Somalia as a society has been largely defined by two key pillars clan identity and religion and as such the society is either divided or united by the two. The Somalian civil war had its inception on complex clan dynamics and interclan rivalries that have shaped politics and societal hierarchy. Al Shabaab which has taken center stage in Somalia's politics and security, has historically claimed to transcend clan politics but in actuality, the militancy exploits clan dynamics to advance its agenda a move that has deepened the already delicate rivalries and clashes and relationships.
Clan and sub-clan structures are central to Somali identity. From a young age, children are traditionally taught to memorize and recite their clan-based kinship genealogy, sometimes naming twenty or even thirty generations of their patrilineal ancestors. When the Siad Barre regime collapsed in 1991 and with it the presence of centralized Mogadishu-based governance, inter-clan violence and power rivalries spiked as clan structures and identities filled the governance void.
Nevertheless, Somali society continues to be defined by clan identities, and clan rivalries frame the balance of power across Somalia. Somali clans and sub-clans are geographically interwoven rather than clearly divided between homogeneous clan territories, although certain sub-clans exert significant power in specific regions. For example, the capital of Mogadishu is divided among Hawiye sub-clans while the Rahanweyn (also called the Digil-Mirifle) continue to play the key role in central Bay and Bakool regions. The Isaaq dominate Somaliland in the northwest, and various Darod sub-clans reside mainly in Puntland, the north-central provinces, and the southern Juba region. These geographic divisions often correspond to battle lines, as clans vie for influence and resources like water and land.
Clan clashes in Somalia occur periodically throughout the year and are triggered by a scramble for resources to revenge indiscriminate killings of civilians by warring clan militia. Most recently, intelligence reports indicate that there has been a spike in such killings with the senseless killing spanning various locations.
For instance, in Lower Jubba, west of Kismayo at least 20 civilians were killed, in Lower Shabelle, Wanlawayn at least two dozen were killed with over 20 of them innocent civilian as well as 7 others killed in Dinsor, Bay region. While the attacks appear sporadic, the killings were orchestrated in a manner that suggests an ongoing deep-rooted conflict and scramble for dominance by the various clans.
It is paramount to note that in order to achieve defeat al Shabaab, achieve peace and adequately implement the Transition plan in Somalia, local conflicts-based om inter-clam dynamics and rivalries ought to be resolved. Justice, reconciliation and cohesion strategies should be employed to ensure that lasting peace in Somalia is achieved and maintained.