Tribal-based politics is holding Somalia back

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud

Tribal-based politics is one of the greatest challenges to Somalia’s road to recovery, writes Mohammed Kahiye from Nairobi.

A political crisis that might damage Somalia’s volatile security development is silently looming in a country that is gradually recovering from more than two decades of civil war.

The one-year-old government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, which has spearheaded the country during the transition period, is now battling a silent political war within.

The president is facing a dilemma because he’s being pressurised to sack his prime minister by the same members of parliament who approved his appointment, citing the PM’s “incompetence” during his last year in office.

So President Sheikh Mohamud is finds himself between a rock and a hard place.

On one hand, quite a few Somali MPs – particularly those from the same tribe (Darood) as the PM – are pushing the president to show PM Abdi Farah Shirdon the door and replace him with one of their own.

The largely corrupt members of the National Assembly have succeeded in pushing their ill-advised selfish political interests by trying to topple the PM by use of vote of no confidence in the parliament.

On the other hand, the president seems to be safeguarding his own political ambitions beyond 2013 as well as the image of the country in the eyes of the international community before making any vital move against his long term ally Mr Abdi Farah Shirdon.

It is very clear to the president that the international community will not condone a traditional tribal-based political game that has mitigated the civil strife since 1991.

Therefore, the international community is monitoring the situation and any suspicious decisions will no doubt result in a suspension of donor funding.

The Conspiracy of the 4.5 formula

The famous “4.5 formula” which applied to the four main tribes within Somalia – Darood, Dir, Hawiye, Mirifle and the other minority groups sharing power in Somalia – was meant to bring a political solution to the conflict that has ravaged the Horn of Africa for the last 20 years.

However, as Somalia moves from one step to another as far as the political transition is concerned, the 4.5 formula seems to be inapplicable.

The majority of Somali members of parliament have strong tribal influence and safeguard the interest of their respective tribes rather than the collective national interest. This means that they will do everything possible to defend the interest of their tribesmen within the government.

For instance, the main reason which made PM Shirdon unpopular was the moment he got into the office and viewed himself as a “national leader” and not a representative of a particular people or tribe – this did not go down well with members from his Darod tribe.

What we have seen since the inception of the new Somali government is that domestic politics cannot do without tribal allegiances, which I personally believe is not healthy for the future of the country.

For a peaceful and prosperous Somalia to be achieved, politicians should forget about the power of tribalism and think about the supremacy of unity for the sake of national reconciliation regardless of ethnic or tribal background.


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