World Bank Deepens Marginalisation of Somali Minorities

A  World Bank Working Paper on the Somali judiciary unwisely assigns percentages to population sizes of Somali clans, writes Liban Ahmad

Writing about Somali politics remains a difficult undertaking nearly thirty years after the ouster of military dictatorship in 1991. For Somali writers and analysts the difficulty lies in the temptation to give in to demands to portray one side as a victim or villain. For foreign analysts a different impediment to an objective analysis gives rise to a tendency either  to downplay historical post-1991 injustices or place an inaccurate emphasis on clans that owe their influence to the ability to mobilise clan militias. 

It is what non-Somali researchers write that carry much weight in the eyes of policy makers from Somalia’s international partners.  

In 2016 the World Bank published a working paper entitled Political Economy of Justice in Somalia, co-authored by Joakim Gundel. Mr Gundel is a Danish researcher, who wrote a seminal paper on Somali traditional leaders . In January 2019  he delivered a lecture – ‘Is Somalia on Track? –  at the Danish Institute for International Studies. Authors of the Working Paper assign percentages to Somali clans. Somalia has never conducted a census to determine population sizes of Somali clans.

The choice to dream up percentages shows that Gundel has not let himself benefit from his long association with Somalia since 1999, first as a researcher and then an influential consultant with a consultancy that published papers on such themes as the Somali civil society.  Percentages assigned to Somali minorities ( 6% ) and Dir clan ( 7%) betray unfamiliarity with the power-sharing system known as 4.5, which has been the basis for Somali governments formed since 2000.  

The power-sharing system lumped unarmed Somali clans into political representation ensuring their marginalisation at the hands of four major clans. Each of the five clans (the other three clans are Hawiye, Darod and Digil-Mirifle) has 20%  of parliament, upper house, cabinet and ambassadorial appointment quotas, for example. Marginalisation of Somali minorities becomes more conspicuous when one looks at Federal Member States formed on the unspoken principle that clans with militias who conquered or defended a territory enjoy benefits of federalism.

Somalis placed under rubric minorities have fewer life opportunities not because of numerical disadvantage.  Four Somali major clans have agreed to place unarmed Somali clans in a second class citizenship category.  Gundel et al pay no attention to the plight of Somali minorities when they characterise dispossession and displacement at the hands clan militias as  a strategy used by two Somali clans “who had exploited the civil war to move to south in order to settle in more fertile lands and in Mogadishu.”

The largest number of internally displaced people in Somalia hails from fertile lands known as Dhoobey. Militias from armed clans have dispossessed people who, for many generations, have subsisted on small holder farming.                        

There is a risk that the Working Paper can normalise or deepen marginalisation of Somali minorities. The Working Paper in question carries the imprimatur of the World Bank.  

Liban Ahmad