdullahi Yusuf a President…

      Abdullahi Yusuf in 1978 soon after the Ethiopia wars attempted to commit treason against country and government.

      Aweys will retire on a nice beach in Qatar with a cool squash. You can go and visit him if you like.

  3. This self-appointed analyst can't differentiate between a dissolution of a union (albeit a dubious one) and a secession. Somaliland is not seceding from Somalia because Somaliland has never been a part of Somalia. Somaliland withdrew from a dodgy union with Somalia, period. Mr Liban Ahmed, if you can't comprehend this simple fact, then please go back to school and spare us your nonsensical gibberish.

    Remember, Mr Liban Ahmed, that Puntland is part and parcel of Somalia.

  4. Somalia-Italia is not in a position to solicit any form of union with any other state while it is fragmented into federal states that all have independent presidents. Somaliland is not going to cure the ailment of the people of somalia-Italia nor will continue to restrain it's capability when the Two-State dialogue process eventually fails.

    Neither of the Two states have the capacity to commit to a military war however it is more then likely each will go to any lengths to undermine the peace in the other state. Confrontation is the ultimate end state for the Two former Union partner states of Somaliland and Somalia that is a certainty. When the two state dialogue process was initiated those who promised unbiased support for the two states to establish their future relationship forget to mention that they exercise self interest motivated indirect intervention tactics.

    There can only be one winner…

    • @Buuxiye

      Listen Your days as a fugitive !!dooor has ended either you come down to the negotiation table or we tie a rope around your neck like a goat and drag your bare !!door ass on the ground mohahahahahahahahaha

      • PuntlandGeezer(PIS)
        HUH, you still wanted for the shoe you stole from the Yemeni Mosque and now you stole
        my Mohahahahahaha.Tuug, yuug dhalay iga dheh mohahahaha

      • Personally i would like to see majareerteen evacuated from Bari and Nugaal and evicted to jubaland.

        Warsangeli and Dhulbahante will happily share Bari and Nugaal while under Somaliland Trusteeship.

        Put on your best NIKE as your marathon to Afgooye is well over due!

  5. The vibrant hybrid multiparty centralized powers controlled by the Somaliland Capital
    Hargeisa is the best tested good Governance and IMO the SFG of Mogadiscio powers
    for roadmap strategies Signatories should emulate the success story of the type modalities
    of how the Somaliland conducts its Govt affairs.
    All other federalism humbug are full of troubling tribalist ordeals.

  6. With much dimished and extemely former somalia still tying to take over the Republic of Somaliland again, the final solution is an all out war of attrition between these faqash remanents who still did not know they will never get the capacity o take over somaliland. In that walweyn-caused war Somaliland will decisviely win, and soverignenlarged Republic of Somaliland controlling all the Dir-and allined lands will emerge. the new Repubic of Somaliland will be comrised of All the teritory of the Republic of Somaliland, and significant Dir-inhabited areas of the fomer Somali-Italiano. the war will mostly ikely happen with the next 2-5 years, and case closed. That will be the end of the former Somalia.