Tyranny Of Majority Rule In Somaliland

Since Somaliland unilaterally declared its independent from the rest of Somalia, after the Somali National Movement (SNM) had secured control over the northern regions, the “central clan” – the Isaaq clan in this case – dominated the political and economic systems in the region unchallenged.

Non Isaaq clans, the “periphery clans” (Gadabursi, Warsangeli, Dhulbahante, Gabooye, Issa) were extremely marginalized. However, these clans were arguably part of the the 18th of May, 1991, declaration of Somaliland’s independence when the Somali government was out of the picture.

The central clan has substantially expanded their authorities over other clans by using power and wealth created through exploitation of national resources singlehandedly. When the central clan consolidated powers, they began expanding into areas beyond their traditional territories! Ainaba district of Sool region has politically represented the region, Sanaag and parties of Awdal are now annexed into the territories of the central clan.

The Three Branches Of Government

The Parliament

Eighteen members from all clans, nine from the center and the other nine from the “periphery clans” declared the independence. The members were said to be reflecting tribal quotas in respect of population size and resided territories. This has implied that the Isaaqs were estimated fifty per cent of the total population in Somaliland at the time although some disputed its reliability citing exaggeration of the center’s numbers. However, in the subsequent years of independence, majority of elected and appointed officials went to the center clans while the rest lived in agony.

in 2005 parliamentary elections, less than a third of elected seats in both houses of parliament were allocated to the periphery clans as the center dominated the parliament! This kind of affairs have a severe consequences on non-Isaaq clans as allocation of resources and other developmental projects are based on the number of seats a region or/and a clan have in the parliament. The parliament is also responsible for passing policies and laws proposed by the government. These policies and laws mainly have a negative consequences on the periphery clans, hence keeping them marginalized.

Due to the huge wealth and power gained through the extreme power maintained by the central clans, they managed to win t over three quarters in the recently concluded local council and lower house elections. moreover, analysts predict that the central clan will likely win all 82 seats of the lower house in the next parliamentary elections.

The Judiciary

The judiciary as one of the three branches of government, it is responsible for explaining constitutional clauses and adjudicating disputes according to law. However, the judiciary in Somaliland is highly corrupt and ineffective as its officials are almost all of them hail from the dominant clan. Whenever there is a dispute between clans, it rules in favor of the dominant one. Members of the non-Isaac clans are always convicted in Somaliland courts.

The last major ruling was that of election dispute where people from Awdal region protested against the illegal distribution of elected seats in the house in pre-election days in 2020. The chief justice of the supreme court of Somaliland, Aden Haji Ali, who is a cousin to the president, ruled against the will of the Awdal people! This has shown the magnitude of how tribalism and corrupt is the judiciary system in Somaliland! Judges are only concerned if a ruling is against the will of their clan members.

The Executive

Somaliland has a presidential system of government. There is a president and a vice president.  The president who mainly comes from the central clan, constitutionally enjoys absolute powers while his deputy is constitutionally given no powers. The president, being the head of the state, is responsible for appointing high officials in the government. The appointments of such officials are political. Therefore, distribution of high positions in government which is based on clan shares, is the sole responsibility of the president.

Further, government officials who are mainly appointed by the executive branch of the government, including military officials, permanent secretaries, government parastatals, national commissions, among others are exclusively given to the central clans as a privilege.

In addition, distribution of national resources, mainly from tax collection, mining and international aid, are a high concern to the periphery clans. These resources are exclusively distributed among sub-clans within the dominant central clan. The other developmental projects in Somaliland are implemented in areas where that central clan dominates.

Take the following as an example where several European countries have agreed with the Somaliland government on critical infrastructure to improve peoples’ lives.  More than ninety five per cent of those projects went to the areas inhabits by the central clan! These projects were prioritized by the Somaliland development fund agency, a government parastatal!

In conclusion

Somaliland is a tribal political polity that has been built on historical injustices and grievances treated against the central clan. Political and economic institutions in Somaliland have been largely extractive since its self-declared independence. The combination of gerrymandering, voter suppression, demographic manipulation and the built-in biases in the Somaliland constitution are creating discontent between the central and periphery clans. these inherent injustices might in the near future, if not quickly resolved, develop into armed conflicts among clans.

For Somaliland to be more stable and prosperous, political and economic institutions must be inclusive so that all citizens feel sense of ownership. the constitution, which biases toward the betterment of certain segments of the population, must be reopened so that it accommodates all residents in the country and addresses all political grievances.