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Review of African Political Economy In Somalia

Published on August 13, 2012 by   ·   No Comments Waxaa Daalacatay :580

Review of African Political Economy No. 70:543-553
© ROAPE Publications Ltd., 1996
ISSN 0305-6244; RIX87007
The Plight of the Agro-pastoral Society
of Somalia

Mohamed Haji Mukhtar
Despite advances in modern communication and the proliferation of
information, there remain areas of the world about which little is known.
One such place is Somalia. The informed public is aware of a political
‘meltdown’ and consequent chaos there, but few comprehend the causes
of this tragic crisis. Unless and until there is greater understanding of the
basic issues involved, Somalia will continue to suffer mayhem and chronic
disorder. This article assesses some of the factors involved in the current
civil war in Somalia, especially as they pertain to the inter riverine region
of the south. Particular emphasis is placed on the Dighil/Mirifle clan in that
In contrast to the single cause analysis that attributes all to Siad Barre’s
dictatorship, which is adopted by nearly every Somali scholar and politician,
the article investigates the social causes of the worst civil war in the modern
history of this country. The single cause analysis is inadequate because it
is not so much scientific as ideological, and represents the desire of nomadic
groups to impose cultural and political hegemony on the settled agropastoralist groups in and around the inter-riverine region in the

south. The
basic tenet of this hegemonic ambition is an invented homogeneity, which
presents Somalia as one of the few culturally homogeneous countries i
Africa, if not the world. The Somali people are said to have a single language
and to share a mono-culture. In fact, Somalia has always been divided into
southern agro-pastoral clans and northern nomadic clans which have
distinctively different cultural, linguistic, and social structures. The monoculture about which most students of Somalia speak is

extrapolated mainly.
from the study of the northern part of the country, where most of the research
into Somali culture was undertaken. The assumptions and extrapolations
of these northern-based studies were later applied to other parts of the
country without any scientific basis. The myth of Somali homogeneity played
a major role in the rise of nomadic clans to political predominance, and the
appropriation of resources from the less warlike and intensely religious
agro-pastoral groups in and around the inter-riverine region. A major factor
in the Somali conflict is the struggle among clans for control of limited and
increasingly scarce resources, especially land and water. More specifically,
it is a violent competition between the Darood and Hawiye clan families for
political and economic dominance of the inter-riverine region.544 Revieiu of African Political Economy


The Land and the People
The contested region is the fertile valley that lies between the Shabelle river in the
north, the Juba river in the south, the Ethiopian border in the west, and the Indian
Ocean in the east. The area has over fourteen ecological regions providing four modes
of livelihood; agriculture, pastoralism, agro-pastoralism and trade. The region is the
bread-basket of the whole country, satisfying local food consumption as well as
producing the main export goods; fruit, livestock, hides and skins. Before 1969 it
comprised four regions: namely, Banadir, Upper Jubba, Lower Jubba, Hiran. After the
1969 coup d’etat, these regions, with the exception of Hiran, were divided into many
more. The Upper Jubba was divided into Bay, Bakool, and Gedo; the Lower Jubba into
Lower Jubba and Middle Jubba; and Banadir into Mogadishu, Banadir, Lower
Shabelle and Middle Shabelle regions. The reason for this regional division is not
clear; nevertheless, one suspects the government’s intention to create regions for
favoured clans.
The inter-riverine region is mainly populated by the Dighil and Mirifle clans, the
descendants of the two sons of Mad (Maharnad) Reewin; Dighil being the older and
Mirifle the younger son. Today, the descendants of the Dighil inhabit the Banadir,
Jubba and Shabelle regions, while the descendants of the Mirifle live in the central and
western parts of the region. The Mirifle are divided into two main groups; the Sagaal
(‘nine’) and the Siyeed (‘eight’). The Sagaal, in turn, are subdivided into nine clans,
such as the Hadame, Luway, and Gasaragude to, mention a few. The Siyeed are
divided into sixteen clans, including the Harin, Haraw, Eemid, Leysan and Elay. The
Dighil are divided into seven clans known as the Toddobadl Aw Dighil, including
Geledi, Tumi, Jlido, Garre, DaBarre. In addition, groups of Bantu origin live among
the Dighil/Mirifle clans. These are the Banadiris, Jareer and Bajunis, who are mostly
merchants, fishermen, hunters and cultivators, and inhabit the coastal strip bordering
the Jubba and Shabelle valleys and the southern islands of the Indian Ocean. They
speak languages of their own, but use Mai as the lingua franca. Historically they are
associated with the Dighil and Mirifle clan structure. There is also a significant
number of Hawiye groups, mainly in the Hiran region and in a few pockets in Banadir
and Lower Shabelle.
These people of this region are socio-culturally and linguistically different from the
nomadic groups who live in central and northern Somalia. They speak the Reewin
language locally known as Mai, as opposed to Maha which is spoken north of the
Shabelle river. Mai is to Maha as Spanish is to Portuguese; that is, they are not
mutually intelligible. They are distinguished from the nomads by their agro-pastoral
mode of production and their settled mode of life which produced a distinct culture
and social organization. Unlike the nomads, the settled communities of the interriverine regions have well organized social and

political structures based on
hierarchical authority.
Colonial Experience
The Anglo-Italian agreements of 1S91 gave Italy the triangle of land known as the
Horn of Africa as her ‘sphere of influence’. Afterwards, Italy proceeded to construct
shaky colonial edifice of her own in this part of Africa. Until the outbreak of the First
World War, Italy was unable to consolidate her control over these territories.


attempts, both military and political, were in vain due to active resistance from the
inter-riverine people of southern Somalia. It is out of the scope of this article to discuss
the details of this resistance; however, a brief sketch will be helpful. In the late 19th.




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