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What is bad with Tribalism?

by Mahamud Jimale
Monday, May 06, 2013

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“It is my wish, now that the wars are coming to an end, to live happily in peace. All mortals from now shall live like one people, united and peacefully working forwards a common prosperity. You should regard the whole world as your country – a country where the best govern-, with common laws and no racial distinctions. I do not separate people as many narrow minded others do, into Greeks and Barbarians. I'm not interested in the origin or race of citizens. I only distinguish them on the basis of their virtue. For me each good foreigner is a Greek and each bad Greek is a barbarian. If ever there appear differences among you, you must not resolve them by taking to arms; you should resolve them in peace. If need be, I shall act as a negotiator. You must not think of God as an authoritarian ruler, but you should consider him as common father, so that your conduct resembles the uniform behavior of brothers who belong to the same family.

For my part I consider all -whether they be white or black-, equal, and I would like you to be not only the subjects of my common-wealth, but also participants and partners. Within my powers I shall endeavor to fulfill all my promises. You should regard the oath we have taken tonight as a symbol of love....”


I really don't like to be dragged into topics which are fundamentally weakening our society. We are in an epochal crossroads of putting together of a nation fallen apart more than two decades; mired by a long civil war and social fragmentation prompted by tribalism. Having settled on a historical theme for discussion of “what is wrong with tribalism” or “What is the truth about the destructive impact of tribalism on social frame-work, political and economic development”, an analysis going deep to that subject is in order.

In the light of the current truth and historical evidence of the topic in question which we were schooled continuously that tribalism is ugly, evil, archaic, disapproved and rejected even during ancient Greeks,  Christianity, in Islam and to all polite developed society. The failure to recognize and confront  the adverse consequences of tribalism in Somalia especially on social and economic development is hindered by political opportunists-- in their push for political and economic spoils appealing for false nationalism (or tribalism) and secessionism.

According to a study by William R. Bascon at the American Academy of Political & Social Science, “Tribalism, no longer an obstacle to self-government in Africa, is still an obstacle to national unity... Balkanized by rival European powers in the past, African boundary lines impose artificial divisions on already complex patterns of tribal and sub tribal groupings....” It is not hard to explain that after 20 years of endless chaos, bloody civil strife, and anarchy, we are starting and trying to understand the need and benefits to support a functional united government. In the past, our concept of government was short-sighted and delusional; the belief of government for the majority of Somali people was that it's completely a stronghold of power for one tribe/group of tribes who become the only sovereigns and keep the rest of the country in misery.

Nevertheless, so many men and women in our society are going too crazy about tribalism. I actually don't know what is forcing some people to become apostles of tribalism, anarchists, political spoilers and what really prompts them to want to start social conflicts. Yet, I don't know the reason that makes these tribal-minded, anarchists swell with hate, pointless nostalgia of past & present social evils of tribalism, with phony political or military strength but I think for this being a natural, too damn ignorance and it is relevancy to weakness. These same politicians, anarchists or war profiteers hate being called by others tribal-anarchist, or political spoilers, etc. One could hear of these tribal apostles congratulate one another for the political, social dirty job for the clan empowerment and the intention to stir up tribal antagonism devastatingly harmful to national unity, for example “Mr. Khalif, I have been reading the article you helped put in The Daily Nation; you were damn good hearing your debate in the Friday Short Talk Show on VOA radio, BBC, etc.

We have now a new government led by educated, young political coalition free of what plagued our old ignorant Somali politicians: tribalism, lack of education, regionalism, inherently self-defeating state-lands, etc. The new national leaders are focusing for change and challenges of nation-building, democracy, peace and a society at peace and harmony with itself, its neighbors and the world.  Government should promote democratic ideas, social justice and ethical principles. We would like Somali society to live in peace with the essentials of secular morality: respect others, their dignity as our equals. Somalis should disconnect from obsessing about tribalism, reason, and stop blind obedience to tribalist leaders. Somalis should rethink and build a nation state based ethical system, good governance, democracy, and reshape their society along 21st century mindset.  It is with this same idea that there would be no fear of anti-tribal violence, any rapes, any genocides or crimes against humanity.

Let me finish saying that if our Somali society permitted to do what their brain was capable of doing: their incredible entrepreneur skills, needed to make our society achieve development, happiness and living in peace and meaningful life. Moreover, it is the 21st century- no need any more to belief or relay as a social security: tribalism, fake ancestral lands; with that in mind- whether or not we are conscious of it, the alternative or choice is divisions, conflict, repeatable miserable gibberish refugee life....

Mahamud Jimale
[email protected]


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