Foreign Policy Blogs

Post-Transitional Political Fault Lines

Internally—where it matters the most—the overall status of a government is judged by how the average citizen perceives it. From that perspective, and due to a number of factors, in Somalia not much has changed in the past three decades since the military government went astray.

Still, the average Somali sees his/her government as the archetype of power abuse, the magnet of demagoguery, the personification of partisanship, the agents of disunity, the epitome of incompetence, the exploiters of resources, the executioners of injustice, the promoters of corruption, the purveyors of propaganda, the distorters and manipulators nationalism, of duty, of citizenship, and mutual interest!

Therefore, aside from reinforcing the ongoing security improvement and the reconciliation process, the post-transitional government must craft a viable strategy to change the said perception by reforming the function of the government and transforming the Somali society politically, socially, and economically.

Granted, transformation is not a random act! It is driven by vision; by specific viable goals and objectives articulated and implemented by transformational leaders who are willing to sacrifice their personal interests, their wealth, their reputations, and, when necessary, their lives. It is by no means an easy task nor is it one without any obstacles and threats. There are certain dangerous faults within the Somali political crust that cannot be ignored. Of course, some are more dangerous than others. Meanwhile, al-Shabaab is likely to remain in the periphery and wait for the right opportunity.

The Blinding Effect of Clan-Centrism: Though things have been getting better, it is no secret that clanism still remains the most vibrant ideology that fuels the Somali political machine. It is a vicious zero-sum game in which the individual or the group sees the others’ gain as a loss and vice versa. Regardless of how abundant resources are, others should always be kept at a disadvantaged or an inferior position. This cruel mentality that gained prominence in post-civil war Somalia is best described by this fable. Satan visits a villager in his home. The former says to the latter “I came to offer you a gift. Ask me anything good or bad and I shall give it to you on the condition that I will give your neighbor double of the same request.” Knowing his neighbor is from another clan, the villager thought for a second then leaned forward to Satan while saying, “Here, poke one of my eyes out gently, but make sure you poke out both eyes of my neighbor as painfully as you can.” In recent years, people with such mentalities have been carving and re-carving their own clan-based fiefdoms, thus setting the stage for perpetual zero-sum conflicts over power and resources.

Certain Self-Defeating Frame of Mind: If one’s action is determined by one’s interest and frame of mind, and if all political entities are made of assortments of individuals of mutual interests, the growing attitude in certain circles that the end of the transitional period (Aug 20, 2012) is “Xilligii kala guurka” or “Time to part-ways” ought to be a matter of concern. In a clearly coordinated effort to inculcate certain attitude of apathy toward nationhood and de-synthesize certain nationalistic sensitivities, the phrase became the motto of a number of politicians and media groups. Make no mistake, language matters, especially in politics.

Influence of External Predators: These are primarily front-line states such as Ethiopia and Kenya who may have certain security related concerns, whose political gaming intentions are thinly veiled. States who use their organized military machines, intelligence, and individual political hit men to manipulate the clan balance of power in certain regions to advance their own strategic or proxy geopolitical objectives.

Command and Control Challenge: While the Somali National Army (SNA) is being rebuilt with snail-pace urgency due to (among other things) lack or resources, friendly militia groups such Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’ah (ASWJ), the Ras Kamboni, Azania, and a few others exist and operate outside the official central command. Some of these militia groups are better equipped and more funded than the SNA.

Security or Private Contractors: The biggest problem is regulating their conduct or keeping these contractors in check, especially now that the international anti-mercenary laws are all but defunct. As it was proven in Sierra Leone and other parts of the world, these kinds of contractors operate with great impunity while they engage in various outlawed operations such as arms trafficking and serving as a proxy war machine in favor of one domestic contender or another.

U.S. Drone Attack Campaign: Continuation of these attacks that in addition to its targets kill, maim, and terrorize local villagers could set the stage for what could be called a Pakistan Syndrome that would galvanize public outrage both toward the US and the government, never mind the propaganda ammunitions that it could lend al-Shabaab.

Influence of the Ghost-Lords: This group is a combination of certain elements within the International Community and a network of Nairobi-based Mafia types made of international institutions and NGOs who are determined to see an entity they routinely refer to as “South Central Somalia” to adopt its own constitution; hence, the end of a nation-state called Somalia! “The adoption of the provisional constitution will indeed be a watershed,” writes Ambassador Augustine Mahiga, the UN Special Representative to Somalia, in a letter addressing the Somali people. Expectedly, Ambassador Mahiga does not explain the urgency driving the adoption of a constitution that does not unequivocally assert the territorial boundaries of Somalia or the legal geographical space in which that law would reign supreme, in the worldly sense. Mind you, Somalia already has a democratic constitution that was ratified in 1961. But, to claim this, according to Ambassador Mahiga, is to turn into a “spoiler” to the peace process, and as such your assets could be frozen and your name could be submitted to the International Criminal Court. Seriously! However, in fairness to the Ghost-Lords, they are not the only group pushing the new constitution. There are regional and national politicians with myopic interests who joined the bandwagon for political expediency.

Domestic Profiteers and Corporate Freeloaders: The former being men who, through their fluid businesses or “NGOs,” callously benefited from the status quo and the lawlessness of the past two decades. The latter being unregulated business conglomerates that grew exponentially in the past two decades. While all are presumably in legal businesses, none have been paying taxes or have on their own been assisting the public sector in providing essential services.

The Lower Jubba Enigma: It brings together two of the front-line states and several militia groups all with competing zero-sum interests. Adding a layer of complexity to the matter, in what seems like a haphazard effort to establish new facts on the ground before the end of the transitional period, representatives from a few of the interest groups met and signed a document declaring what they describe as a new state, the Jubbaland State.

Potential Religious War: The more Kenya continues its controversial involvement in Somalia and insists on illegally claiming part of the Somali continental shelf, the more likely it would exacerbate the newly ignited religious sensitivities in Kenya. The world has seen the preview of such scenario during the recent atrocious attacks of two Christian churches in Garissa, Kenya. Thank God this one was defused by the local Christian and Muslim leadership who had good relationship, instinct, and prudence. Muslim volunteers were assigned to guard all the churches in Garissa to send a clear message to the extremists. Kenya has about three million citizens from Somali ethnic background and several hundred refugees.

In spite of all threats emanating from these fault lines, a reform and transformation campaign that is beyond mere “perception management” must be launched. However, as a fragile state, the post-transitional government would need, among other things, collective vigilance, both internally and externally.

  • fowsiya

    We (Somali people) have to save Somalia.
    Odayaasha dhaqanka waa in loosheego qodobada dastuurka ee qatarta ah ee ugu mihiimsan for example article 7 farqadii 3aad.
    Dastuurkan waa qiyaamo ee Odayaasha halooga digo qodobada qiyaamada ah ee ugu mihiimsan.

    • Abukar Arman

      Fowsiya said “We should inform and highlight all dangerous articles such as Article 7, Section 3 to the 135 national traditional leaders. The new constitution is a scam and the elders ought to be warned of the articles intended to advance that purpose”. Thank you, Fowsiya. I could not agree more. The Article and the Section that you referenced were omitted to avoid providing the specific legal geographical territory in which that not-so-social contract is supposed to govern.

  • fowsiya

    And dadkiina wax bartay utaga odayaasha dhaqanka ee ushheega inay awood leeyihiin.

    • Abukar Arman

      Fowsiya said “Those of you who are the learned should go the traditional elders and let them know that they (as representatives of the people) have legitimate authority”. I concur, Fowsiya. However, I don’t think this is an exclusive duty…It is one that all Somalis must take part.

  • Ali Omar

    Indeed, Arman articulated current and potential issues waiting the future leader of Somali nation. The aspirants should have a vision and plan to tackle these issues before putting adding his name into the growing list of candidates. We know many of them are joke, but those with serious intentions needs to articulate their vision in resolving issues Arman articulated.

    • Abukar Arman

      Thank you, Ali, for the feedback.

  • Abdul AHmed III

    For the author, clanism still remains the most vibrant ideology just as he often practices it. The author does not represent and cannot represent the former Somalia.

    Clannism is what have made today’s Mogadishu one of the most ethnically cleansed cities in the world, after the forced exile of some 500,000 of it is original Darod-Jaberti clans.

    • Abukar Arman

      Thank you, Abdul, for the feedback. You are right, the forced exile and the clan-based targeting and cleansing of early 90s is one of the darkest chapters in our history. However, as you are aware, the anarchy of that period has paved the way for much darker chapters of our history to be written with the blood and agony of various clans and sub-clans, especially those minority groups who opted not to carry guns against their brethren. I empathize with any one who either personally or had some of his/her loved-ones suffer during that period to hate Mogadishu, however, to give the impression that the said clan has no place in Mogadishu when, among others, the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, and the Commander of the Somali National Army all hail from that clan, is tantamount to disinformation to say the least.

      • Sharif Haji

        Great analysis, I m in agreement on vast of the highlighted areas, and appreciated the well thought write up, well done. I would just appeal that when we talk about ethnic cleansing, we should be empathic and not selective… Please. I am deeply touched by the cleansing in Mogadishu among various clans, but we should also remember that what attracted the United Task Force (UNITAF) was the devastations of human suffering that was happening in what was named at the time “The triangle of death” . Thousands of people were dying in the inter-riverine regions … lets not talk about cleansing selectively ! in that way we would be able to address our current problems as Somalis .

        • Abukar Arman

          Thank you, Sharif Haji, for the feedback. Indeed, the people of “the inter-riverine regions” have suffered immensely, though part of that was caused by the cyclical drought of that period. Thank you, again, for underlining the importance of empathy. This virtue affirms our humanity. It helps heal our wounds, recognize our interdependence, and re-cultivates our sense of unity. Generally speaking, it is about time we learned that the sure way to protect our rights and help cultivate a just and a peaceful society for our children is to defend the rights of others as much as we defend our own. I know it is a very difficult moral discipline to achieve, however, it is one that our collective survival is direly dependent on. When clan champions only highlight the wrongs done onto them or their own and fail to acknowledge the wrongs that their own have done to others they not only loose credibility but they naturally keep others in the defensive. In the past two decades, virtually all clans– the exception being a tiny number of unarmed minority groups– have committed one transgression or another against others (inter or intra-clan).

        • Abdul Ahmed III

          Great point.

        • Abdul Ahmed III

          Great point

  • Abdul Ahmed III

    For the author, Clannism still remains the most vibrant ideology just as he often practices it. The author does not represent and cannot represent the former Somalia. Clannism is what have made today’s Mogadishu one of the most ethnically cleansed cities in the world, after the forced exile of some 500,000 of it is original Darod-Jaberti clans in 1991.

    The senior Arman family members, Mr Abdo and Mr Ali Arman will be disappointed with Abukar Arman’s propaganda. He doesn’t represent anyone in Mogadishu and He cannot justify the 20-year atrocities in Somalia

    • Abukar Arman

      Abdul, I think it is healthy to look back and discuss the wrongs that took place in the past two decades. The objective ought not be to dwell on the miseries of the past, but to learn from it, and work diligently in preventing the next one from happening. It was in that spirit that this article was written. Apparently, you did not like it (and that is your prerogative). However, if you want a fruitful discourse, you would have to state what exactly is that you disagree with or dislike in the article, and why.

      • Abdul Ahmed III

        Arman, thanks for the reply. I guess the counting exercise you did satisfies your calculations but it is of no value to many former residents of Mogadishu the former Somalia. In fact, it is sad that we are talking about positions of a government that doesn’t exist outside Mogadishu.

        I think detailed discussions on Somalia are better done offline. My point is however that you and your group are trying to force Somali people (Somalis of the former Somalia) to become a functional entity and united country. All Somalis do not seem to want what you want for them.

        A good example is the most recent press release from “the traditional clan leaders of Mogadishu” the statements of the elders may indicate that Mogadishu is a not ready to become “a capital for a future Somali state” . It may also implicate your wishes and dreams to restore the former Somalia.

        I therefore suggest, let us face the reality, let us peacefully depart to our own separate destinies, let us not argue about a nonexistent country. Let us just become good neighbors, who can perhaps one day, someday can discuss their past differences…………..

        Arman, by the way, I see your friends talking about traditional leaders? which traditional leaders are they talking about? and what help shall be given to these elders. ?

        • Abukar Arman

          Abdul, you wrote: “—let us face the reality, let us peacefully depart to our own separate destinies, let us not argue about a nonexistent country. Let us just become good neighbors, who can perhaps one day, someday can discuss their past differences”. Why do you sound like someone who is not familiar with the political evolution of the past several years in Puntland? I am sorry but I know that you know better.

          • Abdul Ahmed III

            You seem to run away from the central issue of my posting.

            Why do you see your fellow Somalis as enemies? What is your position on your fellow Somali men and women in other parts of what use to be Somalia? Are they the Clan minded people? Or are they just ordinary some Somali men who want a better life for themselves and for the rest of Somali people?

            Arman, I actually am surprised with you, what do you stand for? Why do you see your fellow Somalis as enemies? – why do you see your fellow Somali men as Clan minded just because they were forcibly exiled from their home and they had to organize themselves to do better. ?

            Who exactly gave you the right to tell all Somali people what is good and what is not? Why do you insist dividing “you and your fellow Somali people” to groups that you call the good Somali and the clan minded Somalis? How come you know what is right for all Somali people?

            Instead of labeling Somali people and categorizing them into groups , why don’t you try to attract your people (your own Somali people) and bring the people closer. Why do selectively and possibly intentionally the very Somali people you intend to serve? You are not serving them at all !!!

            There is no doubt , I disagree with your theories, your thought and your approach (respectfully nonetheless) and I suggest let us take this discussion offline.

            If you care about Somalia (what I call the former Somalia). Please do try to bring people closer !

  • Afyare Elmi

    Thanks Abukar

    I agree that the current externalization of the political and security components will further perpetuate the status quo. I think as Fowsiya said Somalis who care must become active in all aspects. The current political dispensation might provide an opportunity, albeit there is little chance in influencing the outcome. Those who can become MPs should do so and those who can assist the traditional leaders must help.

    • Abukar Arman

      Thank you, Prof Afyare Elmi, for the feedback. I could not emphasize more on the importance of direct participation in the political process. You put it succinctly when you said “Those who can become MPs should do so and those who can assist the traditional leaders must help.” We need good and competent people as members of the new Parliament.

  • Åmiña Åhmëd

    These ARE not just post-trasitional fault lines but CURRENT ones too! This is the reality on the ground and I fail to see which Somali clans will draw a long-term benefits from this????

    Every Somali individual has a duty to do/speak/act peacefully to draw the country towards peace. Some have more opportunities of doing that than others. Yesterday, the TFG leaders were presented with great opportunities that they squandered. Today, it is our Elders who have the golden opportunity. I hope they don’t squander.

    My two shillings:

    1. RECONCILIATION before a Constitutition!

    2. The Transition can end WITHOUT a constitution. End it already!


    • Abukar Arman

      Thank you, Amina, for the feedback. I agree with your insightful assessment. You are right, these dangerous fault lines already exist in one way or another. But, here is a little confession. I had identified another fault line that I deliberately omitted out of the list. I called it “Disrupting Continuity” To simultaneously change the leadership of all of these fragile institutions (and in the case of the Parliament, all of them) is to destroy at least the scaffolding aspect of their respective structures and to force the next government to re-build everything from the ground up. I omitted that one because it was fait a compli, especially since many Somalis were mesmerized by the seemingly wide opportunity. And also because of my official position. I am sure you can see how our people would have read too much into it… Now that I got that out of my system, to empower the next President, Prime Minister, and Speaker of the Parliament ( who ever they may be) so they may work together for the best interest of Somalia and Somalis, we must extend them the help they need. As you said, “Every Somali individual has a duty to do/speak/act peacefully to draw the country towards peace.” The legitimate power base and authority of every government is the support of its people. A Government is as good as the impression that the average citizen has of it. Lastly, you said it well when you wrote “RECONCILIATION before a Constitution! 2. The Transition can end WITHOUT a constitution.” Ever since the Kampala Accord, some of the most preposterous speeches were made in various regional, continental, and international (IGAD, AU, UN) chambers arguing for the opposite. Common sense was lulled and in some cases sedated for submission. Was-salaam!

    • Mohamed Abdimalik

      Good point walaasheey Aamina _”Reconciliation before Constitution”

  • Guled Mohamed

    Couldn’t agree more with ambassador Arman.

    Everyone has a role to play, the more we look at each other using the clan mirror, the less united we will be and the easier for things to go wrong again.

    Time has reached when we must all protect the little freedom and relative peace we are enjoying in Mogadishu and other liberated areas.

    If there is a word we must memorize and emphasize, that word would be PATRIOTISM.

    Just imagine, If our leaders are patriotic, they will not sell out their country and people, if the soldiers are patriotic, they will fight for their country and refuse to be bought or intimidated. Last but not least, if the people of Somalia are all patriotic they will not be used to destroy their own country. We would all protect, develop and make a better Somalia. YES WE CAN.

    My last word goes to the youth of Somalia, many of you have been brainwashed and used to kill, main and destroy your country and people, time has come for you to undo the damage you caused over the last 21 years.

    Please choose peace, drop the gun and pick a pen to get an education because the writing is on the wall, all roads are leading to a peaceful and prosperous Somalia and you will need a profession other than your current “freelance militia” profession.

    To the brainwashed youth, just come to think of it. That gun you are carrying has caused a lot of pain to your own people. There is life without a gun, in fact a far much better life.

    Thanks Abukar for your visionary analysis.

    • Abukar Arman

      Many thanks, Guled, for the feedback. Special thanks for your appeal to our youth. They are our hope and the future that we must nurture and protect.


    I agree with everything you mentioned in your article, however few advice i have for my Somali brothers & sisters are:
    1. Division amongst different clans need to stop because it is the way the colonizers of Africa have been able to control us.
    2. Somalis alone need to spear-head any future advancements in terms of government/army/constitution etc… with the help of the International community as only advisory position not predators with an agenda.
    3. I wish all Somalis work together for a betterment of Somalia including Somaliland/Puntland since they have done better on their own.
    4. I wish that we have an international conference “Friends of Somalia” to help raise money & help bring peace.
    5. I wish that all Somalis look at themselves in the mirror & do anything & everything to change the status-quo for the sake of Allah, the future generation, and their homeland.
    As a non-Somali, all i could do is pray for my brothers & sisters to resolve the problems by themselves with the help of Allah SWT…JAK & salam

    • Abukar Arman

      Thank you, Br. Adil, for the feedback and counsel. I am confident many will heed your words of wisdom and get inspired. Wi. [ For those who are not Muslims or are not familiar with the Islamic etiquette, Wi is the abbreviation of “Wa iyaka” which means “You as well!”. I wrote this in response to “JAK” in the above comment which is the abbreviation of “Jazaka Allahu khairan” which means “May God reward you with blessings.”

  • Abdul Ahmed III


    As you may know , I have roots from the Lower Jubba region. Let me correct you here, Lower Juba is just one region and not two frontline states/regions as you mentioned in your article.

    Lower Juba consists of five administrative districts namely, Badhaadhe, Afmadow, Hagar, Jamaame and Kismayu. The population of these districts has far more in common with Kenya’s Somali province than Mogadishu.

    I don’t think anyone wants to change facts on the ground, facts do not change , they become apparent. The reality on the ground is truly represented by the native population of these areas.

    While there are both Islamists and other militia, the notion that lower Juba is disputed land being contested by many clan groups untrue (It is one of the most enduring canards ever manufactured in Mogadishu).

    • Abukar Arman

      Abdul, “two front-line states” as in countries…

      • Abdul Ahmed III


        your statement was “The Lower Jubba Enigma: It brings together two of the front-line states and several militia groups all with competing zero-sum interests”

        The statement doesn’t make sense to view the two front line states as countries “Somalia and Kenya”……… front-line as in ? — the terms front-line states was common in 1980s , often used by Zambia and Zimbabwe to describe the Black Africa’s front-line with Apartheid south Africa. (I don’t see the same sense here)!………t I think you did have an error!

        • Abukar Arman

          Abdul, here is my last attempt for clarification: (stating the obvious) Somalia cannot be its own front-line state…so, I must have been talking about another state.

  • Abdul Ahmed III

    Your arguments are flawed Arman, but I will accept your explanations. (at least for now). Try to bring Somali people closer, there is no value in dividing us and blaming some groups that you may disagree with. Let us try repair the damage of the civil war or let us openly accept to depart to our own destinies.

    Please be respectful of those who do not agree with your idea of what Somalia must be …!

    • Abukar Arman

      Abdul. I have nothing except “respect” to offer. Peace!

  • Sadia Ali Aden

    These fault lines and more do exist. Unfortunately, the ghost-lords and corrupt Somali politicians are rushing the effort of the transition. For instance, the draft constitution that was funded by the UNDP ($60 million) is being pushed to be adapted before it is completely studied and before fair and free election can be held in Somalia. This document has the potential to ignite new conflict and sustain violence. In addition, there is nowhere in this document where it ensures the sovereignty of the Somali state. So, the question that begs an answer is, why the rush and why new constitution when Somalis have one in place that was ratified through referendum by the people?


    • Ruqia Haji Jama Garaad

      Sacdiya Abaayo what sovereignty of the Somali state are you talking about? the sovereignty that was destroyed in 1988 when killing Isaqs or the the one destroyed by USC when killing the Darods?


      • Sadia Ali Aden

        My Good Sister Ruqiya, I am referring to the sovereignty of the Somali state. Hope that helps.


    • Abukar Arman

      Thank you, Sadia, for the feedback. I share the same concern.

  • Wardheere

    dismantling the legacy of our home.

    Its maddening how deep it goes,
    a stretch so far that no one knows,You speak in tongues feeling the clench of anurge, deep and burning perhaps long ago we were clean ,but since then have all morals been thrown ,mouth is the porthole to destuction ,constumptions of poisons go on ,0ur insides are burnin sad to see haw low we are fallen.I can’t express my feeling afew lines of english words ,but honestly I tell you haw deep respect i have for you Abukar Arman stay alive Brotha .

    • Abukar Arman

      Thank you, Wardheere, for the feedback and kind words.