Posted Sunday, November 27 2011 at 14:42
The model for Somalia is Switzerland. Don’t laugh!
“Every man his own Sultan,” is how one Ugandan visitor described the Somalis in the mid 19th century.
Traditionally, disputes between Somalis were sorted out by the clan elders, who would arrange compensation payments after clan or family battles or theft. In the north of Somalia, Somaliland, British indirect rule left the traditional leadership of clan elders — collectively known as the Gurti — in place. During colonial times, Somaliland virtually managed itself and the Gurti retained respect and authority. That has carried through to present times and Somaliland is stable with political parties and democratic elections. Twice, electoral disputes have reached crisis point in recent years. Each time, the politicians have turned to the Gurti for a ruling, which has been accepted by all. In the Italian-ruled south, the Gurti was dismissed in colonial times but it still exists beneath the surface.
Somalia’s civil war began in the 1980s between clans in a winner-takes-all battle for total national power. The former British-ruled northwest territory, Somaliland, declared independence. The northeast, Puntland, also declared itself self-governing until a proper government was restored. The centre, Galmudug, is also self-governing. The civil war continues as a battle for Mogadishu, the capital, and for the ports and fertile river valleys of the south. It has cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
“I wish I could say I am hopeful it will, but the TFG’s track record so far points to the opposite conclusion — it has never missed the opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
Richard Dowden is director of the Royal African Society in London