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Title:Differences That Matter: The Struggle of the Marginalised in Somalia
Author:Webersik, Christian
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Geographic term:Somalia
Subjects:economic inequality
State collapse
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Ethnic and Race Relations
Politics and Government
History and Exploration
international relations
Abstract:Somalia has been without a government for the past thirteen years. After the ousting of Siyaad Barre in 1991 observers were left with the question why a promising, even democratic, society sharing the same ethnicity, one religion, a common language and a predominantly pastoral culture was overtaken by a devastating civil war. Analysts stressed the significance of kinship and clan politics in the maintenance of sustained conflict. They argued that Somalia's State collapse must be placed in a historical context taking into consideration the cultural heritage of Somali society and the legacy of the colonial past. This article explores an alternative explanation for the breakdown of Barre's dictatorial regime and analyses the social consequences of political and economic exclusion that followed the State collapse. The paper argues that Somalia's State failure can be explained by the unjust distribution of new sources of wealth in postcolonial Somalia. This modernization process was accompanied by violent clashes and continued insecurity. The breakdown of the former regime did not create a representative government. Instead, faction leaders fought for political supremacy and in the absence of a functioning government that could guarantee security and protection, clan loyalties gained importance. Clan affiliation became a condition of being spared from violence. The paper argues that horizontal inequalities, or inequalities between groups, are based on both material and imagined differences. Somali faction leaders use these differences instrumentally, to maintain and to exercise power. Irrespective of the existence of invisible and physical markers, it is important to understand what existing social boundaries mean to their participants. A localized clan conflict in Lower Shabelle between the Jido and the Jareer clan families illustrates the consequences of social and economic exclusion. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]