19 May 2007 04:18


  • Title: [SW Column] (Aidid) Clan politics and nation-building- The Djibouti gamble!
  • From:[]
  • Date :[ 2000-05-29 07:59:53]

Opinions expressed in this column are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of SW.

Clan politics and nation-building- The Djibouti gamble!


2000-05-29 07:59:53


Clan politics and nation-building are two concepts that appear contradictory to many among the enlightened Somalis. The Djibouti peace process which is supported by the majority of fair-minded and educated Somalis seems to be mixing clan politics with nation-building. This paradox must frustrate some, while sending the wrong message to the clan-mongers. Before I explain from my perspective why the Djibouti peace initiative had to adopt this strategy, let me share with you an analogy that may seem fit. Thomas Friedman, the NY times foreign affairs columnist, in his recent book on "the Lexus and the Olive tree" describes the relationship between what he calls globoilization (a new world geopolitical phenomenon that has replaced the cold war) and the old concept of nation-states. In his description, the Lexus (the Japanese car model) represents the new technology; the Internet, the telecommunication innovations, etc. The Olive tree represents the age-old concept of national, tribal, or religious identity and the desire to maintain it. The Djibouti peace processís approach to peace making in Somalia provides the closest analogy to Thomas Friedmanís Lexus vs the Olive tree model for Somalis. On one hand we are dealing with the issues of identity (the clan; the tribe; the region). On the other hand, we are aiming for nation-building- a concept that represents for Somalis the new globalization. For Somalia to join the new world, it must adopt the rules of development among them building institutions of law and order. For this to be possible, the concept of nation-state is a prerequisite for future Somalia. With Friedmanís analogy in mind, let me speculate on why the Djibouti process appears to be mixing the old with the new (the clan politics with nation-building). Well, to bring Somalis together there has to be something meaningful for all. Given our strong regional and clan loyalties, and our weak religious and ideological believes, the nation-state concept has to be revived (I am sure those who believe Islam should play this role for Somalis will disagree with me). However, there is nothing that the folks from north Mogadishu can discuss with the folks from northern Somalia or puntland given all that has happened recently, other than the nation as we knew it. Unfortunately, the only memory of such nation-state that any of us can relate to happens to be the residual of Siyad Barre. Hence, the adoption of the regions as made by Siyad Barre government, and the insistence that Mogadishu resume the role of the capital. Without that, it becomes very difficult to come up with a unifying concept. But what about the clan elders and clan-based parliamentary representation? Is this taking us back? To the sorrow of those of us who thought it was possible to move beyond clan politics, the Djibouti process deems it fundamental to the issue of peace in Somalia. The clan politics and lack of peace must strike one like the "chicken and egg problem." which came first? Is it the clan politics that led Somali to the mess or is it the mess that is leading us back to the clan system. The Djibouti peace process assumes the later and treats the relationship between the clan and the crisis in Somalia to be at best spurious. It considers clan politics a necessary process that must be transcended. Something that will happen with time and with the right resources. Therefore, the marriage between clan politics and nation-building forms the framework of peace for the Djibouti initiative. It is the Lexus and the Olive tree all in one. The outcome will tell if it was the correct conceptual model for peace in somalia. Aidid.


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