n African Renaissance - The Somali conflict and the role of inequality, tribalism and clanism

Volume 3, Issue 5
  • ISSN : 1744-2532
  • E-ISSN: 2516-5305


For the past 15 years Somalis have seen a continued violence that caused death, destruction and unprecedented suffering. Despite the existence of the suffering, the explanations for the causes of the Somali conflict remain inconclusive. Some of the explanations include : governance and bad leadership (Samatar, 1993; Hashim, 1997) resources (Kusow, 1994; Mukhtar and Kusow 1993; Besteman and Casanelli, 1996) bad economic policy and lack of sustainable development (Mubarak, 1996). Other analyses, especially journalistic accounts portray the Somali conflict as "... continuing from a Stone Age ancestral clan rivalries, but Star Wars military violence." (Besteman, 1999, p. 4)

This article argues that conflicts in Africa in general, and Somalia in particular resulted primarily from inequality that began during colonial era and continues after colonialism. Since its independence the Somali state created patrimonial paths to state benefits and became the creator and enforcer of inequality. Over the years the control of the state has been viewed as zero-sum game where the winners take all. Thus, it has become a competition to the bitter end for certain Somali clans where on the one hand they fight for the control of the state and on the other hand prevent others from its control. The method used to enforce the unequal distribution of the state benefits have always been clanism, tribalism and regionalism. The result has been decline in investment in social capital including healthcare and education, increased poverty and eventually instability and conflict. The article will be divided into three parts. The first part defines inequality and how it is related to conflict. The second part examines the inequality in Somalia and how it has been maintained over the years while the third part offers some concluding remarks.

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