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Reconstructing the National State of Somalia

Reconstructing the National State of Somalia

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This is a draft paper on the role of the traditional institutions and authorities in reconstructing the national state of Somalia. It was submitted to the Nordic African Institute as part of the research papers of the conference that will take palace in Hargeysa on 17-18 June, 2013.
This is a draft paper on the role of the traditional institutions and authorities in reconstructing the national state of Somalia. It was submitted to the Nordic African Institute as part of the research papers of the conference that will take palace in Hargeysa on 17-18 June, 2013.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Dr. Abdurahman M. Abdullahi ( baadiyow) on Jun 13, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Reconstructing the National State of Somalia:
The Role of Traditional Institutions and Authorities
Dr. Abdurahman Abdullahi (Baadiyow)
“Without the role of 
traditional institutions and authorities reconstituting theSomali state would not have been possible during the initial state formation.However, such role is not sustainable in the modern democratic state where
direct elections and party politics are indispensable.” 
Somalia is known as the classic symbol of the longest collapsed state in modern era. This dismal stateof affairs is somewhat of a paradox given the fact that in previous decades Somalia represented whatmany thought to be one of the most unified states in Africa. It possesses a good measure of elements
“which have in the past been assumed to be the essential ingredients for the nation.”
peoples share the same language, adhere to the Islamic faith, and despite its numerous clans, belongto one ethnic group. In the context of early modernization theory, these factors were thought toserve as vital ingredients in nation building in the developing world. In this respect, the collapse of the Somali state in the early 1990s was puzzling. However, in the absence of the state, various armedmilitia based on clan and their traditional elders filled the vacuum of making war and peace.Somali traditional institutions (TIs) are founded on Islamic faith and clan affiliation, the two basic
pillars of “Somaliness”, and th
eir traditional authorities (TAs) play complementary roles andresponsibilities.
Alas, at the onset of the nationalist struggle for the independence, TAs wereregarded as perilous, emblematic of backwardness and antagonistic to modernization and the 
Dr. Baadiyow holds PhD in Islamic studies from McGill University and is the Chairman of the Board of Trustee, MogadishuUniversity. Also, he was presidential candidate of Somalia in 2012. This paper was presented in the Nordic African InstituteConference held in Hargeysa, Somaliland on 17-18 June, 2013.
Saadia Touval,
Somali Nationalism
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963), v.
Abdurahman Abdullahi, Women, Islamists and the Military Regime in Somalia: The Reform of the Family Law and its Repercussions.A paper available from http://www.scribd.com/doc/15418893/Women-Islamists-and-Militry-Regime-in-Somalia;(accessed on June 5, 2013)
modern state.
Hence, a number of legislative measures were enacted; malicious policies adoptedand mass campaigns of public awareness were mobilized to curtail TAs.
Nonetheless, TIs and relatedTAs resisted different modernization programs undertaken by both civilian (1960-1969) and military(1969-1991) regimes aimed to curb their role. In particular, during the authoritarian regime thatadopted a socialist ideology and pursued vigorous anti-tradition programs, conflict between the stateand society climbed to unprecedented levels.
Thus, both elements of Somaliness, Islam and clanaffiliation were radicalized, producing various Islamic movements and armed clan-based factions.
Inparticular, clan-based armed opposition movements emerged in the 1980s, resisting the dictatorialregime until they finally collapsed the state in 1991.Since then, Somalia has reverted to quasi-statelessness and legitimate authority was restored to theTIs, and in particular, to the clan elders and their political leaders (known as warlords). Since then,clan elders representing traditional authority took the mantle in reconstructing local governance intheir respected areas of influence. This was very much evident in the establishment of the first two
administrations: Somaliland (1991) and Puntland (1998). On the other hand, Shari’
a law, which,besides customary law, constitutes the basic legal foundation of the Somali society, was introducedas the ultimate reference of the constitutions of these administrations.
The same process of clan
Approach of Somali natio
nalists with respect to tradition is derived from “modernization framework *based on+ theassumption that modernity and tradition are mutually exclusive polar opposites”. See Abdul Rashid Moten,
Modernity,tradition and modernity in tradition in Muslim societies.
Intellectual Discourse,
19, 1-13, 2011, 3.
Three important laws were passed prior to 1969. The first was intended to reduce the authority of the tribal chiefs, the second tolessen tribal solidarity and the third resulted in banning political parties that utilized tribal names. The military regime enacted laws toliquidate
charged with eliminating clanism in Somalia; abolishing the
(blood money) system, renaming clan chiefs inthe rural areas; and introducing compulsory auto insurance and local government responsibility for funeral expenses. Above all,
massive propaganda against clanism was conducted in the name of the ‘socialist transformation’ of Somali society.
The escalation of conflict between the military regime and Islamists in 1975, see
Abdurahman M. A. Baadiyow.‘‘Women,
 Islamists and the Military Regime in Somalia: The New Family Law and its Implications.
Milk and Peace, Drought and War: Somali Culture, Society and Politics (Essays in Honour of I. M. Lewis)
, edited by M. V.Hoehne and V. Luling, 137 Á 160. London: Hurst, 2010.
For example, the Majerten-dominated Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) (1978), the Isaq-led Somali National Movement(SNM) (1981), the Hawiye-based United Somali Congress (USC) (1986), and the Ogaden-dominated United Somali Patriotic (USP)(1989). On the other hand, various Islamic moments that included Islah (1978), Al-Itihad (1981), Aala-sheikh (1982) and others.
See Somaliland Constitution article (5:2): “The laws of the nation shall be grounded on and shall not be contrary to I
Shari’a”. Available from 
Puntland Constitution article (6): “Islam shall be the only religion of Puntland State of Somalia. No any other religion can
bepropagated in Puntland State, while the Islamic Religion and the traditions of the people of Puntland are the bases o
f law”.
Available from http://www.so.undp.org/docs/Puntland%202001%20English.pdf  ( accessed on June 5, 2013)
power sharing and adopting a Shari'a-based constitution was evident at the national level since theSomali Reconciliation Conference in Djibouti in 2000.
 In the reconstruction of the national state institutions and local administrations, historic conflictbetween the state, clan and Islam, previously considered antithetical, was irrevocably reconciled.This was a total paradigm shift from the nature of state based on the concepts of modernization totradition sensitive state-building approach and reemergence of tradition. Ironically, traditional andmodern elites were engaged in new rapprochement of mutual recognition, acceptance andcooperation which reconstructing collapsed state necessitates. In that context, comprehensivereconciliation between tradition and modernity was realized and the modality of state-building inSomalia was guided with a spirit of collaboration and inclusiveness. Modern elites were noteschewing anymore the role of TIs and were not denying the role of Islam in politics.Methodologically, this paper approaches this topic from the historical perspective and studies therole of TIs within the historical evolution of the national state of Somalia. It will not touch state-building experiences of Somaliland and Puntland. Also, it will not include the role of traditionalIslamic scholars having consideration of the existence of some sort of division of roles among TAseven though at times they are cross-current.
Defining Key Concepts
Traditional Institutions and Authorities
The Oxford English Dictionary
defines the noun ‘tradition’ as “
the transmission of customs or beliefs
from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way”.
Moreover, the Oxforddictionary defines authority
the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce
Thus, TAas such refers to a power that is received and handed down over fromgeneration to generation. According to sociological definition introduced by Max Weber tradition
denotes “the authority of the ‘
eternal yesterday
, i.e. of the mores sanctified through the
See Somali National Charter adopted in the Somali Reconciliation Conference in Djibouti in 2000, article 2.2:
“Islam shall bethe religion of the state and no other religion or ideas contrary to Islam may be propagated in its territory”. See also arti
cle 4:4
“the Islamic Shari’a shall be the basic source for national legislation” and “any law contradicting Islamic Shari’a shall be void andnull”.

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