Advocating for Democratic Governance Over Tribal Governance in Somalia

Somalia exhibits a de facto system of governance blending tribal and democratic elements, shaped by its unique historical, cultural, and political context. Within this hybrid system, there is no clear demarcation between tribal and democratic forms of governance.

The governmental structure is largely influenced by kinship ties, with a hierarchical arrangement led by tribal chiefs. Instead of democratic principles like popular sovereignty and representation through elected officials, power is often concentrated in the hands of a select group of tribal leaders and their delegates, who appoint representatives and, ultimately, the president based on cultural traditions and religious customs.

Decision-making processes involve consultation with tribal representatives in parliament and senior government officials, who represent tribal interests. This can result in minority decisions prevailing, contrasting with democratic governance where decisions are typically made through popular voting processes, reflecting majority opinion.

Tribal state governments wield absolute jurisdiction over their respective lands, with authority extending to all matters within their territories. However, this lacks the broader authority of national government typically of democratic governments, which can enact laws and policies applicable to all citizens within the national jurisdiction, rather than just a limited geographical area centered around the capital.

National political representation in Somalia is primarily based on tribal affiliations, with representatives chosen from within tribal communities. This stands in contrast to democratic governance, where leaders are elected through periodic popular votes, based on citizenship and diverse political affiliations.

The legal framework in Somalia operates under a blend of traditional tribal laws, religious customs, and elements of national state laws. Occasionally, this leads to conflicts with democratic governance, which typically relies on constitutions, statutes, and judicial precedents applied uniformly across the nation.

Sovereignty in Somalia faces challenges, with tribal-state governments often asserting independent sovereignty, sometimes through treaties and agreements with neighboring countries, contrary to the national government’s authority. Democratic governance asserts sovereignty over the entire territory of the nation and population within the framework of international law and diplomacy.

Efforts led by President Dr. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Prime Minister Hamze Abdi Bare aim to transition Somalia towards democratic governance through popular voting elections, seeking to dismantle centuries-old tribal governance and replace local tribal affiliations with national citizenship. This shift promises a brighter future, unifying the nation under a rule of law that transcends tribal and religious influences, empowering popularly elected leaders and the country’s national constitution.

Dr. Said Mohamud
Chairman of the Somali People’s Party


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