Op-Ed:Nativist Politics in Somalia

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Nativist  politics  in Somalia leaves half of Somalis without citizen rights, argues Liban Ahmad

In January 2019 twenty eight years will have passed  since armed opposition fronts ousted the military dictatorship in Mogadishu. A new type of  politics, I will  call nativist,  filled the vacuum. It transformed Mogadishu into a capital city where dispossession and power struggle divided it into two parts. Union of Islamic Courts ended the division of the capital  when they had defeated warlords in 2006.

Nativism can be summarised in the Somali phrase ku dhalo, u dhalo, ( born in, born to ): one was born in a town but does necessarily not belong it. The second part of the phrase ( u dhalo ) matters more than the first part does. This  mindset relegates Banadiri, Jarerweyne and Gaboye, Somali-Arabs and Somali-Eritreans (Musawici) to a minority  status with no a federal member state to represent them in the 4.5 power asymmetry. It gives someone claiming to belong to Mogadishu  or any other Somali town in u dhaloterms a political advantage  without the city being his/her birthplace.

Nativist politics gained currency in 2000 when, at a reconciliation conference in Djibouti, participants from four major clans agreed to treating 50% of their fellow citizens as minorities.   Dubbed Others,Somali minorities have  fewer life opportunities  compared to Somalis from the major four clans ( Dir, Darod,Digil & Mirifle and Hawiye).

How does  nativist politics play out in present-day Mogadishu?  One has to look at the current political turmoil engulfing the Federal Government of Somalia. When Ahmed Moalim Fiqi and Abdirahman Abdishakur threaten the government  with parliamentary measures, or when Kamal Gutale calls Somali troops “Farmajo militias”  they are banking on nativist advantage President  Farmajo lacks.

 Gutale: militias are in charge in Mogadishu
Gutale: militias are in charge in Mogadishu

Neither President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud nor President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed faced nativsit threat: they belong to Mogadishu ( Muqdisho ayay u dhasheen). In such an environment citizens cannot have equal political rights. This reconfiguration of resident status of the Somali has turned the idea of Somali citizenship on its head.

Mogadishu is not the only city to look at when discussing nativist politics: every Somali city or district has nativist politics privileging one group of people in the distribution of resources and perks. On can belong to a town or city but still get marginalised by the same social group with which one shares clan-based identity.   Somali minorities disproportionately suffer because they are thought to be outnumbered by major Somali clans. No clan-based census has ever been conducted in Somalia because of the ethical questions people will ask if  politicians  promote it.

Amin Amir on how 4.5 sinks the Somali state due to oppression
Amin Amir on how 4.5 sinks the Somali state due to oppression

The first Somali Parliament formed after the end of the transition in 2012 and the  current one  have not   discussed the plight of Somali minorities, who suffer as a result of  nativist politics  symbolised  by the 4.5 power-sharing mechanism.

Nativist politics deepens institutionalised exclusion. How can Somalia prepare for one man, one vote in 2021 if half of the population has no political rights that members of major clans  enjoy through   federal member states and the 4.5?   To talk of Somalia making a progress when the political classes from major clans remain uncommitted to rooting out unjust political practices based on depriving Somalis of  citizen rights is akin to what Somalis call a squirrel’s water caravan (Dhaan-dabagaalle) : mirage.

By:Liban Ahmad

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Horndiplomat editorial policy.

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