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The Three Manifestations of Destructive Somali “Politicstupidity”

By Mahdi Warsama
Wednesday June 21, 2023


As you may have noticed from the title of this article, the term, “politicstupidity” is not a real English term. I created it just for this article and I hope one day, it will become a real English term for the sake of its intrinsic value. My whole purpose of using this nonexistent term is to come up with a new way of saying the politics of stupidity, commonly practiced by the contemporary Somali politicians and their subclans. I combined the two terms: politics and stupidity to make it more expressive. My definition of “politicstupidity” is the practice of politics of exclusion, disenfranchisement, and one clan hegemony with predictable outcome of mutually assured self-destruction and political instability.

Throughout the contemporary history of Somalia, one man or one clan are trying to dominate the rest by any means necessary with disastrous results. What makes “politicstupidity” even more tragic is that it doesn’t work for its Somali practitioners since no one man or one clan is strong enough to permanently dominate the rest either at the regional state level or at the national level. It only worked for Mohamed Siyad Barre for about 8 years during his honeymoon period of 1969 to 1978. In fact, after the attempted coup of 1978, Somalia was supervolcano waiting to erupt. The Somali “politicstupidity” is the root cause of most Somalia political instability and conflicts, including the lack of genuine political reconciliation process at the national level, the tragic war between Somaliland and SSC-Khaatumo, the election dispute between Col. Bihi’s government and other Somaliland election stakeholders, the sacking of the popular governor of Hiiraan in Hirshabeele state, Mr. Jeyte, the brewing tension between the people of Gedo region and Ahmed Madoobe’s administration in Jubaland state, and the unreasonable demands of Aaran Jaan political cult in Puntland state. In Somalia, the “politicstupidity” routinely manifests itself in many ways, however; I will mention only three main manifestations in this article.

Seeking Win-Lose Outcome

Win-lose mentality exists when one party or both parties seek victory at the expense of the other party. Somali politics are very complex and difficult to sort out with endless inter clan conflicts, interests, grievances, and dynamics. Hence, it needs consensus building, compromise, and extra care. Yet, in most cases, Somali politicians and their subclans do not take this fact into consideration. They seek win-lose outcomes by refusing to accommodate the other side’s political interests and grievances. In some cases, the purportedly dominant party of the conflict refuses to even acknowledge the existence of the other party let alone accommodating them. This mentality always leads to difficult negotiations, political instability, and armed conflict in Somalia.

What is even more astonishing is that the win-lose mentality doesn’t work in Somalia and leads to a lose-lose situation where parties eventually end up being worse off in the end. The lack of compromise between the Barre regime and the armed opposition groups in late 1980s led to the complete collapse of the Somali state followed by nearly thirty years of anarchy. The lack of compromise between Col. Abdullahi Yusuf’s government and the Union of the Islamic Courts led to the Ethiopian invasion. It is fair to say that the only conceivable outcome of any armed conflict in Somalia is the prolonging of foreign troops (ATMIS) presence in Somalia and metastasizing of terrorist groups.

Seeking Winner Takes All Outcome

Another disastrous manifestation of Somali “politicstupidity” is seeking a perpetual dominance with winner takes all mentality. In many instances, the victor of an election or by force makes no attempt to accommodate the losing side. For the sake of political stability, a fragile state like Somalia needs all its people and stakeholders to feel sense of ownership and belonging. Yet, victorious Somali politicians and clans behave as if they are the rulers of Japan. When someone wins an election, he immediately undermines the next election by seeking an illegal extension or tries to insure his victory with sham electors and dubious electoral processes. Sharing power and state resources among themselves has never been the strong suit of contemporary Somalis.

Like seeking win-lose outcomes, the winner takes all mentality doesn't work in Somalia at all since no one person or clan can rule Somalia by writ. It only leads to endless vengeance, clan rivalry and deadly inter clan conflicts. Consequently, no one faction was able to unilaterally form a functioning government after the civil war in Somalia.

Seeking One Clan Hegemony

Another tragic manifestation of Somali “politicstupidity” is seeking single clan dominance either at the national level or at the state level. All Somali entities have this problem in some shape or form. Normalized monopolistic power structure is so prevalent in Somalia that certain dominant clans don’t even hide their entitlement mentality to rule others and the pride that comes with it. People seek positions of power to advance their personal and clan interests at the expense of the common good. Then the other clans who are out of power fight them to regain power to do the same or in other words, it is my turn mentality. Consequently, the posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by the historical abuses of power and single clan dominance is responsible for the ongoing mistrust and power struggles between the clans. This creates a vicious cycle of clan-based cronyism and nepotism. Hence, the end goal of the power struggles between the clans is not to eliminate the problem, rather it is to avenge and repeat it if given the chance. 

In conclusion, Somali “politicstupidity” is very destructive and doesn’t work for any one clan or person. Win-lose mentality, seeking winner takes all outcome, and single clan dominance creates a vicious cycle of political instability, inter clan conflicts, and lose-lose situation. All Somalis are equally suffering as result of Somali “politicstupidity”. We the Somalis need to learn from the past abuses of power instead of repeating them. The most accurate proverb for politics is “Those who live by the sword die by the sword”.

Mahdi Warsama

Email: [email protected]   


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