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Somali Elite Political Culture: Conceptions, Structures, and Historical Evolution

Abdurahman Abdullahi (Baadiyow)


Somalia celebrated the 60th anniversary of its independence in 2020 while still striving to recover from the state collapse and protracted civil war. The collapsed Somali state in 1991 experienced two governance systems: liberal democracy (1960-69) and military dictatorship (1969-1991). During these two governance systems, the ruling political elites remained aloof from society and evolved later at war with their people. The collapse of the state ushered in a devastating civil war that fostered extremism and militancy of traditions since 1991. In the Somali Peace and Reconciliation held in Djibouti in 2000, Somalia adopted clan-power-sharing of 4.5 empowering clan elders to select MPs. Puzzlingly, state institutions continue to falter in all three systems of governance. Over 60 years’ continuous failure to build the Somali state indicates a general trend and recurring phenomenon of the elite political culture. 

This paper explores what has made the Somali government fail repeatedly and impede its recovery. Its premise is that the ruling elite political culture is responsible for the Somali state’s collapse and the impediment to its resuscitation. Thus, the paper conceptualizes the basic terminologies of elite political culture and explains Somalia’s elite formations and structures. Moreover, it traces the historical development of the elite political culture and how the blended elite culture of Somali tradition, Italian political culture, and military dictatorship contributed to its collapse. This culture developed to the worse as a considerable obstacle for state recovery. Finally, the paper recommends that recovering the Somali state depends on breaking the vicious cycle of state failure by transforming the ruling elite political culture and reforming state institutions.

Somalia celebrated the 60th anniversary of its independence while still striving to recover from the state collapse and protracted civil war. The Somali post-colonial state experienced two governance systems: liberal democracy (1960-69) and military dictatorship (1969-1991). During these two governance systems, the ruling political elites ‘remained aloof from society’[1] and evolved later during the military regime as ‘government at war with its own people.’[2]  However, over thirty years, many factors led to the state’s collapse, such as state and society in conflict, war with Ethiopia, dictatorship, economic underdevelopment, and ruling elite fragmentation.[3] This state of affairs ushered in chaotic conditions and a devastating civil war that fostered extremism and militancy of tradition.[4] On the other hand, the ruling political elites that emerged after the state’s collapse generally comprised warlords and their cohorts. These ruling political elites had repetitively failed to reach meaningful agreements in the 12 reconciliation conferences.[5] Thus, the third model of governance was introduced during the Somali Peace and Reconciliation Conference (SPRC) held in Djibouti in 2000. This conference empowered civil society, marginalized armed factions, and adopted the 4.5 clan power-sharing formula.[6] This clan-centric model was intended as a short-term transitional solution until restored democratic system. This model dug in its heels and lingered on for a quarter of a century in five consecutive regimes since 2000. This model also failed to bring about a functioning and legitimate government that could fully control its territory.[7] As a negative impact of this model, ruling political elites who accumulated wealth and gained power through the clan-centric system stand for an anti-democratic transition.[8]   

The Somali state’s collapse within 30 years is puzzling, and the same can be said for the other 30 years of deficient successes. Thus, the state collapse contravenes the hypothesis made by many early modernization scholars, who asserted that Somalia was better prepared for state-building than most African countries.[9] Somalia continues “in search of a state” to borrow Samatar & Laitin’s book title and has historically swung through three systems of governance.[10] The first system was a unitary parliamentary system and a liberal democracy applied by the post-colonial civilian governments. However, the system gradually corroded, owing to its failure to deliver necessary public services and uphold societal cohesion. The system then reached its lowest point following the rigged election of 1969 and the assassination of President Abdirashid A. Sharmarke on October 15, 1969.[11] This precarious state of affairs induced the military to launch a coup d’état that arrested the embryonic democratic state. As a result, the military regime espoused a new system of governance. The second government system adopted the ideology of socialism and adopted a presidential system of governance, dictatorial rule, rigorous nationalist programs, anti-societal policies, and a one-party system. Thus, the regime’s programs and policies had worsened the rift between the state (modernity) and society (tradition).[12] Moreover, the administration spawned armed conflicts with Ethiopia and armed opposition that, ultimately, collapsed the regime and the state in 1991.[13] The adopted third system of governance during the Somali Peace and Reconciliation Conference (SPRC) in Djibouti in 2000.[14] In this conference, political elites accepted traditional elites as partners for state-building. The adopted clan-centric system empowered clan elders as the ultimate political dispenser of their communities. As such, they selected members of parliament from their sub-clans. Nonetheless, state institutions continue to falter in all three systems of governance. Over 60 years, the continuous failure to build the Somali state, even with elite circulation and different governance systems, indicates that the elite political culture’s general trend requires further revision and examination. 

Therefore, in this paper, the author explores what has made the Somali government fail repeatedly and impede its recovery. The author also focuses on the agency of the ruling political elites in building and breaking the state.[15] Other contributing factors to the state’s failure, such as social, economic, political, and external actors, are considered the context and the environment in which ruling political elites navigate to succeed or fail in their state-building venture.[16] This environment also necessarily molds the political elites’ culture in a complex process of reciprocal relations. The factor of the ruling political elites is vital, particularly in the initial phase of state-building. This notion agrees with Montesquieu’s statement that “at the birth of societies, it is the leaders of the commonwealth who create the institutions; afterward, it is the institutions that shape the leaders.”[17]  Thus, this paper’s premise is that the ruling elite political culture is responsible for the Somali state’s collapse and the impediment to its resuscitation. This culture pervasively permeates the gamut of politics in the various levels of the “governing elites,” to use the term coined by Italian sociologist Wilfredo Pareto.[18]

Academic studies on the ruling Somali elite’s political culture are in short supply because Somali studies tend to be obsessed with the clannization of politics.[19] Somali nationalists and pioneering scholars of anthropology followed modernization theory, which reduced Somali politics into clan politics. For that reason, scholars and politicians always blamed societal structure and its cultural tradition as the main obstacle to political development.[20] Besides, ruling political elites considered clans and the associated sense of clannism as incurable cancer that requires elimination.[21] These ruling elites justified their leadership failure by pointing the finger at society and their culture. Untenably, there is a lack of critique on the adopted European system of governance and ideologies that fluctuated between liberal democracy and socialism. Thus, recovering the Somali state requires identifying the root cause of Somalia’s troubles and formulating proper solutions. This notion accords Chinua Achebe’s conclusion of the plight of Nigeria, who wrote that “the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership.”[22] 

Therefore, in this paper, the author addresses the intricate question of why all ruling political elites of the past 60 years who applied different political systems failed. The author also argues that the ruling elite’s compounded political culture explains its collapse and an impediment to its recovery. However, this does not necessitate excluding other vital factors, such as the institutional and systemic factors that contribute to shaping this culture. In this paper, the author conceptualizes the basic terminologies, such as culture, politics, elite culture, and elite political culture. Then, the author proceeds to explain the formations and structures of the primary elites in Somalia. Finally, the author traces the historical development of the dominant political culture among the elite ruling class and how that blended culture contributed to its collapse, and how it hinders its recovery. It aims to present sequential development of the main elements of the ruling elite political culture and their linkages, rather than indulging in a rigorous analysis of each evolving phase.

Conceptualization of the Basic Terminologies

The ruling elite political culture has been considered one of the main subjects of early political thinkers.[23] Moreover, contemporary theorists of this topic included C. Wright Mills, Floyd Hunter, G. William Domhoff, Thomas Ferguson, and others. The ruling elite political culture concept derives from three compounded words: culture, politics, and elite. Each of these three words has multiple definitions in different academic fields. In this paper, the author has chosen some of these definitions and mixed them to produce a sense of the ruling elite political culture. 

Defining culture 

The meaning of culture had evolved from the term Cultura Animi, first used by Marcus Cicero, who understood the word as a cultivation of the soul. The term culture means “place tilled” in Middle English, pointing to inhabit and care. Gradually, it became an umbrella that encompasses the social behaviors and norms found in human society.[24] It is a complicated term in social science that is open to many interpretations. For instance, as Orlando Patterson states succinctly, “leaders and activists, as well as scholars, challenge each other, not only on the interpretation of their cultures but also on the very definition and meaning of culture itself.”[25]  One of its definitions is “a set [of] perspectives shared by a group of people and reflected by their actions, relationships, communities, and artifacts.”[26]  It can categorize this perspective into perceptions, beliefs, values, and attitudes. Therefore, different interpretations of culture can be likened to the narratives of blind individuals, who, while touching one part of an elephant, each person claims that part of the elephant he/she is touching constitutes the whole reality. Indeed, culture could be signified merely as a broad set of relationships that include “codes of manners, dress, language, religion, rituals, art, norms, behavior, and a system of belief that binds a specific community.”[27]   

Culture is a central concept in the field of anthropology. Anthropologists generally agree on the definition given by E.B. Tylor, who described it as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”[28]  As such, culture demonstrates itself in the expressive, material, and immaterial forms. Expressive culture “refers to the intentional use of the human body to engage in performances of group identity.”[29]  It also includes intentional performances of shared identity, such as dance, rituals, arts, sports, fashion, oratory, song, body language, and religion. On the other hand, material culture consists of things invented by humans, such as cars, airplanes, buildings, tools, shelter, clothing, cities, schools, factories, etc. All these physical and cultural elements help to define its members’ behaviors and perceptions. Moreover, the immaterial aspect of culture refers to the nonphysical ideas people have about their cultures, such as beliefs, values, rules, norms, morals, language, organizations, and institutions.  

In the field of sociology, culture can be referred to as non-material and material culture.[30] To put it simply, culture is the way of thinking, acting, and the material objects that shape a people’s way of life. “When considering non‐material culture, sociologists refer to several processes that a culture uses to shape its members’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Four of the most important non-material elements of culture are symbols, language, values, and norms.”[31]  A cultural symbol is a physical manifestation that signifies a particular culture’s ideology or that merely has meaning within a culture.[32] For example, Islam has the symbol of the crescent moon and star, Christianity has the cross, and Judaism has the Star of David. Moreover, all countries, organizations, and companies have particular symbols, such as flags and emblems. The other common cultural symbols are the language in which its letters of an alphabet symbolize the sounds of a specific spoken language of a social group. Furthermore, norms and values are necessary pillars for social survival. It is the agreed expectations and rules by which a culture guides its members’ behavior in any given situation. 

There are four types of norms expressing different levels: folkways, mores, taboos, and laws. Folkways are behaviors that are learned and shared by a social group. We often refer to folkways as customs in a group that are not morally significant, but they can be necessary for social acceptance. Moresare norms of morality, or right and wrong, and if you break one, it is often considered offensive to most people of a culture.[33] A taboo goes a step farther and is a very negative norm that should not get violated because people will be upset. Additionally, one may get excluded from the group or society. The nature and the degree of the taboo are in the mores. Laws are social norms that have become formally inscribed at the state or federal level and can result in formal punishment for violations, such as fines, incarceration, or even death. 

Every individual is born into a specific societal culture with prevailing values and norms that nurture and shape his way of life. Hence, culture is learned in the processes of enculturation, socialization, and acculturation.[34] Additionally, according to the continuity and change theory, societal cultures are dynamic in that they change over history.[35]  Culture could be divided into covert and overt levels similar to the iceberg, of which the majority is invisible, and only the tip is exposed above the surface. Surface culture refers to human actions, such as language, art, food, traditions, customs, rituals, and institutions. On the other hand, deep culture is divided into human thinking, such as norms, roles, ideologies, philosophies, beliefs, and human feelings, such as values, tastes, desires, assumptions, and expectations. Nonetheless, it is essential to point out that all human behavior is not only attributed to culture. Universal values and actions, as well as unique individual behaviors, are not part of the culture. In that setting, we will use David Matsumoto and Linda Juang’s definition of culture as a “unique meaning and information system, shared by a group and transmitted across generations that allows the group to meet [the] basic needs of survival, pursue happiness and wellbeing, and drive meaning for life.”[36]  

Finally, every nation always has dominant societal culture and sub-cultures of different sub-nationalities, ethnicities, or tribes. The literature on culture often uses generalized terminologies, such as Western Culture, Eastern Culture, Islamic Culture, and African Culture, and so on. Western culture is most strongly influenced by the Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman cultures that originated from Europe and spread to other continents through migrations and colonization. Its geography is not well defined, even though it dominates North and South America, Europe, and Australia. Western culture is contrasted with Eastern Culture, which includes various cultural groups and belief systems, mostly in the Asian continent. Among these cultures are followers of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Taoism. Muslim culture is a subset of Eastern culture, even though Islam has a strong foothold in Africa. It also has a noticeable presence in the Western cultural zone. Muslim culture is related to all beliefs and practices developed by Muslims over the course of their history and consists of elements driven from the revealed texts (Qur’an and Prophetic traditions) blended with various societal cultures. The Muslim culture has standard features shared by all Muslims and specific cultural traits of each locality. Furthermore, African cultures consist of a mixture of the colonial and traditional cultures among various ethnic groups. Although African Culture is highly diversified, they have many similarities and distinctive characteristics compared to Western and Eastern cultures. 

Defining Politics 

The term politics had originated from the Greek word “polis,” which means a city and confined to the study of the state. It is associated with power, defined as “the ability to exercise ones’ will over others.”[37]  Politics has two basic concepts: legitimacy and authority. Legitimacy is “a value whereby something or someone is recognized and accepted as right and proper.”[38] The three types of political legitimacy described by German sociologist Max Weber are traditional, charismatic, and rational-legal.[39] Traditional legitimacy derives from societal customs and habits that emphasize the history of the authority of tradition. Moreover, charismatic legitimacy derives from the leader’s ideas and persona charisma, whose authoritative status allures and psychologically dominates the people of society. Furthermore, rational-legal legitimacy derives from the institutional procedure, wherein government institutions establish and enforce law and order. On the other hand, “authority is the legitimate power which one person or group possesses and practices over another.”[40] 

Nowadays, politicsis a topic of daily discussion among the masses interested in political issues, whether they be local, national, and international affairs. They connect with growing media platforms, such as radio stations, TV, newspapers, social media, etc. In popular perceptions, politics is a loaded term and associated with biases and wrong views. Moreover, besides academic variations on the meaning of politics, even ordinary people dispute with one another; what is the real sense of politics? Politics in the mass perceptions “is usually thought of as a ‘dirty’ word: it conjures up images of trouble, disruption, and even violence on the one hand, and deceit, manipulation, and lies on the other.”[41] In that sense, politics is seen, according to Isaac Disraeli’s words, as “the art of governing mankind by deceiving them.”[42]  In the field of political science, politics has numerous definitions. For instance, American political scientist Harold Lasswell defined politics as “who gets what, when, and, how.”[43] Moreover, David Easton defined politics as “the authoritative allocation of values for a society.”[44]  Furthermore, Vladimir Lenin provided a Marxist definition that “politics is the most concentrated expression of economic.”[45]  Another description was given by Bernard Crick, who argued that “politics is a distinctive form of rue, whereby people act together through institutionalized procedures to resolve differences, to conciliate diverse interests and values, and to make public policies in the pursuit of common purpose.”[46] 

Therefore, the definition of politics is broad in scope in that it enables political science students to look for politics in many social settings beyond state functions and organizations. Therefore, politics takes place everywhere: homes, offices, and marketplaces, as well as in parliaments, companies, and universities. Thus, politics can be narrow since it focuses on governments, politicians, and political parties. It also takes a broad definition, including the interrelationships between people and their rules and norms, institutions, and actions in all social spheres. 

Political Culture 

Linking culture with politics produces the term political culture, thus making politics a function of public culture. It has multiple definitions. For instance, Larry Diamond defines political culture as “a people’s predominant beliefs, attitudes, values, ideals, sentiments, and evaluations about the political system of its country, and the role of the self in that system.”[47]  Moreover, as Lucian Pye states, “Political culture is the set of attitudes, beliefs, and sentiments, which give order and meaning to a political process and which provide underlying assumptions and rules that govern behavior in the political system.”[48] Political cultures are different in each country since other societies have different cultures. Political culture produces political behavior, which is “defined as any action regarding authority in general and government in particular.”[49]  In another way, political behavior means the beliefs and values that underpin the political system’s operation and determines how people participate in politics. Examples of political behavior are voting, protesting and demonstrations, roadblocks, and rebelling. To better understand the links between political culture and political behavior, one could say, “by their political behavior (their deeds), we can know their political culture (their beliefs).”[50]  Many factors influence political behavior, such as ideology, ethnicity, expected rewards or punishments, etc.  

Political behavior is the function of political attitude. Eagly and Chaiken define attitude as “a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favour or disfavour.”[51]  A person’s attitude shows how people think or believe, feel, and tend to behave regarding other people or/and things that may be positive or negative. Attitudes precede behavior, and the behavior of a rational individual is consistent with his/her attitude. This behavior is known as “cognitive resonance.” However, when there is an inconsistency between attitude and behavior, a tension arises in the individual, known as “cognitive dissonance.” Political culture requires people to grasp four attitudinal dimensions. The first dimension concerns political attitudes and political values. Political attitudes mean an orientation or tendency to politics that is relatively temporary and may change with circumstances and over time. It is defined broadly as “the opinions and values individuals hold about political issues, events, and personalities.”[52]  Political attitudes are related to political beliefs, which are longer-lasting and often influence a specific attitude. Political attitudes may include embracing democracy and rejecting dictatorships, believing in freedom, justice, equality, the rule of law, Etc. It may also have negative attitudes, such as believing in racial supremacy, clan/ethnic hegemony, apartheid, clannism, authoritarianism, and anarchy. The second-dimension concerns attitudes towards political and national institutions. These institutions include media outlets (TV, radio, social media, Etc.), mosques and Islamic scholars, clans and clan elders, civil society organizations, political parties, the business community, and government. Here comes the issue of trust/mistrust, respect/disrespect, and legitimacy/illegitimacy, Etc. 

The third-dimension concerns attitudes to political identity and relates to the primary identity of the individual. Identity is the story that we tell ourselves and others about who we are, who we were, and whom we foresee ourselves. For example, Somali individuals may identify themselves, depending on the circumstance, as belonging to a specific geographic location (district, regional state); national identity (Somali); and religious affiliation (Muslim), and so on. Fourthly, leadership attitudes. Here, we will adopt the simplest definition of leadership: an individual or group’s ability to move others to action or agree on a particular course. Generally, there are three types of leadership: charismatic (savior), paternalist (e.g., father requires total obedience), and managerial (e.g., a manager of the institution).     

Elite Political Culture    

Every society can be divided into “elite” and “mass” groups. In a general sense, an elite is a selected and small group of citizens and/or organizations that control a large amount of power in the societies. In general, the elite is someone who has a reputation in the community and “somebody who enjoys the best social, economic, political, as well as cultural levels.”[53] 

Elite theory starts with two underlying assumptions. In every society, the distribution of political power is unequal, and in every system, some people have more power than others.[54] People who have more power (economic, political, and religious) within every society may be one person (a political leader) or a small group (the elite).[55] Usually, the elite’s concept is used to analyze groups that either control or are situated at the top of societies. The first conception of the elite could be found in Plato’s Republic, in which he classified people into gold, silver, iron, and copper.  

You who are the people of this city. You are all Brothers, but among you, there are those who deserve to rule the others. God has molded their nature on the gold. Hence, they are considered the most valuable and desirable individuals. However, God has used silver for molding the guards’ nature and has utilized iron and copper for molding the farmers’ and artisans, nature[56]

As John Higley stated, “Elites may [be] defined as persons who, by virtue of their strategic locations in large or otherwise pivotal organizations and movements, are able to affect political outcomes regularly and substantially.”[57]  In the Qur’an, the elite is synonymous with the Arabic term al-Mala, which means the great ones, the chieftains, the leaders, the notables, the eminent, the dignitaries, the elders, and the ruling circle.[58]  Being the ruling elites and the privileged class, the Qur’an characterized these elites as ardent refusers of the messages of the prophets. This is so because the prophets’ message carried fundamental ideological change and a vision for societies’ socio-economic reform. 

As class theory postulates, political elites not only drive political power from the ownership of economic resources. They acquire other resources that promote access to and retention of political power. These resources include social backgrounds, such as gender and educational qualifications, and communal attributes like ethnicity, religious affiliation, and political party affiliations.[59] Critical elite analysts insist that the political elite, despite their nominally different nature, stem from common backgrounds, which explains their similar political socialization, the formation of attitudes, and interest cohesion.[60] The elite’s concept could be considered someone who has a reputation in the community and enjoys the best social, economic, political, and cultural levels.[61] 

Robert Putman offers that “elite political culture may be defined as the set of politically relevant beliefs, values, and habits of the most highly involved and influential participants in a political system.”[62] In the elitist view, elites can only be substituted by another set of elites, meaning that a minority necessarily rules a majority. Elite political culture analysis presented a significant challenge to the study of political power in non-western societies. In post-colonial countries like Somalia, elite political culture is a mixture of elements of the externally acculturated political culture blended with local clan culture. The following section will put forth formations and structures of the basic Somali elites classified into traditional and modern. 

This paper will use another set of terminologies that requires definitions to avoid confusion for the readers. These terminologies are related to Islam and its derivatives. 

Islamic is a generic term used to signify anything related to the Islamic religion. For example, Islamic education, Islamic belief, Islamic manners, Islamic laws, and so on. Muslim actions should not be related to the Islamic religion because they can differ from the Islamic principles. For example, Islamic civilization, the Islamic movement, Islamic history, Islamic revolution, and Islamic terrorism are inaccurate. Instead, it is a Muslim civilization, Muslim history, and the Iranian revolution. This conceptualization includes negating the use of the ‘Islamic State’ terminology, which is inappropriate. Instead, the best wording is to use Muslim majority states. 

Islamists (activists) are devoted individuals or organized groups (movements) who assertively promote Islamic teachings and values in society and advocate for applying Islamic principles in the society and the state. Islamists are not monolithic and range from moderate reformists, extremist revolutionaries, and state collaborators. They differ in their objectives, approaches, understanding of Islam, and relations with non-Muslims and other religious traditions. Indeed, it is crucial to be aware of those claiming Islamists and use Islam only as a political tool, and when they become in power, forget Islamic values and principles. 

Non-Islamists (non-activists) are the majority of Muslims who may or may not be devoted to Islam. They share the common characteristic of not advocating for the application of Islam in society and the state. They are not synonymous with secularists. Indeed, Islamists and secularists are minorities among Muslims in all countries, but they are more organized and vocal. Secularists are mainly ruling elites, academicians, and media experts, while Islamists constitute mostly opposition forces having broad public support among disgruntled masses. In every free and fair election, most Muslim groups elect Islamist parties that appeal to the emotional attachment to Islam. 

Formation and Structure of the Basic Elites

After the collapse of the medieval Somali states in the 17th century, segmented clan-based mini-states were established in various territories.[63] Then, during the colonial scramble for Africa, Britain, France, Italy, and Ethiopia seized different parts of the Somali regions. Since then, the basic Somali elites were formed as an asymmetrical mixture of the top-down, authoritarian, and bureaucratic colonial system of governance and local system of authorities. This infusion of cultures is reflected in the emergence of modern elites, the political parties, the electoral system, the legal system, institutions of the state, and governance.[64] On the other hand, local culture is based on the deep-rooted Islamic faith synthesized with conventional clan ethos. The modern elites’ assumption of the state is that modern and traditional societies are dichotomous and mutually exclusive. This conception is drawn from the modernization theory, which asserts the indispensable death of traditions and triumph of modernity. As a result, modernity and tradition were imagined as irreconcilable yielding state and society in conflict. This conception and related policy implemented by the military regime finally triggered the triumph of the society and the collapse of the state in 1991. Indeed, the fusion of these two cultures fashioned four well-structured types of elites in Somalia. Two of these elites are long-established and deep-rooted in the traditional society.  They constitute clan elders and scholars of Islam belonging mainly to the Sufi orders. The other two types of elites are modern superstructures that comprise Islamists and non-Islamists. Among these modern elites are political elites, who have different ideological orientations.  

The four basic types of elites are traditional elites and modern elites. Traditional elites are friendly and cooperative, while modern elites are conflictual. Their conflict emanates from their opposite viewpoint on the state’s nature and its legal framework and references. Furthermore, vertical relations demonstrate that the ruling non-Islamist elites are the modern development of traditional elites, while Islamist political elites are rooted in the traditional scholars of Islam. Paradoxically, the ruling non-Islamists viewpoint is that traditional elites (their roots) are obsolete for building a modern state, while political Islamists consider them an obstacle to a proper understanding of Islam.[65] As such, the modern elites were in agreement to marginalize traditional elites.             

The ruling non-Islamist elites were the post-colonial state’s inheritors and resolutely coveted retaining the state’s quasi-secular nature. Conversely, political Islamists advocate zealously to apply Islamic principles and values in the state and society.[66] During their early formative period, the Islamist political elites were influenced by the school of Salafia, and they had unfriendly relations with the traditional scholars of Islam belonging to the Sufi order.[67] However, with the maturation of the Islamists, relations with the Sufi orders substantially improved. Moreover, hostile relations between political Islamists and the ruling non-Islamists have been softened with adopting the Islamic compliance Transitional National Charter (TNC) in 2000.[68] These two political elites also worked closely during the two regimes produced by the Union of the Islamic Courts (Presidents Sheikh Sharif and Hassan Sheikh) and after. As such, the current trend shows the realization of all-inclusive reconciliation between all Somali elites. 

Formation of Clan Elders 

Before the colonial incursion into Somalia in the last quarter of the 19th century, two types of traditional elites collectively ruled the segmented Somali society: clan elders and traditional scholars of Islam. These two elites’ power was harmonized and delineated, so that clan elders are mostly responsible for worldly affairs, while the traditional scholars of Islam are assigned to religious matters.[69] Clan elders usually exercise their power through customary laws (Xeer), which comprise Islamic sharia and local traditions. They are structured into multiple hierarchies from the smallest Diya-paying unit to the largest “clan-families,” as termed by IM Lewis.[70] In the pastoral areas, the Diya-paying unit is generally founded on blood relations (jus sanguinis), while in the agricultural and urban areas, it is formed through naturalization and alliances. They constitute “4 to 8 generations of span, whose members are bound not only by their close agnatic ties but also by an explicit treaty or contract.”[71]   In the higher clan hierarchies, many Diya-paying units are amalgamated to constitute larger clan-lineages. At this level, clan elders use different titles, such as Imam, Ugas, Islan, Boqor, Wabar, Malaaq, Grad, Sultan, Etc. Many clan-lineages constitute clan-families. Generally, the Somali nation comprises four main clan families and many minority clans. The main clan families are Darood, Dir, Digl&Mirifle, and Hawiye. The minority clans constitute many smaller clan-families, such as Banadiri, Barawani, Bajuni, Jareer-weyne, Yahar, Meheri, and Reer Aw-Hassan. They are neither blood related nor reside in the same territory but were instead amalgamated in 2000 for political convenience. As such, the political dispensation in Somalia was divided into a 4.5 power-sharing formula.[72] Indeed, Somalis are close families through agnatic relations and intermarriages, and the overwhelming majority of them speak the same language and adhere to the common Faith of Islam. 

Every Diya-paying unit is an autonomous entity and has a common territory, clan wells, customary laws, and clan elders, and is recognized as such by other neighboring clans. The clan elder’s function is to oversee security and resolve conflicts, run the Diya system’s administration, and maintain inter-and intra-clan relations. Thus, the Diya-paying unit could be considered a small state since it has many similar modern state system features.[73] This small state takes its major decisions in the assembly through all adult male members’ participatory deliberations until a consensus is reached. This process is what I. M. Lewis succinctly called “Pastoral Democracy” in his anthropological study among Somalis in Northern Somalia.[74] Clans do not merely roam anarchically in the bushes, as many may conceive, but they are, in fact, organized and regulated by a set of customary laws and procedures. Their inter-and intra-clan relations are well handled by customary law, an unwritten law memorized by the clan elders and passed across generations.  

Traditional elders were the supreme leaders of their clans before the colonial incursion. Nonetheless, the colonial powers recognized them as their local partners after signing various agreements with them. As such, many clan elders were integrated within the colonial system of governance and became salaried employees. As reported by Lewis, “In the late 1950s, there were 950 recognized Diya-paying groups in Italian Somaliland and 361 in British Somaliland.”[75]  In southern Italian Somalia, these clan elders often used the state’s coercive power to administer their clans. Gradually, many clan elders dwelled in the urban centers and established permanent homes instead of living among their pastoral people. Settling in the cities offered progenies of clan elders, early modern education opportunities, and state employment.[76] This trend was encouraged by the colonial policy of providing an educational opportunity to the traditional authorities’ progenies to maintain the clans’ leadership. Implementation of this policy was evident in the Territorial Council’s formation in the UN Trust Territory under Italian Administration, where traditional elites were dominant.[77] Equally, empowering traditional authorities was also evident in British Somaliland during the formation of the first Legislative Council in 1957. Accordingly, the British Governor had appointed 24 Advisory Council members representing the leading clans of the Protectorate.[78]   

Conversely, Somali nationalists undertook a different course in dealing with clan elders and considered them perilous to the nationalist goals. Thus, the previous colonial policy of integration during the trusteeship period in the 1950s was reframed as a marginalization policy. Indeed, the whole traditional institution was looked at as both an antithesis and an enemy to what nationalists were aiming to invent. Therefore, Somali nationalists embarked on the ambitious task of undermining clan elders to promote nationalism. However, reconfigured the role of clan elders after the collapse of the state in 1991. Since then, clan elders have been active in reconstructing local and national institutions besides their traditional role. 

Formation of Traditional Scholars of Islam 

Traditional scholars of Islam are responsible for the religious functions of communities. These functions include Islamic education; dispensing and directing functions and events, such as teaching the Qur’an and the other Islamic disciplines; conducting marriage contracts and administering inheritance; and leading prayers, fasting, and celebrations of Islamic festivities, among other functions. Beyond this, traditional scholars of Islam have a religious authority that community members hold in the highest respect. During the broader Islamization period of the 13th century, scholars of Islam initiated a sustainable system of education using effective techniques. Thus, Islamic education was “community-centered and locally administered.”[79]  It was also an Islamic-centred schooling system that began with the memorization of the Qur’an in early childhood. The creative way of learning the Arabic alphabet was invented by the Somali scholar Sheikh Yuusuf al-Kawnayn. He introduced the notation system for Arabic alphabets in the Somali language known as Higaad.[80] Memorization of the Qur’an is the first level of Islamic education that remained sustainable for centuries. Some talented graduates from this primary level specialize as teachers of the Qur’an and open Quranic schools.   

The second level of Islamic education begins when some ambitious students proceed to a higher Islamic learning level. Their endeavor is encouraged by the communities, who aim to cultivate a culture of promoting and supporting Islamic education through scholarships.[81] Upon graduation, some new scholars return to their original home territories and establish Islamic education centers. In that process, new villages are set to foster the settlement and urbanization of the rural population. Moreover, the most distinguished graduates are sent by their mentors as emissaries to their home territories to propagate Islam, as recommended by the Qur’an.[82]

The third level of Islamic education is Sufism, which is dispensed by the masters of the Sufi orders. Sufi orders focus on spiritual purification under the guidance of a spiritual master. Followers of Sufism seek a closer personal relationship with Allah through particular disciplines and spiritual exercises. With their symbolical activities and closeness to people’s culture, Sufi orders contributed significantly to Islam’s revival among the masses, using innovative mobilization techniques. 

These techniques create a sense of belonging and mutual support for the Sufi orders’ adherents. They also make a web of trans-clan networks in society, thereby diluting clan polarization and segmentation. These Sufi orders remain active across Somalia and boast popular support. There are two main Sufi orders in Somalia: Qaadiriyah and Axmadiyah. Each Sufi order has its local offshoots.[83] Qaadiriyah has two main branches, Zayli’iyah and Uweysiyah. On the other hand, Axmadiyah has three offshoots: RaxmaaniyahSaalixiyah, and Dandaraawiyah.[84] With the modern education system’s influence, the followers of Sufi orders are going through a reformation.  

Formation of Non-Islamist Elites 

 The early development of non-Islamist elites was associated with traditional elites’ descendants because of the colonial policy of creating a continuation of traditional elites’ loyal line. The children of traditional elites who dwelled in the cities received early education opportunities. Thus, non-Islamist elites were developed with the proliferation of modern schools and during the state-building process. In general, the development of modern education in Somalia was sluggish for many reasons. The reasons include insufficient budgetary allocation of colonial rulers, religious sensitivities, socio-political unrest, volatile security, and the lack of vested interests. “With such a slow process, the formation of the Somali elite was sluggish, deficient, and divergent, mired within the Cold War atmosphere and Muslim-Christian tensions.”[85] 

Modern education was taught in the colonial languages and adopted colonial curricula that promoted a Western outlook. Thus, Italian and English became the official languages of instruction while kept the Arabic language (the official language of the early educated elites) an insignificant part of the curricula. Unluckily, the Somali language was not committed to writing until 1972. Moreover, non-state modern education, which appeared mostly by the 1950s, embodied a hodgepodge of different schools and curricula, such as Christian Mission schools, Egyptian Arabic schools, Italian schools, and others.[86] In the past, the Italian Fascist regime that took power in 1922 prohibited formal education in all Italian colonies.[87] It allowed cultural schools bequeathed to the Roman Catholic Church. The objective of that education was to provide qualified workers for the jobs unsuitable for Italians’ “superior race.”[88] Moreover, it was unfair that cultural schools were reserved only for the sons of obedient notables and those expected to succeed their fathers in serving colonial masters as interpreters, clerks, and office assistants.[89] Nevertheless, this policy has changed after Italy’s defeat in the Second World War in 1941. Since then, modern education began “without a ceiling.”[90]  Therefore, the Somalis took great interest in modern education through civil society groups and political parties’ local initiatives. Remarkably, emerging political parties were competing with each other by investing in education to attract public support. The SYL party took a pioneering role in this race by advancing education in its major programs.[91] Other political parties also followed suit and conducted similar education programs. By 1947, 19 elementary schools funded by the state were taught in Arabic as the second language in southern Somalia. This trend was spreading horizontally, and by 1950, there were 29 schools with an enrolment of 2850 students employing 45 teachers.[92]    

When the UN Trusteeship mandated Italy in 1950 to prepare Somalia for independence within ten years, education’s objective was radically changed.[93] Italy launched A five-year development program in 1952 in collaboration with UNESCO. According to this plan, modern schools, technical institutes, and teacher training programs were established. As reported by I.M. Lewis, “by 1957, some 31,000 children and adults of both sexes were enrolled in primary schools, 246 in junior secondary schools, 336 in technical institutes, and a few hundred more in higher educational institutions.”[94] The above data shows a notable advance in modern education compared with the conditions before the 1950s when fewer than 2,000 students were receiving education. Moreover, specialized schools, such as the School of Politics and Administration, were established in Mogadishu in the 1950s. Some of the graduates of this institute were offered scholarships for further studies at Perugia University in Italy. Others were employed during the speedy Somalization program in the government administration after 1956.  

During this period, the Italian administration employed 4,380 Somalis (88% of the labor force) in government institutions. This employment was a large number compared with that of the British Administration in Somaliland during the same period, where only 300 were employed in the state administration, with only 30 (10%) of them being Somali.[95] Also opened other institutes in 1954, the most important of which was the Higher Institute of Law and Economics, which later became Somalia’s University College. It subsequently developed into the Somali National University in 1972.[96]Moreover, the Italian administration provided scholarships, seminars, and official visits to Italy to the emerging Somali elites to familiarize them with the Italian language and culture. Through better modern education and improved employment privileges, new Somali elites emerged, imbued with Italian culture. These elites became leaders of the political parties, senior administrators, district councilors, and provincial governors. They were also employed in the security apparatus of the state. The new elites’ role grew even more rapidly as, in 1956, they emerged the ruling elite when they replaced Italians in all senior administrative positions to prepare Somalia for independence in 1960. Nonetheless, in the higher echelons of education, there was not much development to boast. “According to [the] UN report on Somalia, three years prior to independence, there was not a single Somali medical doctor, professional pharmacist, engineer, or high school teacher in Somalia.”[97]  However, 37 Somali students in the Italian universities in 1957-58, among whom 27, were expected to graduate in 1960.[98]

In British Somaliland, all attempts to introduce modern education were delayed because of the Christian Mission’s expulsion in 1910 and the subsequent atmosphere of public worries from introducing Christianity and the impact of Sayid Mohamed’s Jihad.[99] Moreover, a combination of the Somali resistance to taxation and colonial financial allocations’ insufficiency contributed to modern education’s postponement in British Somaliland. In 1950, the first two intermediate schools were opened and expanded gradually afterward. According to the public records, the total number of Somaliland students had increased from 623 in 1948 to 6,209 in 1959.[100] 

With the Somali independence in 1960 and the unification of British Somaliland and UN Trust territory of Somalia under Italy, the non-Islamist elites became the national leaders of the Somali state. Under the Cold War competition between the West and the East, Somali students received scholarships to many countries. For instance, incomplete statistical data shows the following trends: in the 1960s, about 500 civilian students were studying in the Soviet Union, 272 in Italy, 152 in Saudi Arabia, 86 in the USA, 40 in Sudan, 34 in the UK, 32 in France, and 29 in India.[101] These data indicate that Western countries’ total number of scholarships was less than that of the Soviet Union alone. This trend is even more evident in the military sector. After Somalia grew dissatisfied with the small amount of Western assistance for military purposes, in 1963, the Soviets agreed to help Somalia build a strong army as part of a Cold War strategy to balance the US presence in Ethiopia. According to Laitin and Samatar, “a joint western countries’ proposal for the military assistance to Somalia was $10 million for an army of 5,000 persons. However, the Soviet offer was a loan of $52 million and an army of 14,000 persons. Thus, the Soviets succeeded in taking over the training of the Somali army.”[102]  As a result, Somali military officers trained in the Soviet Union alone were estimated at more than 500 by 1969. Thus, the majority of non-Islamist elites were indoctrinated with the socialist ideology.[103] Elites trained in the socialist countries added to a far-left drift to the growing westernization, and the ramifications of this phenomenon were experienced during the military regime in 1969.

Formation of Islamist Elites

Islamist elites were developed through two processes. The first was formal education in Arabic/Islamic schools, where some graduates had an opportunity to further their studies at Arab higher education institutions in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Joining higher Arab universities does not mean that these students were automatically subjected to an Islamic agenda since most Arab institutions of higher learning had been secularized during the colonial period and subsequent Arab nationalist movements. Nevertheless, students of Arabic schools were imbued with Islamic/Arabic culture, and some of them, either through direct contact or by reading published literature, became aware of the new Islamist trends in the Muslim world. After becoming traditional scholars of Islam in Somalia, the second process was through those who traveled abroad and joined Islamic higher learning institutions. These scholars contacted other Islamic scholars and students from many Muslim countries where Islamist activism was intense. These scholars could be called “transitional scholars of Islam”since they bridged traditional and modern educational systems. Indeed, these scholars were the pioneers of the modern Islamist movements in Somalia.[104] 

In the process of state-building, Islamist elites were marginalized, initially through unequal job opportunities. For instance, graduates of Arabic high schools and universities could not compete for local jobs with graduates from government schools or other non-state schools because of the language barriers. The language of the administration in Somalia remained either Italian or English until the Somali language was committed to writing in 1972. Therefore, the only jobs available for graduates from Arabic schools and universities were low-paying jobs for Arabic and Islamic teachers in schools, judges, or joining the national army. This structural inequality through diversified curricula and languages created a bifurcation of the elites. Discrimination against the elites educated in Arabic forced many of them to explore alternatives.  

Students educated in the Arabic language realized that the only equal opportunity for them was to join the national army or explore scholarships in socialist countries such as the Soviet Union, East Germany, or China. In these countries, all Somalis had equal opportunities since new languages had to be learned. Exceptions were a small number of civilian scholarships and cadet officers sent to Italy who graduated from Italian schools. Similarly, civilian scholarships and cadet officers sent to Arab countries such as Egypt, Syria, and Iraq had to be conversant in the Arabic language. The trend of sending young Somalis to Eastern and Western countries with either Socialist or capitalist ideologies eventually brought a cultural and ideological schism orchestrated through the Cold War fever. With their meager resources and capacity, they were initially advocating the Islamic culture’s revival and promoting the Arabic language. 

The Islamic revivalism was the culmination of the rising consciousness of Islam in Somalia as part of a broader awakening that was taking place in the Muslim world. It had initially begun in the 1950s and gradually spread in the 1960s with the founding of the organizations Nahdah, Ahal, and Wahdah that were actively preaching the Muslim Brotherhood approach of preaching Islam. Even though early Islamist movements were short-lived, their impact was significant and lasting. Nahdah operated for only three years, although its members remained prominent in Islamic activism for an extended period. Ahal ceased to exist in 1977 after about eight years of active work, and its members were divided into different new Islamic organizations. In 1983, Wahdah ceased to exist after it was united with Jama Islamiyah and became part of Al-Itihad.[105]  However, it is crucial to characterize the Islamist awakening in this period as embryonic and with a high emotional attachment to Islam, low organizational capacity, meager economic resources, and a romantic approach to social and political realities. 

The establishment of the Islamist movements was linked to a global trend that had taken root in Somalia since 1978. For instance, Islah was established in 1978 as a Muslim Brotherhood branch of Somalia, and Jama Islamiyah was formed in 1979 as a neo-Salafia movement, which transformed later into Al-Ittihad in 1983. Moreover, other smaller organizations, such as al-Takfir and al-Ikhwan, were also operating. These organizations’ collective work created a wave of spreading modern ideas of the Islamist movements among Somali ethnic communities in the Horn of Africa. Islamist elites’ formation took great strides by the 1990s, acquiring higher education. After the state’s collapse in 1991, Al-Islah and Al-Ittihad emerged as strong organizations adopting two different approaches to the civil war, moderation, and militancy, respectively.[106] 

The impact of the Islamist movements in politics appeared strongly during the SPRC in Djibouti in 2000. Their influence is evident from the adopted Transitional National Charter (TNC), making Islam the ultimate reference of all laws. Moreover, many Islamists became members of the parliament and cabinet ministers. The political role of Islamists grew exponentially after the emergence of the Islamic Court Union in 2006. Since then, various Islamists’ persuasions have participated actively in Somali politics and even took a leadership role in the two regimes (2009-2016).[107] The impact of Somali Islamist movements is ubiquitous in all sectors encompassing politics, economic, and societal. Thus, Islamist political elites are growing and occupying more spaces.

Concluding this section, Somali elite formation went through stages and transformed gradually. Its new trends indicate rapprochements of all elites since the SPRC in 2000. During this conference, traditional and modern elites accepted each other and reconciled the state and society in the adopted TNC. Further, modern elites abandoned eschewing traditional elites after their empowerment to select parliament members in the clan power-sharing formula of 4.5. 

Moreover, Islam was adopted as the ultimate reference of laws in the TNC, and Islamists and non-Islamist had equal opportunities to be selected by their clans. This trend has been growing in the last 20 years and the biased view based on ideology very much dwindled. Moreover, many traditional elites transformed, whereas many others became highly educated individuals who inherited their fathers’ leadership. Furthermore, the distinction between Islamists and non-Islamists has become cloudy and increasingly narrow due to pervasive Islamism. Nonetheless, in the elite political culture, Islamic values remain shallow, while performing basic Islamic practical obligations is ubiquitous.[108] The new trend shows the early stage of reconciling tradition and modernity, and Islamists and non-Islamists. 

Historical Evolution of Elite Political Culture

The elite political culture and the impact of society’s institutions are the two variables to be understood regarding the failure of the Somali state. These two variables are mutually interdependent and co-evolve in a complementary way.[109] Culture may change in different ways depending on institutions’ nature, and institutions may perform differently in various cultures. This section examines the Somali elite political culture, which is very complex, with multiple factors shaping its development. The first factor is the local political culture of clannish society, a fusion of the universal Islamic culture and particularistic Somali clan culture. The second culture is the Italian political culture imposed/acquired as part of elite acculturation during the 70 years of Italian rule. Relatively, the British indirect rule of Somaliland and its cultural influence was ephemeral. The first manifestation of modern elite political culture appeared in Somalia under UN trusteeship with establishing the first local administration in 1956. This culture was formed as a hybrid of the asymmetrical mixture of the top-down, authoritarian, and bureaucratic Italian colonial rule and local societal elite culture. The hybrid culture of local and Italian continued dominant until 1969. The second phase was introduced during the military rule that espoused socialism. The 21-year rule of the dictatorial regime left behind an enduring impact on the subsequent generations’ elite political culture. The third phase was during the civil war and the warlords’ dominance (1991-2000). The culture warlordism had anarchy, lawlessness, marginalization of the minority clans, and strong foreign patronage. The fourth phase was acquired in 2000 through clan-power sharing. As a result, Somali nationalism has been weakened, and sub-nationalism consolidated through the adoption of the federal system. The following section provides an overview of each phase’s central treads to understand the chemistry of these multiple elite cultures’ intricate fusion. Then, through synthesis, the last section concludes with a description of the resultant elite political culture currently discernible in Somalia.

The Formative Period of Elite Political Culture (1956-1969) 

In the pre-colonial era, clans were the only existing socio-political units that functioned in small geographical areas. In general, the type of political culture in this clannish society is termed as a parochial-localismculture. The Somali clan system’s fundamental unit is called the Diya-paying unit, which provides two essential functions. First, it provides the basic human need for affection, belonging, and identity; second, it offers solidarity among its members to provide social welfare and collective security. According to Harold Lasswell’s broad definition, politics takes place everywhere. Thus, this paper considers the Diya-paying unit as a sovereign mini-state. The following list describes the main elements of the political culture of the clannish society.

Clan Solidarity: The clans’ main cultural characteristic is strong solidarity among its members, which generates the ideology of clannism. This solidarity is called ‘mechanical solidarity’ compared to ‘organic solidarity’ as theorized by the French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858-1917).[110] Although this solidarity is necessary for the survival of the pastoral communities, it is not always positive and often discriminates and excludes those who are not members of their clan. Clannism is like nationalism in many aspects, with the only difference between them being solidarity levels. Clannism is located at the micro-level, while nationalism is at the macro-level. Both clannism and nationalism may be positively used as factors of solidarity or negatively as factors of oppression and intolerances. Clannism generates dominant sentiments, whereas an individual’s fame and glory derive from “the fame and the glory of his ancestor.”[111]  Accordingly, clan members glorify their clans and ancestors and express solidarity to their political elites. This behavior generates vanity and an attitude of superiority among clans. This cultural pattern produces the exclusion of other clans and the fragmentation of society. Clan solidarity in Somalia is robust in the pastoral areas and among their extended families in the urban centers.    

Rivalry over Resources: The other political culture concerns rivalry over scarce resources. This rivalry instigates continuous fighting between neighboring clans over posture and water wells. These clans have a high rate of intermarriages that often mitigate their conflicts because of their mothers’ blood relations. 

Nonetheless, continuous conflicts over scarce resources and fighting are cyclical and part of the nomadic life. The recurring conflicts have produced a culture of looting the defeated clans’ properties, particularly their camels. However, this culture is dominant in the nomadic pastoral societies. In the urban and agro-pastoral communities, peaceful and cooperative cultural trends have developed. This cultural attitude generates violent behavior among the nomadic population. 

Collective Leadership: Somalis are traditionally independent and egalitarian people, and as described by I.M. Lewis, “all men are councilors, all men are politicians.”[112]  Generally, there is no culture of dictatorship in the local Somali culture. Governance is founded on the participatory consultation among all male members of the clan and consensus decision-making process. In some areas, hereditary hierarchical leadership had developed but maintained a high level of participation by the elites of sub-clans. In general, Somalis are independent-minded, excessively freedom-loving people that sometimes reaches a chaotic level and anarchy. 

Strong Islamic Identity:Somalia islocated at the periphery of the Muslim World, where Muslims and Christians interact. It is a frontier state in defending Islam’s heartland from external invasions and extending its frontiers through various means. On the other hand, Somalia is where the Islamic identity took prominence, and the Christian-Muslim borders are drawn. It is also a source of inspiration for the Muslim population in the Horn of African region. The depth of the Somali identity is expressed on the maxim that “Somalis, for the most part, do not by and large apply Islamic values, but they always protect Islam and guard it against abuses of others.”[113] Moreover, the Somali wisdom that is “two are inviolable in Somalia: clan culture and Islam” conveys the same message, which means most Somalis are ready to sacrifice their lives to defend these two inviolable ideals.

DisregardingState AuthorityAccording toMichael Bauman,”all laws, regardless of their content or their intent, arise from a system of values, from a belief that some things are right and others wrong, that some things are good and others bad, that some things are better and others worse.”[114]  Moreover, Ibn-Khaldun wrote that “Arabs [nomads] can obtain royal authority only making use of some religious coloring such as prophecy, or sainthood, or some great religious event in general.”[115] Accordingly, Somali people respect their local customary laws and accept Islamic Sharia founded in their values. However, “disregard secular laws derived from the inherited colonial laws [and] imposed on the Somali society.”[116] 

The Impact of Italian Political Culture 

Having the above-stated characteristics of the local political culture in general, in the nineteenth century, Italy and Britain occupied Somali territories and France and Ethiopia. The Italian rule was effective in two periods: The Fascist regime (1922-1941) and the UN trusteeship period under the Italian Administration (1950-1960). In between, Somalia was under BMA (1941-1950). Somali political development occurred during the UN trusteeship period, in which Somali political elites were trained, and socio-economic programs were implemented. Thus, Italian political culture was introduced in Somalia. The emerging political elites adopted the Italian political culture mixed with local political clannish culture, which created a cultural dynamism that “once established, these orientations [the hybrid culture] have a momentum of their own, and may act as an autonomous influence on politics and economics long after the events that gave rise to them.”[117] Comparatively, the cultural impact of Britain’s indirect rule in Somaliland and its 10-year rule under BMA in most Somali territories was insignificant. To comprehend the new hybrid culture better, we will briefly address the Italian political culture. 

Italian politics are founded on a parliamentary system of governance and a multi-party system. This system has a reputation for political fragmentation and government instability. Indeed, Italian political culture’s predominant narrative was characterized as “static, backward, ‘immobile,’ and impermeable to change, as described in the early 1950s.”[118] Moreover, the Italian political culture was summarized during the 1950s as being “familistic-parochial-localistic.”[119]  The familistic-parochial culture is “the prevalence of local sources of identifications, low pride for the country, and unwillingness to make sacrifices if required.”[120] The main elements of this political culture could be summarized as follows:

a. Localism: Localism is identification with a group to which each Italian refers when he thinks of himself as part of the body politic. It is similar to a clannism based on agnatic affiliation or a territorial alliance in the Somali context. When studying Italian political culture, Edward Benfield coined the term “amoral familist” to describe a person who behaves according to the following rule: “maximize the material, short-run advantage of the nuclear family; assume that all others will do likewise.”[121] In this political culture, individuals are greedy and busy amassing wealth for their gain and characterized by a high level of corruption, ineptitude, and lack of political direction. Early scholars defined familism as a strong identification with family characterized by loyalty, reciprocity, and solidarity. 

b. Widespread Corruption: another characteristic of Italian political culture is widespread corruption. Explaining Italian corruption culture, Diego Gambetta expressed that “the level of corruption is on a par with or worse than that of much less developed countries while being far above the level of similarly developed countries.”[122]  Empirical evidence demonstrates that bribery, extortion, and graft are often the outgrowths of the more profound Italian culture of “corruption.”[123]  

c. Political Patronage: this culture allowed groups of citizens linked directly to politicians to reap high rewards through special laws (leggine) or political appointments. The internal patronage that produces rewards and appointments were not aimed at enhancing efficiency or recruiting professional expertise. The interaction between politicians, bureaucracy, and groups of citizens directly linked to politicians was a characteristic of the Italian political system. Political patronage is a worldwide phenomenon; however, Italy ranks high in the index of party patronage.[124]   

d. Political Fragmentation and Instability: One of the main features of the Italian political culture is instability and fragmentation. This culture often leads to short-lived coalition governments and unlimited political parties. “Political instability and fragmentation have been constants of the Italian scene through most of the post-war period. Until recently, governments changed with bewildering frequency. Italy has had over 60 governments since the end of World War II.”[125]  The instability of the political system is associated with the political party system, the structures of two houses of representatives, the electoral model, and so on.  

Democratic Culture: 

Democratic countries choose one of the two models of democracy: consensual and competitive (majoritarian).Consensus democracy is founded on the culture of consensus decision-making, which involves coalition building and a broad range of opinions. On the other hand, the majoritarian system considers only the majority party’s decision-making and that minority parties’ voices are ignored.[126] The adopted type of democracy depends on that particular society’s culture, and each type has its advantages and limitations. Italian democracy belongs to the consensus system, characterized by a broad coalition of power-sharing, the executive and legislative balance of power, multi-party system, proportional representation election model, a federal and decentralized system, strong bi-cameralism, And so on.[127] 

countriesSomali traditional clan cultureItalian Political Culture
    Political CultureClan Solidarity Fighting over Resources (violence) Collective leadership and participatory decision making Strong Islamic identity Disregarding State Authorities      Localistic culture  Political Patronage   Widespread Corruption Political Fragmentation and instability  Democratic culture  

Table 1. Comparative Political Cultures, Somalia and Italy

It is noticeable from the above comparative cultures that Somali political elites adopted Italian political culture, while some traditional cultural elements were assimilated or disregarded. The disregarded aspects of local Somali culture include the culture of collective leadership and consensus decision-making process. Moreover, Strong adherence to Islamic values was substantially weakened. Furthermore, political clannism, which was similar to the Italian culture of localism, was assimilated. The manifestation of such localism or political clannism was the unlimited clan-based political parties established in Somalia. Thus, Somali elites’ resultant political culture includes political patronage (internal and external), political clannism, widespread corruption, political instability, and a volatile democratic culture. 

Oval: Political patronage

Fig.2. Somali Elite Political Culture (1956-1969)

This political culture has developed in the formative period of Somali state-building and persisted for 14 years (1956-1969). However, the system corroded gradually, and new political elites emerged with different ideological persuasions. Many of these new elites were educated in the socialist countries (USSR, Germany, China, and others) and the Arab military regimes (Egypt, Iraq, and Syria).[128] The fragile democratic culture in the early years of the Somali Republic has been deteriorating further since 1967.[129] As such, the corruption level and rigging election reached an unprecedented level in the election of 1969. This cruel practice caused the second President of the Republic’s assassination, Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, on October 15, 1969.[130] Consequently, the Somali army took over the power in a bloodless coup on October 21, 1969. On the other hand, in reaction to the Westernized elite behavior, a new generation of Islamists emerged in the 1960s to advocate for the abidance of the Islamic tenets and manners. The new period of the Somali period has begun with military rule, socialist orientation, dictatorship, and a growing Islamist awakening.     

The Evolution of Elite Political Culture (1969-1991)

The evolution of elite political culture begins with the military coup in 1969. The military regime had added new elements to the political culture of the elites and illuminated others. The military regime abrogated the constitution, disbanded the Parliament, and imprisoned leaders of the government. The regime adopted socialism in 1970 and implemented anti-societal policies.[131] The new regime’s socialist policies included suppressing Islamic activism, rigorous programs that diminished traditional elders’ role, the elimination of democratic tradition, and a transformation of the whole society into subjects. These policies mean that relations between the military leadership and citizens were patron-follower relations. The military and the National Security Service (NSS) role were oriented to suppress any plausible oppositions. Moreover, the establishment of a para-military force, “Guulwadayaal,” aimed to keep a watchful eye over the communities.,   

The military regime’s rule could be divided into two phases. The first phase (1969-1978) was a socialist transformation, national mobilization, and institutions’ rebuilding. The main characteristics of this phase were the formation of new socialist elites, which began with committing the Somali language into writing in 1972 and opening hundreds of schools in every village with a new socialist curriculum. Included in this program, and illiteracy campaign was conducted in 1974 to educate the rural population. Moreover, Somali National University was opened in 1971 to produce socialist indoctrinated elites. In the curriculum of the university, studies of socialist ideologies were made compulsory. Besides that, specialized political faculty to train socialist party cadres were opened. What is more, other cultural manifestations were established, such as the National Academy of Arts, Sciences, and Culture, the National Theatre, and the National Museum. Moreover, the rich Somali poetry was excessively instrumentalized to propagate the new ideology of socialism and to praise the supreme leader of Other, General Mohamed Siyad Barre. The regime empowered women and girls’ enrolment in the schools increased extensively. Also, many women were promoted to higher bureaucratic positions, diplomatic corps, and cabinet ministers. As part of women’s empowerment, secular family law was issued in 1975, which encountered significant societal opposition. As a result, 10 Islamic scholars were executed by the regime who publicly opposed the law on the pretext that it contravenes the Qur’an.[132] This event energized embryonic Islamist activism, and the regime was then branded as anti-Islamic and Godless Atheists. To further promote the socialist transformation, the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP) was formed in 1976, the only party in the country. However, this phase’s defining moment is the Somali-Ethiopian war of 1977/78, in which the Somali military was humiliated and defeated.     

The second phase of the military regime begins after the military defeat of Somalia in 1978. In this phase, the early impetus of national mobilization and the socialist ideology was exhausted and faltering. The second wave of military officers’ coup d’état was launched on April 9, 1978, nevertheless aborted.[133] Since then, the national army disintegrated along clan-lines, and clannish armed opposition emerged one after another.[134] The regime’s opposition was growing and included diplomatic corps, former ministers, high-ranking military officers, and Islamist movements. The regime opted for a militaristic policy and unrestrained force filing to resolve internal conflicts through democratization and peaceful dialogue. The armed conflict process between the regime and the armed opposition continued until the total collapse of the regime and the state in 1991. Indeed, three elite political culture continued from the previous civilian government during the military regime. These are political patronage, political clannism, and widespread corruption. Moreover, the military regime introduced dictatorship/violence and related behavior, which led to the elimination of democratic culture and interconnected political stability.  

Fig.3.The Ruling Elite Political Culture (1969-1991)

After the state’s collapse, the ruling elite political culture of the previous regime continued in the context of the radicalized clans, and warlordism had resulted in excessive violence. The pre-state culture of clannish society based on relentless fighting became rampant. Moreover, extremism in the name of Islam emerged and intensified. Former Somaliland unilaterally declared succession on May 18, 1991. After ten years of continuous conflict and the failure of 12 warlord-reconciliation conferences in southern Somalia, the direction of reconciliation shifted to a civil society-driven course. In this process, the clan-power sharing 4.5 formula was institutionalized, and the Islamic compliant constitution was adopted during the SPRC in Djibouti in 2000. Since that time, reconstructing the Somali state was sluggish and revolved around the clan-power sharing and the vicious recycling of dysfunctional national institutions. The elite political culture accumulated different elements of the previous phases following continuity and change theory. Since 2000, the following elite political culture persisted: Political Patronage, Institutionalization of political clannism, the ubiquity of corruption, and political violence. The culture of violence, which is a continuation of the dictatorship and warlordism mentality, has continued to some extent. Political instability and quasi-democratic culture have also been revived.[135] Moreover, foreign political patronage intensified, and internal patronage became insidious. 

In conclusion,the ruling elite political culture (2000-2020) was a collection of pieces of all elements of culture acquired since 1956. Some of these elements were weakened and faded while others persisted and augmented. The primary resultant political culture is as follows:   

Institutionalization of Political Clannism:Although this culture continued during all the Somali state-building phases, it was nonetheless institutionalized at the SPRC in Djibouti in 2000. The adopted 4.5 clan power-sharing formula marked a complete shift in the elite political culture previously based on demeaning clannism. The political clannism culture was promoted and encouraged by the electoral system, permitting unrestricted political parties introduced by the Italians in 1954. However, political clannism was growing and was finally institutionalized since the SPRC.

Ubiquity of Political Corruption: This culture has existed since the beginning of elections in Somalia in 1954; however, it has been growing in magnitude gradually. Corruption has many phases, but the most prominent one in Somalia is open vote-buying. It reached the level of commercialization of politics having all characteristics of commercial goods in buying and selling votes publicly to the highest bidder. To become a member of the Parliament, individuals should buy the seat from the clan elders and associates and then sell to the presidential candidates. As reported, the highest cost of one of the seats in the 2016 election reached approximately one million dollars, while the average price to buy an MP’s vote on the night before the presidential election was estimated at around $50,000.[136] In the index of transparent international, Somalia has placed in the highest corruption perceptions index over the last ten years.[137] This culture enabled foreign countries to invest in empowering their proxies for the highest public offices and presidential candidates.[138]

Political Violence:This culture was developedsince the early years of the election in the 1950s as part of traditional clan culture and the disability of Italian administration to register voters and conduct a census. For instance, “the planned census, to be completed in 1957, failed miserably in three of the total six administrative regions: Majeerteen, Mudug, and Lower Juba, while it was successful in Banadir, Upper Juba, and Hiiran. As a result of the shortcoming of AFIS to accomplish a reliable census, the early unfair representation of the seats in Parliament began, which also led to the early culture of rigging elections.’[139] Thus, the authorities’ rigging of elections became a norm besides the unfair allocation of seats of the Parliament to various constituencies. For instance, in the early period of 1956-1969, SYL ruling party has been accused of rigging elections.[140] The same phenomenon recurred since 2000, and rigging election and violence were even more evident afterward.[141] 

Strong Foreign Patronage:The culture of foreign patronage started during the UN trusteeship period. This period was the height of the Cold War, and competition between the East and West to dominate Africa’s strategic Horn was at a high pace. Western countries supported moderate leaders of the ruling party of SYL and suppressed other parties who were ideologically oriented towards the Eastern bloc.[142] The major countries that influenced Somali foreign policies during this period were Italy, Egypt, and the USA. However, gradually, the USSR’s role was growing, particularly since 1963, to build the Somali National Army. The USSR became the major country that offered patronage to Somali political elites after the military takeover in 1969. Subsequently, Somalia also received USA and Italian patronage after its relations with the USSR deteriorated in 1977. With the collapse of the state, Ethiopia was the primary country that provided patronage to the warlords. Finally, after the Gulf crisis, the rich Arab countries’ patronage’s role increased substantially, particularly the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Local political patronage in the form of clientelism and nepotism also continued. 

Fig.4. Somali Elite Political Culture (2000-2020)


This paper explores what has made the Somali government fail repetitively and frustrate its recovery for the last 60 years. The hypothesis is founded that the elite political culture is the main contributing factor in building and breaking the state. Other contributing factors to the Somali state’s failure are considered the socio-political and economic environment in which political elites navigate to succeed or fail. However, this is not to negate that this environment necessarily shapes political elites’ culture in a complex process of reciprocal relations. There are only limited studies on elite political culture and the responsibility of state failure on the governing elites.  

The first section of the paper provides a theoretical backdrop to elite political culture by defining its components (e.g., culture, politics, and elitism) and combining them to constitute the conception of elite political culture. It posits various concepts of culture and its expression as expressive, material, and immaterial forms. It is evident that every individual is born into a specific societal culture, but culture could be learned in the processes of enculturation, socialization, and acculturation. Moreover, culture could be divided into covert and overt levels similar to the iceberg. On the other hand, politics could be narrowly defined as governments, politicians, and political parties, or so broadly that it includes the interrelationships between people and their rules and norms, institutions, and actions in all social spheres. Combining these two words gives the term political culture, which is different in each country producing political behavior. What is more, in post-colonial countries like Somalia, elite political culture is a mixture of colonial elite political culture elements blended with local clan culture.  

The second section traces the formation and structure of the Somali elites’ basic components dividing them into traditional and modern. Traditional elites mean clan authorities comprising clan elders and traditional scholars of Islam, who collectively manage the clans’ affairs. It was evident that relations between traditional authorities were cordial and cooperative, while modern elites consisting of Islamists and non-Islamists were conflictual. However, after the collapse of the state, the role of traditional elites had grown from a purely managing clan affair to selecting members of the Parliament, and in some regions, as part of decision-making institutions. 

The third section explores the historical evolution of elite political culture since 1956. It is evident from the historical analysis that the Somali elite political culture was formed in stages. Initially, it was developed as a hybrid of the asymmetrical mixture of the top-down, authoritarian, and bureaucratic Italian colonial rule and local participatory and collective leadership elite culture. The formative political elite culture produced a shaky democracy plagued with corruption while maintaining clannism and internal and external political patronage. Then, the military rule introduced the ideology of socialism, dictatorship, and the related violence that followed, until its collapse in 1991. After the state’s collapse, the previous culture continued by the warlords during the civil war can be characterized by anarchy, lawlessness, and strong foreign patronage. The final stage of the ruling elite political culture’s historical evolution was acquired in 2000 through clan-power sharing. Hence, the resultant culture is an assortment of the accumulation of all the above cultures since 1956. However, its main elements are the clannization of politics and pervasive commercialization of politics, violence and rigging elections, and strong foreign and local patronage. Having acquired this culture, politicians swing between instrumentalizing clannism, Islamism, and nationalism to serve their self-centric interest. Finally, recovering the Somali state depends primarily on transforming the above-stated ruling elite political culture and breaking the vicious cycle of state failure. How to break this political culture and reform institutions that are reproduced? These are questions that require comprehensive academic studies to reform a viable Somali state.


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[1] Terrence Lyons and Ahmed Samatar, Somalia: State Collapse, Multilateral Intervention, and Strategies for Political Reconstruction (Brookings Occasional Papers, 1995), 8.  

[2]  African watch committee, ‘Somalia: A Government at war with its own people’ (Human Rights Watch; 1st ed Edition (June 1, 1990).

[3] Abdurahman Abdullahi, Making Sense of Somali History, Volume one (Adonis & Abbey, 2017), 196.

[4] Somali tradition has two components: clan and Islam. Both elements have been used to mobilize the population for war and peace. 

[5] Interpeace, History of Mediation in Somalia since 1988. Research for Peace Program. (accessed on May 27, 2020), 10.

[6] 4.5 clan power-sharing was adopted in the Somali National Peace and Reconciliation Conference held in Djibouti in 2000. This formula allocated parliamentary seats equally to 4 major clans and half of the seats to collections of other smaller clans.  

[7] All state-building milestones are not achieved, such as completing the constitution, security arrangement, and democratic election.   

[8] See David Laitin and Said Samatar, Somalia: Nation in Search of a State (Westview, 1987).

[9] These scholars considered Somalia a nation that can quickly build a state because of its people’s homogeneous nature. See Neil Joseph Smelser, Toward a Theory of Modernization (New York: Basic Books, 1964), 268-274, Marion Levy, Social Patterns and Problems of Modernization (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1967), 189-207.                 

[10] The title of the book ‘Somalia: Nation in Search of a State’ by David Laitin and Said Samatar expresses this phenomenon very well.   

[11] Mohamed H. Ingriis, ‘Who Assassinated the Somali President in 1969? The Cold War, the Clan Connection, or the Coup d’Etat’. African Security, 10(2), 2017, 131–154.

[12] An example of this rift is the adopted secular family law, which was contrary to Islamic law. Moreover, the regime attempted to eliminate clan elders’ role and offered new titles such as “Nabadoon,” among others.

[13] Mohamed H. Ingriis. The Suicidal State: The Rise and Fall of Siad Barre Regime, 1969-1991 (UPA, 2016).

[14] Abdurahman Abdullahi, Making Sense of Somali History, volume two. Adonis &Abbey, 2018, 156-164.

[15] See the note, “the single most important immediate factor responsible for Somali Catastrophe is the nature of political leadership.” Hassan A. Mire, “On Providing for the Future.” The Somali Challenge: From Catastrophe to Renewal, edited by Ahmed Samatar (Lyne Rienner Publisher, 1994), 23. 

[16] Many works of literature have been produced on the subject of elite failure in Africa. Mostly tailored these studies to the concepts of “extraversion” and elite dependence on former colonial powers. See Samir Amin, Accumulation on a World Scale: A Critique of the Theory of Underdevelopment (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1974), Also, Jean-François Bayart and Stephen Ellis, “Africa in the World: A History of Extraversion.” African Affairs, Vol. 99, No. 395, 2000, 217-267.

[17] Quoted in Danwart A. Rustow, A World of Nations (Washington, D C: Brookings, 1967), 135.

[18] John Higley and Jan Pakulski, Pareto’s Theory of Elite Cycles: A Reconsideration and Application. Available from Pareto”s Theory of Elite Cycles: A Reconsideration and Application ( ( accessed on January 23, 2021)

[19] Abdurahman Abdullahi, ‘Revisiting Somali Historiography: Critique and Idea of Comprehensive Perspective.’

Journal of Somali Studies, Volume 5, 1-2, 2018, 31-59. Also, Tobias Hogman, “Stabilization, Extraversion, and 

Political Settlement in Somalia.” The Rift Valley Institute, 2016.

[20] See Thomas Hodgkin, Nationalism in Colonial Africa (London: Frederick Muller, 1956).

[21] Abdalla Omar Mansur, “Contrary to a Nation: The Cancer of the Somali State.” In the Invention of Somalia edited by Ali Jumale (The Red Sea Press, 1995), 107-116.

[22] Chinua Achebe, The Trouble with Nigeria (Fourth Dimension Publishing Co, 2000), 1. 

[23] These scholars include Plato, Aristotle, St. Thomas, Aquinas, Machiavelli, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Max Weber, Foucault, and Marcuse. Italian scholars like Vilfredo Pareto, Gaetano Mosca, and Robert Michels greatly influenced the elite theory in the Western tradition.

[24] Edward Tylor, Primitive Culture, Vol 1 (New York: J.P. Putnam’s Son, 1871).

[25] Orlando Patterson, “Making Sense of Culture.” The Annual Review of Sociology 2014. Available from (accessed on Jan.15, 2020).  

[26] Andrew Riemann, Introduction to Culture Studies: Introductory activities for exploring and comparing cultures (Intergraphica Press, 2013), 5.

[27] Carol Frieze, Lenore Blum, Orit Hazzan and M. Bernardine Dias, “Culture and Environment as Determinants of Women’s Participation in Computing: Revealing the ‘Women-CS Fit’.” Available from (accessed on January 15 2020).

[28] Tylor, Primitive Culture.  

[29]  Kawan J. Allen, “Expressive Culture,” The Department of Cultural References, accessed January 16, 2020, (accessed on October 12 2020).

[30] John J Macionis and Linda Marie Gerber, Sociology (Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2011), 53. 

[31] See (accessed on January 16, 2020)

[32][31] (accessed on July 14 2020).

[33] William Graham Sumner, Folkways: A Study of Mores, Manners, Customs, and Morals (Cosimo Classics, 2007).

[34] Enculturation is learning how to use the accepted patterns of cultural behavior that one’s culture prescribes. Conversely, acculturation is the learning process where knowledge is transferred from one culture to another, usually more powerful ones. For example, colonialism, modernization, and globalization created intense acculturation of the people in the former colonies of the South. 

[35] B. Howitt, And R. Julian, Society, and Culture (Heinemann, Second Edition, Sydney, 2009).

[36] David Matsumoto and Linda Juang, Culture and psychology (Jon-David Hague publisher, 2013),15

[37] Max Weber, Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology (Berkley, CA: U. California Press, 1922).

[38] Chen, Jing (2016). Useful Complaints: How Petitions Assist Decentralized Authoritarianism in China (New York: Lexington Books, 2016), 165. 

[39] Patrick H. O’Neil, Essentials of Comparative Politics (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010), 35–38.

[40] Frank Bealey, The Blackwell Dictionary of Political Science: A User’s Guide to Its Terms, 1999), 22–23

[41] What is politics? Available from (accessed on January 15, 2020).

[42] Quoted by Bernard Crick, In Defense of Politics (London: Pelican Books, 1964), 16

[43] Harold Lasswell, Politics: Who Gets What, When, and How? (Meridian Books, 1951), 13.

[44] David Easton, The political system: an inquiry into the state of political science (University of Chicago Press, 1981).

[45] Lenin, V. I., Collected Works. September 1903 – December 1904, 1965. 

[46] Crick, In Defense of Politics, 16. 

[47] Larry Diamond, Political Culture and Democracy in Developing Countries (Lynne Rienner Publisher, 1994), 7.

[48] Leonardo Morlino, Dirk Berg-Schlosser, BertrandBadiePolitical Science: a global perspective (Sage Publications, 2017), 64–74.

[49] Trevor Munroe, An Introduction to Politics: Lectures for first-year students (Jamaica: Canoe Press, 2002), 3.

[50] Ibid, 8.

[51] Alice H. Eagly and Shelly Chaiken, The Psychology of Attitudes (Belmont USA: Wadsworth, 1993),1

[52] Attitudes, Political. (accessed on May 13, 2020).

[53] A.R. Khajeh-Sarvi, Political Competition and Political Stability in Iran (Tehran: Revolution Documents Center Publications, 2003), 339. 

[54] Asaf Hussain, Political Perspective on the Muslim World (New York: Praeger, 1981),

[55] Abdurahman Abdullahi, “Tribalism, Nationalism, and Islam: The Crisis of Political Loyalty in Somalia.” MA Thesis submitted to the Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University, 1992, 7.

[56] Plato. The Republic (Tehran: Cultural and Scientific Publications, 1995), 202.

[57] John Higley, Elite theory in political sociology (the University of Texas at Austin, 2008), 3.

[58] See al-Mala’s meaning in the Qur’anic translations of Pickthall, Yusuf Ali, Shakir, Arberry, and others.

[59] Weber M. The theory of social and economic organization (New York: Oxford University Press 1943).

[60] Prewitt K, Stone A. “The ruling elite.” In Olsen ME, Marger MN, Eds. Power in modern societies. Boulder (Westview Press 1993).

[61] A. R. Khajeh-Sarvi, Political Competition and Political Stability in Iran (Tehran: Revolution Documents Center Publications, 2003), 339.

[62] Robert Putman, “Studying Elite Political Culture.” Available from (accessed on September 17, 2020).

[63]  The strongest medieval Somali states were Ajuran Imamate in the south and Adal in Northern Somalia. See Abdullahi, Making Sense of Somali History, volume one, 59-62.

[64] Endalcachew Bayeh, “The Political and Economic Legacy of Colonialism in the Post-independent African States.” International Journal of Commerce, IT and Social Sciences, Volume 2, issue 2 (February 2015). Available from (accessed on January 22, 2020).

[65] Samuel Huntington, The Change to Change: Modernization, development, and politics (New York: Free Press, 1976), 58-60; 58-60.

[66] Other elites, such as economic elites, civil society elites, and professional elites, are crosscurrent.

[67] Terminologies of Islamists and non-Islamists are redefined in the unpublished paper, Abdurahman Abdullahi, “Theorizing Islam and Islamists in Somalia: Conceptions and Cultural Challenges.”  

[68] See National Transitional Charter, “The Islamic Sharia shall be the basic source for national legislation and any law contradicting Islamic Sharia shall be void and null,” article 4: 4.

[69] Lee Cassanelli, The Shaping of Somali Society: Reconstructing the history of a Pastoral People, 19600-1900 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982), 112.

[70] Diya-paying unit is derived from the Arabic language of Diya; Somali, mag.  

I.M. Lewis, “Force, and Fission in Northern Somali Lineage Structure.” American Anthropologist, Available from (accessed on September 20, 2020).

[71] Ibid, 97.

[72] The 4.5 power-sharing formula was adopted in the Somali Peace and Reconciliation Conference held in Djibouti in 2000. It was founded to offer the main clan families equal shares in the parliament and to give amalgamation of the minority clans half of the share.

[73] Abdullahi, Tribalism, Nationalism and Islam, 37-39.

[74] I.M. Lewis, Pastoral Democracy: A Study of Pastoralism and Politics among Northern Somali of the Horn of Africa (LIT Verlag, 1999).

[75] I.M. Lewis, A Modern History of Somalia: Nation and State in the Horn of Africa (Longman, 1980), 166-67. Also, Abdullahi, Tribalism, Nationalism, and Islam, 36-37.

[76] Sylvia Pankhurst, Ex-Italian Somaliland (London: Watts & Co., 1951), 214.   

[77] Abdullahi, Making Sense of Somali History, Volume two, 145.

[78] Lewis, Modern History of Somalia, 152.

[79] Abdinoor Abdullahi, “Constructing Education in the Stateless Society: The Case of Somalia.” A Ph.D. thesis submitted to the University of Ohio, 2007, 25. 

[80] Sheikh Yusuf al-Kawnayn (Aw-Barkhadle) is one of the oldest known scholars of Islam who propagated Islam in Somalia around the 13th century. Little is known about his biography; however, I. M. Lewis reconstructed some insights from oral traditions and findings of Cerulli in Harrar. His tomb is located at Dagor, about 20 km from Hargeysa. See I.M. Lewis, Saints, and Somalis: Popular Islam in Clan-based Society (The Red Sea Press, 1998), 89-98.

[81] This scholarship package encompasses free education offered by the learned scholars and the community members’ free accommodation. This system, called Jilidda Xer-cilmiga (feeding seekers of knowledge), founded that cities’ dwellers to provide food for the Islamic studies’ rural students.

[82] See the verse from the Qur’an (9:122), “and it is not proper for the believers to go out to fight (Jihad), all together. Of every troop of them, a party only should go forth, that they may get instructions in the Islamic religion, and that they may warn their people when they return to them, so that they may beware (of evil).”

[83] Most scholars fail to distinguish between the original Sufi order and their later derivatives. Sometimes these Sufi orders are said to be three, making Salihiyah a separate Order from Ahmadiyah and neglecting the Rufaiyah order’s existence. See David Laitin and Said Samatar, Somalia: Nation in Search of a State (Westview, 1987), 45. 

[84] Abdurahman Abdullahi, The Islamic Movement in Somalia: A Study of Islah Movement, 1950-2000 (Adonis & Abbey, 2015), 39-42

[85] Abdurahman Abdullahi, Making Sense of Somali History, Volume one (Adonis &Abbey, 2017), 101.

[86] Some of these schools are Russian Banadir High School, Italian schools, and Saudi Islamic Solidarity School. 

[87] Moḥamed Sharif Moḥamūd, “Abdirizāq Hāji Hussein, Rais Wasāra al-Somāli (1964-1967), 2009,” available from (accessed on April 21, 2010). 

[88] A fascist regime ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943, a far-right ideology based on racism and authoritarianism. 

[89] Abdurahman Abdullahi, Tribalism, Nationalism, and Islam, 63.

[90] This terminology used by Salah Mohamed means that granted of establishing schools and even local organizations. The fascist rule prohibited these activities. See, Salah Mohamed Ali, Hudur and the History of Southern Somalia (Cairo: Nahda Book Publisher, 2005), 358.

[91] The party had opened many adult night classes with its members’ generous contributions, and by 1948, 65% of its classes were taught in English compared with 35% in Arabic. The Somali Youth League (SYL) was the first political party in Somalia. It was founded as a youth organization in 1943 and transformed into a political party in 1947. Being the major nationalist party, it became the ruling party (1956 -1969). 

[92] See Paolo Tripodi, The Colonial Legacy in Somalia: Rome and Mogadishu: From Colonial Administration to Operation Restore Hope (Palgrave Macmillan, 1999), 59. There is a discrepancy with the statistical data of the numbers of student enrolment. Tripodi gives 2,850 while another paper gives 1,600 while. Lee Cassanelli and Farah Sheikh Abdulkadir, “Somali Education in Transition” (Bildhan, vol. 7, 2007), 91-125 

[93] Tripodi, Ibid,59. 

[94] Lewis, A History of Somalia, 140.

[95] Somalization of administration was a program giving Somalis responsibility in administering the country through training and coaching by Italian administrators. The significant difference in the new elites’ administrative style and nurturing is evident in the British and Italians’ two colonies under the UN trusteeship. See Tripodi, The Colonial Legacy, 75. 

[96] Lewis, A History of Somalia, 141. 

[97] Abdirahman Ahmed Noor, “Arabic Language and Script in Somalia: History, attitudes, and prospects.” Ph.D. diss., Georgetown University, 1999, 52.

[98] “In 1960, the year of independence, only 27 seven Somalis would receive university degrees in Italy; one in medicine, six in political science, one in social science, nine in economics and business administration, one in journalism, three in veterinary medicine, two in agronomy, one in natural science, one in pharmacy, and one in linguistics.” See Mohamed Osman Omar, The Road to Zero: Somalia’s Self-destruction (HAAN associates, 1992), 45.

[99] Saadia Touval, Somali Nationalism: International Politics and the Drive for Unity in the Horn of Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963), 64. 

[100] Ahmed Samatar, Socialist Somalia: Rhetoric and Reality (London: Zed Press, 1988), 47. 

[101]Luigi Pastaloza, The Somali Revolution (Bari:Edition Afrique Asie Amerique Latine, 1973), 350.

[102] Laitin and Samatar, Somalia: Nation, 78.

[103] Samatar, Socialist Somalia, 78.

[104] The most notable Islamist scholars were: Sheikh Ali Sufi, Sayid Ahmad Sheikh Muse, Sheikh Abdulqani Sheikh Ahmad, Sheikh Nur Ali Olow, Sheikh Mahamad Ahmad Nuur (Garyare), Sheikh Mohamad Moallim Hasan, Abdullahi Moallim, and Sheikh Abdirahman Hussein Samatar, Sheikh Ali Ismael, Sheikh Ibrahim Hashi, Sharif Mohamud, and others.

[105] This unification did not last long, and many members of Wahdah quit Ittihaad and reorganized themselves. This group has made a great effort in working with SNM during the difficult period of the civil war. They have focused their work on the refugee camps and later influenced the Somaliland Constitution and flag. The author interviewed Ismail Abdi Hurre on August 14, 2009, in Hargeysa, Somaliland.

[106] Abdurahman Abdullahi, ‘The Islah Movement in Somalia: Islamic Moderation in War-torn Somalia. Available from (accessed on October 4, 2020). Also, see Andrew McGregor, ‘The Muslim Brotherhood in Somalia: An Interview with Islah’s Abdurahman M. Abdullahi (Baadiyow). Terrorism Monitor, volume: 9 issue: 30, July 29, 2011.

[107] Sheikh Sharif and Hassan Sheikh (2009-2017) regimes were considered to belong to the Islamic persuasions. 

[108] See Abdullahi, Theorizing Somalia: Islam and Islamists.

[109] Alberto Alesina; Paola Giuliano. ‘Culture and Institutions’, IZA Discussion Papers, No. 9246, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), Bonn, 2015. 

[110] According to French sociologist, Emile Durkheim, mechanical solidarity refers to connection, cohesion, and integration born from homogeneity, or similar work, education, religiosity, and lifestyle. On the other hand, organic solidarity is born from the interdependence of individuals in more advanced societies. For more details, see Emile Durkheim, The Division of Labour in Society. Trans. W. D. Halls (New York: Free Press, 1997)

[111] Ignaz Goldziher, Muslim Studies, vol. 1. (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1910), 22.

[112] Quoted in David Laitin, Politics, Language and Thought: The Somali Experience (The University of Chicago Press, 1977), 26. 

[113] Abdurahman Abdullahi, Recovering the Somali State: The Role of Islam, Islamism and Transitional Justice (Adonis & Abbey, 2017), 67.

[114]  Michael Bauman, “Law and Morality,” available from (accessed on October 4, 2020).

[115]   Ibn-Khaldun, The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History (Princeton University Press, 1980), 305.

[116] Abdullahi, Recovering the Somali State, 81.

[117]  Ronald Inglehart, Culture Shift in Advanced Industrial Society (Princeton University Press, 1990), 17.

[118]  Pierangelo Isernia and Danilo Di Mauro, “The Bumble-Bee is Still Flying: Italian Political Culture at 50.” Available from (accessed on September 30, 2020).

[119]  Ibid.

[120]  Ibid, 150.

[121]  Edward Banfield, The Moral Basis of a Backward Society (Free Press, 1958), 83.

[122]  Diego Gambetta, “Why is Italy Disproportionally Corrupt? A Conjecture.” In Institutions, Governance, and the Control of Corruption. Edited by Kaushik Basu and Tito Gardella (Palgrave McMillan, 2018), 133.

[123]  Corruption costs Italy 60 billion Euros or 4% of its GDP each year. Italy ranks equally corrupt as Senegal, Montenegro, and South Africa. See (accessed on September 8, 2020).

[124]  Research Note: Party patronage in contemporary democracies: Results from an expert survey in 22 countries from five regions. European Journal of Political Research. Available from (accessed on September 8, 2020).

[125]  Michael Calingaert, “Italy’s Choice: Reform or Stagnation.” Current History, March 2008, 105-111.  

[126] Arend Lijphart, Democracies: Patterns of majoritarian and consensus government in twenty-one countries. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984).

[127]  Matthijs Bogaards, Comparative Political Regimes: Consensus and Majoritarian Democracy (Oxford Research Encyclopaedia and Oxford University Press, USA, 2016). Online Publication Date: Mar 2017, 4.

[128]  Ibid, 145.

[129] The early culture of democracy abysmally deteriorated during the Sharmarke-Igal regime (1967-1969). The country was transformed into a one-party system, the SYL, under Premier Mohamed Ibrahim Igal in 1969. After the election, all members of Parliament joined SYL except former Premier, Abdirisaz Haji Hussein.

[130]  Mohamed H. Ingiriis, “Who Assassinated the Somali President in October 1969? The Cold War, the Clan Connection or Coup d’état.” African Security Journal, Volume 10, 2017.

[131]  The anti-societal policies included diminishing clan elders’ role, introducing forced secularism, and suppressing Islamic activism. 

[132] The first attempt of coup d’état emanated within the military junta. As a result, General Gavere, General Ainanshe, and Colonel Abdulakdir Dheel were executed. See Abdurahman Abdullahi, “Women, Islamists, and Military Regime in Somalia: The New Family Law and its Implications”in Markus Hoehne and Virginia Luling (ed.), Milk and Peace, Drought and War: Somali Culture, Society, and Politics (London (Hurst & Company, 2010), 137-160

[133] Abdullahi, Making Sense, volume one, 152. Also, Gebru Tareke. “The Ethiopia Somalia War Revisited.” International Journal of African Historical Studies 33, no. 3, 2000, 615-34.

[134]  The first four opposition movements were established in the 1980s. These are the Somali Democratic Salvation Front (SSDF), the Somali National Movement (SNM), the United Somali Congress (USC), and the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM).

[135] Since SPRC in Djibouti in 2000, a quasi-democratic transfer of power has been occurring, and their clans selected members of parliaments. However, there was no direct election so far.

[136]  Marsai Viktor, “Somali Elections 2016-2017: Business as usual or new hope?” National University of public service, July 2017. This paper quotes Nur Jimale Farah, the Somali Auditor General, who wrote that “Some votes were bought with $5,000, some with $10,000, and some with $20,000 or $30,000. The Auditor General told reporters that two seats cost their respective winners $1.3 million each.” Available from file:///C:/Users/user/Downloads/CSDS_Analyses_2017_14_Somalielectionsin2016-2017_MarsaiV..pdf (accessed on October 10, 2020). The average cost paid by President Hassan Sheikh to MPs on the night before the election was estimated to be $50,000.

[137]  Somalia is ranked the lowest in the corruption perceptions index, ranking 180 (9/100). (accessed on October 10, 2020).

[138]   Abdullahi, Making Sense, volume one, 137.

[139]   SYL corruption is well documented since the election of 1959. However, the most significant corruption was witnessed in the election of 1969. See ibid, 147.

[140] SYL corruption is well documented since the election of 1959. However, the most significant corruption was witnessed in the election of 1969. See ibid, 147. 

[141] It is speculated that money to buy votes of the MPs was received from the rich Gulf countries, particularly UAE and Qatar. Election violence in the South-West state of Somalia was reported. See Amnesty International, Somalia: Use of Lethal Force to Quell Protests is Unjustifiable. Available from (accessed on October 10, 2020). Moreover, due to the Galmudug election of 2019, violence erupted between soldiers loyal to Ahlu-Sunna Wa-Al-Jama and the newly established administration. See (accessed on October 10, 2020). Furthermore, Jubaland’s conflict was continuing since its establishment having many faces. 

[142] The USA and Italy orchestrated a policy of keeping Somalia aligned with the West. Their approach was to cultivate pro-Western orientation in the dominant SYL party. Reciprocally, this had warranted the SYL the support of the West to overshadow other parties in 1956. See, Okbazghi Yohannes, The United States and the Horn of Africa: An Analytical Study of Pattern and Process (Westview Press, 1997), 204-212.

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