NEWS 2002



Lineage identity is central organizing force in Somalia (2002)

  • The six major Somali clans are Darod, Dir, Hawiye and Issak forming the Samale group, and the Rahaweyn (Digile and Mrifle) known as the Sab group

  • Minority groups who fall outside major clan lineage divisions are often discriminated and marginalized in Somali society

  • Minorities are traditionally hunters or craftsmen

  • Bantu minority groups tend to be small scale farmers or laborers and lived in the riverine areas

  • Bantu were victims of cultural genocide now all speak Somali except the Mushunguli group

  • Clan networks provide physical and social security for Somalis

"Based on their patrilineal kinship and lineage segmentation, the Somali people are divided into six major clans, which in turn branch out into numerous sub clans, and minority groups. The major clans include Darod, Dir, Hawiye and Issak collectively known as Samale group, and the Rahaweyn (Digile and Mrifle) community categorized as Sab group. The Hawiye clan includes Habargedir, Abgal, Murusade, Hawadle, Galjel, Moblen, Sheikal, Djijele, Badi Adde, and Ajuran while the Darood group include Majerten, Marehan, Dhulbahante, and Ogaden, LeelaKase, Ortoble, Kaskiiqabe and Dashiishe.

The Dir sub clans include Biyamal, Gadsan, Gadabursi, Fiqi Muhumud, Samaron,Qubeys, Werdai and Akishe. The Issak are subdivided into Habar Awal, Habar Jalo and Habar Yunis, Edigale, Ayub and Arab. The Digil and Mirifle are subdivided into sub clans. The Digil include Geledi, Shanta Aleen, Bagadi, Garre, Tuni, Jido, and Dabarend while the Mirifle are divided into Siyed and Sagal. Some of the major subclans in the Mirifle group are Laysan, Harin, Elay, Boqol Hore, Jiron, Jilible, Gelidle, Hadame, Luway, Huber and Yantar.

Those who fall outside the major clan lineage divisions are considered as minorities. They are disadvantageous of being minorities except when they have patrons or patron clan that support them. This lack of clan protection puts them at the mercy of arbitrary action by major clans.

According to their lineage, the minority groups are divided into two groups: A group, which has similar ethnic origin with the Samale group, but traditionally considered as cast people who have no equal rights with others. This group includes Midgan, Tumal and Yibir (collectively known as Baidari group), Gaheyle and Galagale and Boni. They are traditionally hunters, leather and metal workers, and craft makers living in some parts of north, central and southern Somalia.

A second group, which is distinct from other Somalis in ethnic identity, cultural and tradition. They include Bantu, Benadiri and Eyle. The Bantu, who are refer to as "Jarer", which literally means thick hair are small scale farmers or labourers who live in the riverine areas in southern Somalia. They are also divided into various sub clans with different ethnic origin. Some for example the Mzigua, Mzaramo, Magindo, Myao, Makua, and Manyasa collectively known as Wa Gosha " forest people" or Oji are believed be descendents of Tanzanians, Mozambicans and Malawi's who were taken to Somalia in the 19th century by Arab slave traders (MRG, 1998). They live and practice some subsistence farming in the Gosha area in the Lower and Middle Juba regions.

Second Bantu sub clans, which include Shidle, Shabelle, Makane and Kabole, are believed to have descended from early non-Somali agricultural communities. They are also small-scale farmers who predominantly live in the Middle Shabelle and Hiran regions. The third Bantu group lives in the Lower Shabelle region. Because of cultural genocide, and most importantly for protection reasons they have identified themselves with the other Somali communities in the region. These include Jarer-Hintire, Jarer-Wacdan, and Jarer-Biyamal. Except the Mushunguli group who retained their Mushunguli language, the other Bantu speak Somali language and have become assimilated into local Somali communities. However, they have never been recognized as real Somalia, as a result, they suffer ethnic discrimination which placed them into servitude class. They are marginalized and excluded from main stream of administration, education and minimum social and economic development.
The Somali clans are grouped into clan bonds or clan alliances formed to safe guard the mutual interest and protection of the members of the alliances. The Social contract or "xeer" is the most important component that cements together the alliances. It calls upon the collective response of any threat to members of the alliance. As marginalized groups, the minorities are outside this system, and they are vulnerable to attacks and human rights violations by the dominant clans." (UNCU, 30 July 2002, pp 5-6)

"In Somali culture, clan is the inherited patriarchal lineage of ancestors, passed down orally in detail, generation to generation, determining origin, social standing, and access to territory, property and power. In times of trouble, the clan also pays a penalty for inflicting death or injury, which relieves the burden from individuals and families. At its worst, clan leads to conflict, xenophobia and control. 'But at its best, the clan works like the western world's social security welfare system. It protects, it means that all actions against you and your family will have consequences,' said a Somali source." (IRIN-CEA 15 June 2001)

"In addition to conflict, technological change, trade, religion, migration patterns and the return of the Somali diaspora have broken down geographical and social boundaries. This has resulted in fundamental local and familial changes. In the absence of a central authority, the clan represents the lowest denominator in providing group and individual protection and social security. Yet, the clan remains the most potent force in contributing to social and political division and diffusion." (UN November 1999, p. 4)

"The social context of human development in Somalia cannot be understood without reference to clan affiliation. Lineage identity is a central organizing force in Somali society. At the grassroots level, clan elders and other community leaders play a vital role in providing most of the day-to-day governance throughout Somalia, in the absence of effective state authority, and are often instrumental in maintaining local stability. One of the paradoxes of contemporary Somalia is that some of the most powerful social and economic forces are simultaneously sources of both stability and insecurity. On the one hand, clan networks provide an essential level of physical and social security to many Somali households; the clan is a vital source of group protection, social security and customary law in the absence of state infrastructure. On the other hand, clannism is a powerful force contributing to unstable alliances, diffusion of power and communal conflict over scarce resources. In the period of state collapse, it has proved to be a divisive and destructive tool in the hands of political leaders. A second force, economic and business interests, at times promotes inter-clan and inter-factional accords for the sake of improved market conditions. However, these players also resort to armed conflict in pursuit of market control and price-fixing." (UN December 1998, p. 7)