By Liban Ahmad
A peculiar feature of the post-1991 political landscape in Somalia is the relegation of a segment of the Somali society to a third-class citizenship status. In the power-sharing mechanism, this segment of the Somali society then known as “others” is now known as the Fifth Clan ( a token upgrading from 0.50) in the infamous 4.5 power-sharing formula). The Fifth Clan is made up of clans considered to be minorities not because they are outnumbered by other four major clans but because they did not have armed militias aligned to the clan-based opposition groups in 1980s and early 1990s.
Unarmed Somali clans were an alliance until the Djibouti-sponsored reconciliation conference in 2000 hived off almost one-third of this alliance and subsumed them under clans that prided themselves on having a role in overthrowing the military dictatorship in 1991.
This reconfiguration of political identity did not boost the influence of clans that were not allowed to participate in the 1991 reconciliation conference organised by Djibouti. Representatives from United Somali Congress, Somali National Movement, Somali Patriotic Movement and Somali Democratic Movement were invited to play a role in reconciliation efforts.
Political marginalisation of Somali minorities took a turn for the worse when federal member states became institutionalised. The four major clans in the current power-sharing formula have a federal state, but the Fifth Clan does not.
In the Somali online media, news analyses on the forthcoming Somali presidential election are taking two kingmakers into account: MPs hailing from Somaliland and the Southwest State. Missing in the analysis is the MPs of the Fifth Clan, who constitute 20% of the new Somali Federal Parliament.
Any presidential candidate who includes in his/her political programme an agenda to raise the political and representation profile of the Fifth Clan will have a better chance to be elected the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who is campaigning under the motto ” An incomplete job can be finished by the person who started it” has woefully performed when it comes to protecting the rights of members of the Fifth Clan. There is no reason to believe that his political incompetence about Somali minorities will be rectified if he is re-elected. Somali minority clans are suffering both in Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle regions. There has not been a discernible progress in protecting rights of minority clans in inter-riverine areas. Introducing a pro-minority political agenda is not enough. An action plan based on benchmarks on achieving equality-based, nationwide programmes will inspire confidence in any pro-minority presidential candidate.
Somali minorities are stateless – a clan without a federal member state. Their stateless status impinges on the life chances of the Fifth Clan members. Politicians value the input of Fifth Clan MPs to renew political legitimacy for federal political institutions, but there is consensus on how de-institutionalise the low political and citizenship status of the Fifth Clan. The Somali presidential election is the best opportunity to make voices of minority clans heard. By forming a pre-election caucus and meeting with presidential candidates, MPs of the Fifth can commit any elected president to an equality-based political programme that emphasises the political rights of minority clans. MPs of the Fifth Clan should end the silence on the suffering of Somali minorities.
By Liban Ahmad