Somaliland: Between the Clan Identity and Clan Loyalty


By: Faisel Ahmed

Somalilandsun – I began to understand my identity from being SOMALILANDER yet it wasn’t the only thing that defines me socially or culturally, I was taught at my very early ages to learn by heart my tribe line and my parent insisted to take this seriously but I didn’t understand how important is this till grown up.

In fact I didn’t bother to read the details… It was just names in a sequence way, if I got it right then I’m a good kid if not then I need to do my homework, I remember once an old man came to ask me what is my name and lineage and just because I kept this by heart; I couldn’t fail and it was that moment where I noticed the beauty of the heritage of tribalism.

But what Tribalism we’re talking about? The name or the pronoun? The sane or the insane, surely the origin of this value is not on par with the actual way of thinking that becomes if anything a reality where one considers a center of power, a center of influence and sadly it serves who knows better and who brings if anything normative values to the meaning of tribalism, people use it often but too often out of its context!

In the past it was believed to be a bridge for people to know and live in harmony with other but today that reality is far different and it is used to divide and segregate certain people by tribal allegiance…words failed me!!

Tribalism is pervasive, and it controls a lot of our behavior and as David Roepik –an instructor at Harvard University has called on Huffington Post that Tribalism is making a risky world even more dangerous and uncompromisingly only one continent had suffered the most which is Africa where the ethnic allegiances run deep, in fact from South Africa to Nigeria to the world’s newest nation – South Sudan, tribalism is used to climb the political ladder and to create wealth. For years analysts warned that ancient tribal loyalty is conflicting with the modern national identity

History attest that In early times Africans claimed Afrikaners both by the cradle of humanity and thehome of most ethnic diverse people, among best of these are the ASHANTI of Ghana, EUROPA of Nigeria, SHONA of Zimbabwe and the ZULUS in South Africa whose proud traditions predate the European arrival in the early

Somali clan families

15thCentury, in the west they’re often called as Ethnic groups but in Africa they’re referred as TRIBES.

Africans never gave up tribalism in favor of NATION and it’s what weakened them and made them vulnerable to the European intervention and slave trade in the first place but there was another face of Tribalism in Africa, one that is more violent and more ugly only when it was used to divide certain people and rule! A case in point is South Africa were largely the whites used against the blacks during the apartheid similarly the implications of tribalism have been disastrous in Rwanda where 800, 00 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 1994.

Unlike other Africans – Somalis remained the only people that were not prone to slave exploitation in fact in the past, the conventional wisdom has been that Somalis population would not face serious inter-communal problems because it has one of the most homogeneous peoples in the world, in general, and in Africa, in particular. This is so, because they belong to the same ethnicity, share the same faith (Islam), speak the same language and share the same culture and history yet this type of way has dominated the majority of people critical thinking and it’s almost that primitive idea which comes when you have friendly chat with someone, or need to attend an occasion or a football match maybe, people today look for anything to start that assumption maybe from your last name or the team you support or the party you campaign for and it’s that moment where you remember why Sir H. B. Kittermaster has posed this question quote “Why do the Somalis occupy today their present position inthe scale of civilization and development? This is a question which perhapsdemands a passing thought.

Isahaq clan lineage

They are undoubtedly still primitive, having reachedonly a system of loose tribal organization in which even the tribal elders andherdsmen exercise but small control.” The truth was proved to be traumatic for Somalis when they couldn’t eradicate tribalism from TRIBE, there was no single progress or improvement in their life socially, economically or politically

Additionally one thing has been a common denominator for Somalis always and was the shallow measurement to define, shape and limit one’s Idea tendency or belief – in other words suppress certain ethnic identities and tendencies towards tribalism in order to bring a common base for ideas and debate.

Somalis fought this so hard that they diminish somehow the spread of the ideas that Tribalism were carrying and calling for people, many leaders were standing stages and made speeches nothing but on one issue – TRIBALISM or what many have agreed to believe is one of the backbone of the destruction among Somalis development that beyond many efforts it gets bigger and uglier. Imams have addressed it publicly in their religious sermons that Tribalism didn’t bring anything but segregation, discrimination and being that dignity of someone injected on the flour , It’s the tribalism that has been for years something makes Somalis so concerned about where ever they are and it was one aspect that if dealt with wisdom and smart way it could not only save lives but also help grow healthier nation.

The process of persuasion has started and it was from one man who perhaps didn’t understand much of ART and the white center of Rothko paintings in early 1950 – 1960 which was if anything one of the best languages people share among each other butt here is another different language which is has more power and influence namely POEM and it’s what AbdilahiSuldan Timacade – a young man born in 1920 in the small town of Galooley situated near Gabiley has used all his life persuading his people from the wickedness of Tribalism.Reading his poems will only make you strip away all your prejudice and let it flow like the music!

The message was clear and that was to be less tribal allegiance but more national unity,that Tribalism is beautiful and being proud of your tribal heritage is wonderful. Forcing a western style democracy down the throats of non – westernized people is the problem.


Abdillahi or better known as TIMACADE has wrote many poems to warn Somalis not to have ancient African ethnic groups ideas that weakened them in the first place. He mentioned Tribalism on one of his poems as tuberculosis(TB) which shows nothing but the kind message he was trying to convey “Tafiir yarida waxay noogu wacan, taahagaajada’e Tiibbiidu soomaalidaay, maaha tiif cudure – Tallaalkeedu waaceeshaddaan, taabi la’nahaye” . Abdillahi knew that Somalis were getting information through poems and as such, has tried to send this message to them warning that there is no such thing that can endanger their life more than TRIBALISM regrettably his message wasn’t well received among society as it was what Somalis have believed to be their magic wand to solve their problems and fix things. Maybe sometimes their mentor to guide their intellectual ideas and thinking. For Somalis; the tribalism was the only thing that can help them use any deductive reasoning (top-down logic) at any aspect of their life ,this means that if something is debated among a group of people firstly academically but is not too long time when that debate turns to be on the tribal grounds! This is scary when people have nothing to contribute except Tribalism but more scary to involve such ideas in a political level and process mainly because when we’re talking about politics in a national level that’s where Tribalism should take back step simply as a community you’re taking a mature step and saying that I vote with my neighbor!

Finally Tribalism has worsened our nation and to make it worse, it even transferred from the politics life into ordinary life like sports where you’re not save if supporting a single team or become a fan supporter to be labeled in supporting the clan not a particular team, it’s getting ugly every day and we need to do something about it. To cure Tribalism is simple and is to find alternative where creating a real allegiance not only to the tribe we’re proud proud of its heritage and identity but more to the national identity and unity but the question is: Are we really yet ready to do something about Tribalism and to get rid out of it for good or we will remain as traditionalists that never try to do differently!!!

Faisel Ahmed


Tribalism in Africa TVDocumentary – Press TV

David Ropeik – Huffingtonpost

Kittermaster, H. B.”British Somaliland.” African Society Journal.