The Trouble with Our People

We Somalis can get along with each other individually, but can’t easily work on the “common good”. What’s the reason? This is the million-dollar question.  We can sit together at coffee shops, eat food together, and even live together. However, we can hardly work on any common goal. We’re friends on the surface, but foes underneath. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? 

The common good

The common good is what we’ve in common. It’s something that benefits us all, irrespective of our clans. So, instituting and maintaining the common good requires our collective efforts and continuous cooperation. If you do something for the common good, you contribute to the betterment of your entire society, not just your clan. 

We’re a unique race that sticks together. We frequently get together and socialize, yet we can’t work on a bigger deal. It’s something strange indeed. If you enter a coffee shop and see a Somali person sitting somewhere, you want to sit with that person, regardless of the person’s clan. Something brings us together but still divides us. It’s a mystery. We always look for one another. We like and dislike each other at the same time.

At times, we’re teased for neither being Africans nor Arabs. We’re kind of a unique people. What do you think? Have you got that sentiment? Anyway, we have the privilege of being both. We’re part of the African Union and the Arab League as well. Good opportunity, right?  

We’re afflicted with tribalism. It’s our predicament. Our tribal instinct overrides everything else. That’s why you’ve many rival Somali groups everywhere, especially in the diaspora. Bizarrely, everything is good until the collective goal kicks in, and that’s when things fall apart. I suppose you see my point. We’re united and divided simultaneously. That’s our trouble, confusing international norms.  

Somali activists take aim at tribalism (photo by Wardheernews)

They call us a homogenous society. Are we so intertwined? Something is true about our homogeneity because we’re people with the same heritage, but our homogeneity failed to root out our protracted predicament. Sadly, we’re a homogeneous society overpowered by clannish inclinations. 

Our people killed one another based on clannish issues, making the hurt permeate every inner circle of our society. Even, those who once purported to be one and united turned against each other and shed their blood. That senseless killing occurred within every clan. Somali tribalism doesn’t have an end, for it’s like an onion. You can peel it off to the last cell until two brothers from different mothers turn against each other.  

Somali tribalism

Our tribalism is deep-rooted. It’ll take generations to evolve, but will eventually fade out. Let’s hope. Both our religious leaders and intellectuals have failed to mitigate it, let alone uproot it. It’s something embedded; it’s something undefeatable, at least at present. None of us is safe from it. We’re all attached to it but at different levels. Some of us spew tribalism and it’s the air they breathe. Others caress and cover it. 

What unites us is much more and stronger than what divides us. We have the same religion, language, and customs. This means we’re a homogeneous society, but we’re lacking consensus among us when it comes to the existential issues of our society. 

Every society evolves and rids itself of negative characteristics. Since we’re okay with one another on the individual level, we can learn to work on collective matters. Let’s rally behind anyone of us (whether they’re your clan or mine) when they’re fair and for all. 

When they aren’t, we should tell them to rest and retreat to their personal issues, not to handle our public affairs. If we acquire such fair attitudes, we’ll mitigate our profound tribalism and can work on the common good.