1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar
Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4712/stateless-in-somolia-and-loving-it/

Stateless in Somolia, and Loving It

February 21, 2006 by

Somalia is in the news again, writes Yumi Kim. Rival gangs are shooting each other, and why? The reason is always the same: the prospect that the weak-to-invisible transitional government in Mogadishu will become a real government with actual power. And yet: Somolia seems to do just fine without a government. FULL ARTICLE


William` February 21, 2006 at 8:04 am

The book makes the war efforts in Somalia in the 1990s by the US and its partners kind of pointless given the cultural structure of the place.

But the recent war efforts in Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Ivory Coast, Afganistan and of course Iraq are different, somehow, really, fer sher…

Yancey Ward February 21, 2006 at 8:35 am

There are lessons here for the US efforts in Iraq. Again, we are trying to introduce democracy and a central government on a country fractured into ethnic and religious groupings. The only outcomes can be civil war and partition or the dictatorial domination of the largest group over those that are smaller.

Though I did not support the invasion of Iraq, I thought the best strategy was deposing Hussein and simply telling the Shias, Kurds, and the Sunnis these are the borders to each, and what you do inside them is entirely up to you. It will likely happen this way in any case, so why go through all of the charades.

jl February 21, 2006 at 8:49 am

“…the Somali shilling has become far more stable in world currency markets…”

It’s interesting to think of a paper currency trading in currency markets without any government backing it up, though what government really backs up its currency with anything of value anyway?

Without a central government, I’m assuming there is no more “legitimate” printing of money, and the only thing holding up the value is the customary usage and limit on supply growth–that is, it is still only paper and not backed by any commodity.

I found an article from a few years ago that said fake banknotes were being flown into the county, and the interim government was trying to stop this. Of course, this increase in supply caused the foreign exchange value of the shilling to fall, and some merchants stopped selling for shillings. I assume that other more stable currencies are accepted.

Faré February 21, 2006 at 9:05 am

The Law of Bitur-Camember at work, just by the book!

Note to Kinsella: listen to Hoppe at MU about equilibrium. Or read Human Action.

Flavian February 21, 2006 at 9:21 am

Exactly what happens in Somalia is unclear, but it is obvious that all attempts to form a “functioning” government seem to be in vain. It is also obvious that parts of the country are prosperous and that ought to prove that the level of security and predictability is sufficient to allow business to prosper.

In my opinion that’s enough.

Frank Z February 21, 2006 at 9:33 am

I knew nothing of Somalia or its societal structure before this. I have a little insight now. Thanks Ms. Kim

Obiter Dicta February 21, 2006 at 9:49 am

The author of the article is dead right. I know first hand Dominican Republic. It is a great place to live and living condition have nothing to do with what is portrayed by the media. Why it is a great place to live? The state, in spite of everything is small. Small state results in lot’s of freedom and also lot’s of prosperity. Private property enjoys more actual protection than in many so-called “first world countries”. Hence, the less state the better.

billwald February 21, 2006 at 10:19 am

I suppose killing of the population is one way to raise per capata wealth.

SteamshipTime February 21, 2006 at 10:19 am

In other words, the Somalian social order is based on blood and soil.

“The extended family is the core of Somali society. Families descended from common great grandparent form a jilib, the basic independent jural unit, and a number of jilibs in turn form a clan. Each family, jilib, and clan has its own judge, whose role is to facilitate the handling of disputes by deciding where the liability lies and what compensation should be paid.”

I’m guessing the penalty for disputing the jilib is extra-judicial execution by your fellow clansmen.

Brian_The_Great February 21, 2006 at 10:29 am

You can also visit http://www.samalianarchy.com for discussions and info on Somalia, its economic and political systems.

Som February 21, 2006 at 10:45 am

Finally, a good story on Somalia. All I hear about is how much safer Somaliland (that territory with one provisional gov.) is than anarchic somalia. I always knew thats total B.S. It’s amazing how the natural rights of liberty and property are universally respected across Somilia, despite all the ethno-religious diversity. It’d be a terrible day if the somali’s had any gov imposed on them, simply because, from all the evidence of whats been going on, it will come from a a very violent war. So, not just from a libertarian standpoint, it will a bad time for the somalis.

steve February 21, 2006 at 11:39 am

The absolute worst thing that could happen to the people of Somalia would be for them to receive a cookie cutter “constitution” and a limited central government. These are the seeds that grow tyranny and corruption.

Caley McKibbin February 21, 2006 at 11:47 am

This is an excellent find.

I suppose killing of the population is one way to raise per capata wealth.

Posted by: billwald at February 21, 2006 10:19 AM

I didn’t see anything about per capita statistics. An absolute increase in volume of exports and such seems to respresent a [i]productivity increase[/i] per capita.

Francisco Torres February 21, 2006 at 12:26 pm

I suppose killing of the population is one way to raise per capata wealth.

Another would be to actually produce goods and exchange them – the first would be a bureaucratic solution (killing the population), whilst the later would not require a government [only statists think it does].

Madhavi Cherian February 21, 2006 at 12:46 pm

This article was very enlightening. One question though, who provides mass vaccination, public roads and education and other services that may be classified as public goods? Since they may require a huge upfront investment, private entities may be reluctant to undertake them.
Has investment in the above sectors suffered over the past few years?

Ron February 21, 2006 at 1:28 pm

Roads, education, and vaccination are all things that can and should be provided privately. If there is a market (need) for such things, investors will provide the capital for them, provided they are allowed to reap the returns on their investments.

Roy W. Wright February 21, 2006 at 1:37 pm

One question though, who provides mass vaccination, public roads and education and other services that may be classified as public goods? Since they may require a huge upfront investment, private entities may be reluctant to undertake them.

Why would there be a reluctance to provide these? They don’t really fit the definition of public goods. Their beneficial externalities don’t outweigh their value to individual consumers.

Also education, at least, certainly doesn’t require upfront investment, huge or otherwise.

Brent Bartsch February 21, 2006 at 1:53 pm

[Begin quote]
I suppose killing of the population is one way to raise per capata wealth.

Posted by: billwald at February 21, 2006 10:19 AM
[End quote]

I am a graduate student in economics and my upper level undergraduate and graduate level Economic Development textbooks, as well as my professors, constantly pitch the idea that “reducing the population” increases per capita income (y). They get really excited when talking about China’s “population policy” and other assorted government schemes (coercion and forced abortions), even calling China’s policy “a beautiful policy” (I am not kidding).

My point is that, even with the warring that has gone in Somalia, a strong central government is only going to lead to more death and lots less freedom and income. Some of this destruction will even be done with the blessing of “economic development theory”. The notion that killing people to increase per capita income is absurd and my bet is that the deaths that have occurred are a result of Somalis trying to avoid the greater rath of a Central Government.

Madhavi Cherian February 21, 2006 at 2:23 pm

I am not a big supporter of imposing governments on what have historically been stateless societies.
However,I do think that education (especially big colleges for medicine and engineering etc.)would require huge investments. A private party could provide it, but I don’t think that in a country like Somalia surpluses of that size are being produced. The only solution I can think of is charitable contribution from a foreign party.
Also, to take the example of public lighting and public roads or law enforcement etc, can the entity that operates and owns it enforce a billing system.
Often (even in developed countries), governments provide funding for research and investment in technologies that otherwise may not get funding (such as non renewable energy sources in the states.) My point is that the kind of investments that may be needed to get a country out of the poverty trap may be lacking. That ,of course, includes social development in terms of rights of women etc.
Having said that, maybe economic development as visualized by the World Bank and IMF and the UN is not what they consider valuable as a society. (I don’t mean that in a disparaging way.)

Chuck February 21, 2006 at 3:02 pm

Why was it that Californians were able to organize a government after the Mexican-American War and before the assertion of U.S. authority there? The answer lies in the ideas that people hold. 19th Century Californians were Americans who grew up with the ideas of democracy and freedom and were ready and willing to set up a democratic government. They even developed property rights, after the cessation of Mexican law extinguished all land titles.

In contrast, Somalia and all of the other countries noted in the blog do not have these ideas. So, democracy is not a natural development in them. To make things worse, Somalia and Iraq are Muslim countries. That is, their inhabitants subscribe to a totalitarian ideology. (See http://www.faithfreedom.org for more information.) Even when these countries had oppressive governments, the inhabitants armed themselves heavily. The only reasons Iraqis could not get rid of Saddam were his armor and air power. Now that the governments have gone, these countries have lapsed into anarchy. Somalia and probably Iraq will stay that way because of Islam. Islam is an expansionist totalitarianism that seeks to conquer the world. Part of its means are war booty and jizya (“penalty”), or poll tax, on infidels. When these run out, Muslims turn on each other.

As far as Somalis being better off without a government, it may be true for the Somali majority, but very false for the Bantu minority. Those descendents of slaves (still called “slaves” by Muslims) have fleeing the country. (See http://www.culturalorientation.net/bantu/sbhist.html.) I greatly suspect that ethnic Somalis have been fleeing, too. Has Yumi Kim looked at any migration statistics? I suspect the only immigrants are terrorists.

Kim has made a big deal out of clan arrangements. In democracies, loyalty to the clan is replaced by loyalty to the state. How many Americans vote on the basis of clan loyalties? I believe this number to be far less than those who belong to different parties than their closest relatives.

Yancey Ward February 21, 2006 at 4:34 pm


I think it well demonstrated by history that it is not government that gets people out of poverty, it is capital accumulation that performs this act. In one of your comments you wrote that you did not believe surpluses were being generated on a level that would allow the investments you think are needed. How does having a Somali central government generate the required capital? Government cannot create the capital, it can only take it from non-governmental sources. The Somali people can either accumulate capital, or they cannot. Their recent history (the last century) would indicate they do much better without a central government.

Roy W. Wright February 21, 2006 at 5:27 pm

My thoughts exactly.

Peter February 21, 2006 at 8:00 pm

I know at least one group that had plans to provide roading in Somalia — the Awdal Roads Company, with which Michael van Notten was associated. It think it fell apart because the US and/or UN was threatening to bomb ports and roads.

Rashidy TZ February 21, 2006 at 10:25 pm

I as an individual of Somalian decent I’m enthralled by your analysis, every point you have mentioned deserved the scrunity you have gave, it sad after almost two decades Somalia has not found peace yet, i hope and pray one day somalia will emerge from this senseless carnage to reclaim its place in the world community..

Thanks Kim

Rashidy TZ February 21, 2006 at 10:25 pm

I as an individual of Somalian decent I’m enthralled by your analysis, every point you have mentioned deserved the scrunity you have gave, it sad after almost two decades Somalia has not found peace yet, i hope and pray one day somalia will emerge from this senseless carnage to reclaim its place in the world community..

Thanks Kim

Mark Sunwall February 22, 2006 at 12:28 am

It is wonderful to see an entire article on Mises.com devoted to an empirical case involving kinship studies, which is really a good complement to (esp.Austrian) economics, i.e.market studies. Yes, the moral and ethical issues involved are deep and by no means trivial. Indeed, to the extent that kinship networks take over functions of the state one is proportionately more at the mercy of one’s relatives, but then kinship groups are far from monolithic, and can be endured or seceeded from with considerably more ease than the state. Nor do kinship groups have any need for weapons of mass destruction!

Re: Somali studies, see the works of I.M.Lewis.
Re: “Democracy” ditto the works of Hans Herman-Hoppe
Good work Mr. Kim!

Mark Sunwall

Brett_McS February 22, 2006 at 12:52 am

Great article. In similar vein is Terry Anderson’s retrospective “The Not So Wild, Wild West”.

Apologies if it has been discussed before.

Mark Sunwall February 22, 2006 at 2:33 am

Apologies, that should have been:
Great work Ms. Kim!

Mike February 22, 2006 at 4:38 am

Somalia doing just fine?
You\’ve got to be kidding me. Or have \”doing fine\” been redefined to mean constant civil war, a backwards economy dependant upon foreign aid and remittances from Somalis living in the West and even higher infant mortality and lower life expectancy than its African neighbors (that saying a lot)?

Just the other day, it was reported heavy fighting in Mogadishu between some clan militias and a al-Quaeda linked Islamic court.


As this BBC News article points out, life in Somalia matches perfectly Hobbes description of life in the stateless society as being \”solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short\” except for that part about \”solitary\” given the clan mentality of Somali society.


And any white or other obviously non-Somali person who goes there must make sure to hire half a dozen
militia thugs as protection or they will quickly get at least robbed and probably some other unpleasant things as well.

Nathan Shepperd February 22, 2006 at 7:23 am

BBC articles are very superficial in their treatment of Somalia, there is more to the place than what is happening in Mogadishu.

SteamshipTime February 22, 2006 at 9:33 am

I think a more accurate description of Somalia would be that it lacks a central, federal government. I don’t know that you could call it “stateless.” The country is divided into tribal regions that are governed by elders.

The social order is based on ties to blood and soil and is maintained by the threat of violence. On other threads, it has been pointed out that once the social democracies that purport to base nationhood on abstract ideas have passed into history, this is probably what things are going to revert to.

I note too that Van Notten was not so enamored of the place that he saw fit to move his Dutch wife and children there. And, he located himself in the northernmost tribal region, buffered from the rest of Somalia by Somaliland. I am unable to determine from some brief research if any of his ventures came to fruition.

Brian_The_Great February 22, 2006 at 12:50 pm

quote : However,I do think that education (especially big colleges for medicine and engineering etc.)would require huge investments. A private party could provide it, but I don’t think that in a country like Somalia surpluses of that size are being produced.[...]

See http://www.mogadishuuniversity.com

Curt Howland February 22, 2006 at 2:12 pm

It never ceases to surprise me how hard some people cling to the “central authority” meme. That is, that there is always something that requires coercive taxation to build, and yet that something (roads, bridges, universities) is also at some level in demand.

Let’s take a road as an example, everything else also can be argued the same way.

The purpose of a road is to get from here to there. If there is sufficient demand to get from here to there, there will also be capital available to build the road, even if it is in the form of land provided for people to travel over. The greater the demand, the more capital will be made available by those who demand it, and the better, longer, wider, etc. road that can be built.

“Schools” is even less of an issue, since their reason for existing is being dissolved daily. Information is not scarce, and today the delivery of that information is no longer limited or especially difficult. For a few hundred (not thousand) dollars and a computer there are complete K-12 courses available. For $300, the Ludwig von Mises Institute will sell you a graduate-level course in Economics.

I realize that no one still clinging to the “central authority” meme will take my question seriously, but I will ask it anyway: Please show me any positive endeavor that can only be provided by the coercion of a central authority, or that is even more efficient provided that way than by voluntary interaction. Anything? Beuler?

Wild Pegasus February 22, 2006 at 2:56 pm

So, a million people have died due to disease, famine, and internecine warfare, but everything is okay because their telephone system is good by African standards?

Is this the argument you want to be putting forth for anarchism? Seriously?

- Josh

Charles Smyth February 22, 2006 at 3:00 pm

Yumi Kim’s article simply supports the fact that present day socialist government is not an intrinsically valid replacement for clan style alternatives, which also exit in Iraq, and Afghanistan, for example, in spite of coalition efforts. Not that they’ve been seriously trying, since they would be obligated to up their own game at home.

Democracy only achieves the subjugation of the majority by a minority, in a way that is seen to be acceptable to other states, of a similar persuasion. And because democracy has no intrinsic value, and its results are similar to what exists at the clan level, there is no valid reason for such clan style cultures to think beyond the group mentality of the clan, since the concept of the individual doesn’t exist to support any proper change of behaviour.

Only when the people of these cultures come to understand what it means to be an individual and adopt a proper capitalist government to protect their rights, without recourse to violence in the settlement of disputes, will it be possible for them to move meaningfully beyond the clan level. Any gains they currently enjoy, over and above a rubbish government, are superficial and comparative only to a very low baseline of achievement, from which they will not progress significantly beyond, due to the enormous diversion of resources into inter-clan rivalry and changes of the guard at gunpoint.

Great Britain learned this hard lesson centuries ago, when it too, was riven by clan rivalries, and which it is now slipping back into because of economic division aggravated by massive government interference.

Yancey Ward February 22, 2006 at 3:41 pm

Wild Pegasus,

I think Kim’s point is that the violence is a result of the differing groups trying to be the ones in control of the central government. Somalia is another of those colonial charades their creators called countries. If the UN were really interested in helping the Somalis, it would quit trying to keep it together as a single unit.

quincunx February 22, 2006 at 4:30 pm

“So, a million people have died due to disease, famine, and internecine warfare, but everything is okay because their telephone system is good by African standards?”

All of these are consequences of a past socialist state. It is what happens when years of tax payer money is pumped into one area (Mogadishu) to create an unsustainable environment in the first place. You won’t find these problems in the north. Mogadishu was built on stolen sand.

The fact that state capitals artificially (through taxation) have on average 40% higher per capita income than the rest of the state – means that should the coercive institution of government be abolished these areas will be relatively impoverished (i.e. brought back to normal non-coercive levels).

You can use the analogy of a bully that can no longer extract lunch money from his victims – thereby ‘impoverishing’ the bully and the cronies he shares his loot with.

Also, pegasus, believe it or not there are people all over the world who put bread on the table because they work in the telecom business.
So the answer is yes, everything is OK as long as no single force is used to restrict whatever freedoms the Somalis have reserved for themselves.

Mahamed Abdullahi February 23, 2006 at 2:31 am

I am Somali and was involved in the peace negotiations in Kenya and what Yumi Kim is discussing is a fantasy that can only come from someone disconnected from the reality on the ground. I invite Yumi Kim to Somalia and live like an ordinary Somali just for a day and we will adopted her into a clan. Then I hope after this she will change her little fantasy myth and write a realistic description of lawlessness and reject anarchism.

The fellow she mentioned that is Michael van Notten is a war profiteer who was only intered to rob Somali wealth. There are many others like him who are supporting the warlords to continue their destructive wars. Alas, Yumi Kim has not mentioned Michael van Notten was declared persona-non-grata and expelled from Northern Somalia where he was staying when the authorities there discovered his sinister intentions. The likes of Michal van Notten are the mecenarries who fuel the many African civil wars.

p.s. Yumi your invitation is open and you can accept it anytime….

Norbert Lennartz February 23, 2006 at 6:51 am

Here is also a review of Michael van Notten’s book THE LEW OF THE SOMALIS, see: http://home.arcor.de/danneskjoeld/F/E/T/LawSomalis.html

In addition, you can visit the homepage of the book:

If you want to get the cheaper online-version of the book, please tell me. Then I may make some pressure for a license or something like that.

Norbert Lennartz

Abdirisak February 23, 2006 at 8:53 am


It is unfortunate to see an individual condone the lawlessness in my home country and use Michael van Notten as a source of backing up your thoughts. I would understand why Van Notten would see it that way because he profited from the war and in my view he is “White warlord in Somalia”; in other words, he capitalized of the lawlessness of my home country. You only mentioned what few Somalis gained from the lawlessness, but what you ought to mention too is the suffering of the larger Somalis. Such us the increased child mortality, illiteracy, diseases, poverty and lose of individual property.

zombie February 23, 2006 at 9:18 am

Dear Miss Kim,

It is nice to know what I suspected all along. What libertarians really want is something like Somalia. I hope you are not too angry with me, but the cheap wifi didn’t really win me over.

Miss Kim. Freedom of expression and freedom of thought are nice things. However, part of the implicit rules of the game (what sometimes people refer to as “the point”) is that you use that freedom to express and think intelligent, informed, and if possible, positive things. Writing self-serving, misinformed and deluded babble like you have done, and believing it yourself, is *not* the point.

I thought I just might tell you.

Anders Mikkelsen February 23, 2006 at 10:31 am

Abdirisak and Mahamed Abdullahi and other objectors fail to see the point that the war is happening because some Somali’s reject the traditional clan law and attempt to impose their rule on other Somali’s. Why should Somali’s accept any particular clan or warlord’s rule? How do they decide which one? If rule is violently imposed, why is it wrong to resist it? Given Somali’s culture, any attempts to impose a central government are a state of war. Ms. Kim rejects the war. Those who want someone to win the war and impose a central government are supporting the war. It is unfair to say Ms. Kim is condoning lawlessness, as she is extolling the benefits of Somali’s attempts to live peacefully and lawfully together.

It is also not clear how Van Notten ‘profited.’ People should explain their remark, or have it rejected as a smeer.

Wild Pegasus February 23, 2006 at 5:41 pm

Damn you, Somalis, stop confusing us with facts!

- Josh

Jim Davidson February 23, 2006 at 5:57 pm

Dear Friends – It is excellent to see that my late friend Michael van Notten’s book has finally been published and is received with such interest. I worked with Michael from 1995 until his death in 2002. It was a great pleasure to travel in Somalia with him, and without him on company business.

With particular regard to the comments of Mr. Mahamed Abdullahi, I would like to point out the following.

Mahamed says, “I am Somali and was involved in the peace negotiations in Kenya….”

Please note that the people who were involved in the peace negotiations in Kenya traveled there and lived there for many months. I have heard that their living expenses were paid for by the conference organizers. I heard similar things about the earlier conference in Djibouti. It is interesting that the fate of Somalis is supposed to be determined at conferences in Nairobi, or Arta, or in the halls of the United Nations, or in a Congress in Berlin in the 19th Century that drew lines on the map of Africa, but, somehow, the people of Somalia who live within Somalia are not expected to have the freedom of self-determination.

Mahamed notes, “I invite Yumi Kim to Somalia and live like an ordinary Somali just for a day and we will adopted her into a clan.”

I have lived in Somalia, and for many months. I would alert Yumi Kim to the possibility that it is traditional for women to be brought into a clan by marriage. Given the other things Mahamed says, I would not necessarily trust his intentions.

Mahamed says, “Then I hope after this she will change her little fantasy myth and write a realistic description of lawlessness and reject anarchism.”

In my time in Somalia, I observed no lawlessness. I do personally reject the term anarchism, because it is inappropriate to me. I prefer a particular form of government called self-government – the government of the individual, by himself, for his own benefit. I think many Somalis have a similar independent spirit and prefer to have their persons, property, and traditions respected. I find that the various efforts to impose a new government on Somalia are accompanied by demands for UN peacekeepers, or thousands of troops from such freedom-respecting paragons of virtue as Sudan.

Given the record of UN peacekeepers in raping children in the Congo, abandoning their friends and associates in Rwanda to genocidal massacres, and invading and terrorizing Somalia in 1993, I would not regard the UN as respecting life, liberty, or property. Thus, Mr. Mahamed Abdullahi is the one who is advocating lawlessness – the lawlessness of externally imposed government.

Mahamed continues, and gets worse: “The fellow she mentioned that is Michael van Notten is a war profiteer who was only intered to rob Somali wealth.”

That’s not true. Michael van Notten was part of a very wealthy Dutch family. I have had the honor and privilege of staying in the homes of his children and other members of his Dutch family. Michael had no need of war profits.

Indeed, he was not a war profiteer, but a gentle man who wisely saw many opportunities to avert suffering by bringing in new technologies and funds. He formed in Ethiopia’s Somali region an Eastern Hararghe Development Agency which he found funding for, which helped build water wells and bring new agricultural and ranching techniques to Somalis there. He and I worked together on several business ventures to build better roads in his Somali wife’s homeland of Awdal, and we were also working on plans for port facilities, electricity, Internet, and computer technology education.

The ideas Michael wanted to implement were for the profit of investors, mostly other than himself, and for the benefit of customers and vendors in Awdal. His ideas were destroyed by the rude comments of NATO General Tommy Franks to the effect that all the port facilities in Somalia should be bombed – in Fall 2001.

Mahamed asserts, “There are many others like him who are supporting the warlords to continue their destructive wars.”

That’s not true. There are many others unlike Michael who support warlords. The word warlord refers to anyone with both military and civil power in a society. You can look the word up if you doubt it. By the definition, George W. Bush is a warlord as commander in chief of the armed forces and president of the USA. Queen Elizabeth is, similarly, a warlord. The USA and Britain have engaged in destructive wars, in Somalia and elsewhere in the region. It would be very wrong to accuse Michael of having any role in these wars.

Mahamed writes, “Alas, Yumi Kim has not mentioned Michael van Notten was declared persona-non-grata and expelled from Northern Somalia where he was staying when the authorities there discovered his sinister intentions.”

It is an interesting thing that a man of the Gibril Younis sept of the Makahil great clan exiled Michael, and me, from “The Republic of Somaliland,” which Mahamed says is “Northern Somalia.” It is not the case that this exile was received well by Michael’s family, of the Aden Younis sept of the Makahil. The actions of the government of the Republic of Somaliland were based on absurd contentions that colonists from the Kingdom of Freedonia were going to invade and steal land, contentions that were proven to be false at the time.

Mahamed says, ” The likes of Michal van Notten are the mecenarries who fuel the many African civil wars.”

I do sometimes wonder what the customary law would say about defaming the dead. It is clear that Mahamed Abdullahi is not a member of the Aden Younis sept of the Makahil, and probably not a Samaron. I do wonder if he would not be liable to pay compensation when his assertion that Michael was a mercenary is proven false.



tz February 23, 2006 at 7:57 pm

The article opens with a statement that rival gangs are going about murdering each other. If this is what clan law provides, then I see no difference between this an anarchy. If it operates in parallel, then something is still needed to stop the gang warfare as the clan law is not effective.

In one sense the article sounds like an analysis of the railroad punctuality under Mussolini, just noting in passing a few of the other fascist going on, titled “how to make trains run on time”.

If it is the libertarian paradise, then why don’t we who read this blog all move there, set up our own Mises jilib, and live in freedom, peace, and safety?

Jim Davidson February 23, 2006 at 11:00 pm

Dear TZ,

It is interesting that you attribute the mainstream reports of rival gangs murdering each other to a lack of effective clan law rather than, say, the external stimuli of millions of dollars in “aid” to people who would organize and impose a new government on Somalia. Much of the fighting that I’ve read about takes place in Mogadishu, presumably over the bones of the old state. My colleagues and I who traveled extensively in Somalia from 1995 to 2001 did not encounter any of this alleged gang warfare.

There were some clan conflicts that Michael reported on, to me. He pointed out that it was often the case that clans with disputes would alert each other to the need for a settlement conference with some shooting of guns, not always targeting anyone in particular. Disputes over territory were very often settled peacefully without any shots being fired, but not always. Not far from your example of Italy in space or time are numerous European conflicts where nationalist and socialist laws were found wanting in, say, the Balkans as recently as 1993-1999.

Somalia is a nice place full of good people. It is also a place where Somalis live. While many Somalis are individually quite hospitable toward tourists and many clan groups are quite honorable about invested capital, it is not the case that Somalis would like to create a homeland for foreigners within their country. Many Somalis have pointed to the example of Palestine and Israel as a path not to follow.

Similarly, Somalia has not entirely resolved its own difficulties with occupying foreign powers. The Ogaden would be an example, much like militarily occupied Texas, where another country occupies rather a lot of Somali territory – and pays very little attention to its own constitutional limits to power. The war over the Ogaden in 1978 is said to have created a million refugees – many of whom are apparently still to be found in UNHCR “camps” along the border.

If you want to move to Somalia, I would urge you to make friends with some Somalis. There is a broad diaspora of Somalis in most English and some French and Italian speaking countries. Somalis have strong clan ties, and as a guest in their country you should consider making specific ties.

Ties of marriage work very well. Another type of relationship is abaan to marti – patron to client or host to guest. The terms have very particular meanings in Somali language which don’t perfectly translate. The marti has duties to the clan elder who sponsors him, including obedience to the customary law and integrity in his dealings. The abaan stands as a father-figure to provide protection to the guest and insure against the guest’s liabilities in the last resort.

So, if you want to live in Somalia, having a bunch of your friends move there and set up your own jilib would possibly seem like aggression to the local people. It is, after all, their country, not yours. So, if you are invited to live there, great. If you wish to invest in businesses there, I think there are many opportunities. If you want to form a relationship with particular Somalis, they are very hospitable, courteous, and friendly people, in my experience.

But, any talk of moving a large number of foreigners to Somalia to set up a colony there must remind Somalis of their very bad experiences under British, French, Italian, and Ethiopian colonial rule. To give you a sense of how big a deal it is to Somalis, you may wish to consider the text of the Gadabursi-British treaty of 1895 or thereabouts – you could look it up. As was related to me, that treaty specified that the British governor whenever he visited Gadabursi (or Samaron) territory was to be seen to bathe his feet after his visit so that not one grain of sand from Somali territory would be carried back to England.

So, do find Somalis and form business and cultural relationships with them. Do not seek to occupy their country. They don’t need Mises colonists any more than they needed British or French ones.

It might also make sense to consider whether the UN’s demands for a government for all of Somalia are motivated by humanitarian concerns, or a desire to have the $2.6 billion plus interest in foreign loans paid back by forcibly taxing the Somali people. Since most of that money was lent to the dictator Xiad Barre prior to 1988 and since he used the money to, among other things, massacre women and children in Berbera and torture many Somalis, you can see where resistance to taxes and UN sponsored governments is considerable.



Jinoole February 24, 2006 at 4:22 am

There myriad factual errors on that article. As a Soomaali, they can easily be spotted.

And calling this mayhem a “loving-it” situation is utter disregard of the struggling Somalis, whose daily livelihood is absent, such as the most basic need of humanity: security and living in peace. Neither of it is available in much of Somalia, as this latest war attests.

Yeah, the two nothern regions [Somaliland and Puntland] are doing much, much better than the chaotic south. Why? Because the nominal governments in place in those areas. That is the reality.

An example of your factual error is this sentence:

“…the Somali shilling has become far more stable in world currency markets…”

The Somali shilling collapsed years ago. Any merciless warlord/businessman without a conscience prints it as he or she sees fit. It thus devalued more than a thousand percentage. There is only one denomination available: 1000 S/sh. Nothing higher than it and nothing lesser. 1000 alone doesn’t buy you anything now, not even a cup of tea. A combination of it does.

When the last functioning Somali government was in effective, the lowest denomination was 10 S/sh and the highest, you guessed it, 1000 S/sh, with four more in between.

Yancey Ward February 24, 2006 at 8:57 am

Boy, a lot of you still aren’t getting it. It is the destructive influence of outsiders trying to impose a central government on Somalia that is the primary problem. By what right does the UN, the US, or anyone else outside the borders of what was the “country” of Somalia get to force a government? I grant that Kim’s article may have factual inaccuracies, but the broadest point still stands- it is up to the people living there to decide their fate. Their poverty, their violence, and, indeed, their entire fate rests, or should rest, entirely in their hands. If they decide to kill each other anyway, it is still their choice to do so. I know that sounds harsh, but there is no realistic alternative.

Mahamed Abdullahi February 24, 2006 at 3:54 pm

Mr. Jim Davidson,

I respond to your comments which I am afraid are not based on the facts like that of Yumi Kim.

1. Foreign held peace conferences

The reason peace conferences are held on foreign soil like the latest one held in Kenya (2002 to 2004) is the need to find a neutral ground where warring factions can talk without a threat of being attacked. This happens in all wars from the ancient to the modern. It is the same reason why the Israelis and Palestinians held their talks in Madrid, Washington and Oslo and the same is with the current negotiations in Geneva between the Tamil Tigers rebels and the Sri Lankan government. The only time negotiations can happen inside the country and between the factions is when certain level of security and trust is attained. I myself would have prefered and work for negotiation to be held in Somalia but I realize it is close to impractical.

The Nairobi peace talks was sponsored by IGAD which Somalia is a founding member therefore it expected and it owes to this organizaiton. Also, IGAD member states are doing it for continued lawlessness in Somalia affects their own security and for other national interests. Finacial help came from some African, Arab, European countries and China who have interests in Somalia. Somalia expects help from friends at this hour of its need (and it will repay it in the future) as itself helped many countries in the past whether it was in situations of humanitarian, conflicts of arms and fights against colonialism. So please do not put it as Somalis were beggers down on their knees in Nairobi peace talks. I myself during my participation in Nairobi negotiations for a period of 15 months have paid from my pocket.

I wonder what you mean self-determination. Do you mean Somalia to be dissembered along clan lines and each clan given the opportunity to secede from Somalia. Would self-determination be based on individual level and not at clan level, needs clarification? To me this is an evil policy which works for the destruction of Somalia and we will not accept that whoever it may come from whether enemy countries like Ethiopia or former occupying colonialists, mafia like NGOs or war profiteers. You are contradicting yourself for you want to impose this clan law you have packaged in your own interest onto the Somalis. Don’t you think if the Somali people wanted this so-called clan law they will have adopted it long ago?

If you mean self-determination elections for the people to decide their faith then there is yet no conducive environment for that to happen. For your reminder peace talks do not impose permanent solutions. Their purpose is of three fold: institute cease fire, reconcile and build a transitional governance structures. After this transitional period where security, governance and rebuilding is restored then the people are asked to vote on a permanent constitution. This is self-determination. If you are saying people are asked to vote in this anarchy now without a transitional period then I think your believe in your libertarianism is self-defeating for it is impractical. Any ideology or believe system must be practical in the real world not only in books or theory.

The current peace talks has failed not because of lack of self-determination but not sticking with the three fold purpsoe of peace talks which I have mentioned above. Of couse countries will like to see their interest get the upper hand in Somalia especially in this time of our weakest moment. I am sure Kenya and Ethiopia who are our historical foes have tried to get their way in Somalia but non will and can impose their will on the Somalis. If any country could have imposed on the Somalis then they would have done it in the past 15 years. The UN and the USA run away from Somalia in 1993. I think Black Hawk Down is a reminder to all. So I do not see this idea of imposition you are talking about. Anyone can try but they will lose.

2. Living in Somalia, adoption by marriage, somali indepent spirit and the issue of ” Somalialand”

You have said you have lived in Somalia. Which part? I think you have lived in the Northern parts of Somalia which have escaped most of the fighting and is relatively save now. I say relatively because even in those parts sometimes situation can get out of hand though not freguent. The fact is the peace in those Northern parts is not maintained by clan structures but local governments. I remind you Somalia is not only the pockets in the north and are not strategic in terms of the current civil war situation whether political, military, economical or population wise. This areas you have lived are far from the fightings areas for over 1000 km and cannot be true for the situation in most parts of the country. In any war situation there is always peaceful enclaves for whatever reasons they have acheived that.

I again invite you and Yumi Kim to come to the Central to Southern parts of the country where the majority of the Somali population are and to live like an ordinary person without hiring gangs of drug induced under-aged militias armed with technicals. If you survive which I doubt you will then this blog will be eagerly waiting to hear your experience.

In Somali order of things there is no adoption into clan through marriage. In marriage women maintain their original names so she will not use the surname of her husband. Through marriage women maintain their individual indentity whether name, family or clan. There is no even the word adoption in the Somali language in the sense used for in the English language. So you are born into the clan you are. But there is this concept of sheegasho which means claiming to be a different clan. If you want to call that adoption then call it. Sheegasho in the Somali language mean to claim. So one can claim another clan and they maybe accepted into that new structure. This usually happens not at lower level of clan structure but upper level of clan confederations for political and military alliance. But this is not wide spread and it is not a popular concept which has its sterotype.

I agree with you Somalis have strong independent spirit but you have failed to mention the whole concept of clan structure and cohesion involves surrendering some personal liberties. No individual liberty will be tolerated if it is counter to the greater good of the community for your case clan interests. So you can say the clan you are advocated for is itself a modern government in miniture which oppress personal liberty. I do not see differences for clan is a primitive form of social organization which the world has moved from. Your analysis of Somali mindset is to me in the least incomplete. You have have talked alot about property as like a holly-cow but you do not understand Somalis do not consider natural resources like land or water can be owned by an individual. They are public property for all community to benefit from so never dream to buy islands or big range lands for your own property. A Somali can never understand your mind like as the Indian Americans have failed to understand the European colonialist mind that land can be owned by an individual.

For the issue of Northern Somalia or the self-declared “Republic of Somaliland”, it is a political issue and an internal issue for the Somalis to resolve. I do not recognize it for I believe in the unity of Somali people not only the unity of Somalia as a country but also uniting all other Somali inhabited land in the Horn of Africa which is occupied to this day. Somalis were divided into five parts by the Europeans. Somalia is formed by two parts of those five. I believe in Great Somali unity or pan-Somalism. Northern regions seccession have nothing to do with clan for its claims to secede from Somalia are based on colonial boundaries and other political claims. This issue will be resolved for not all want to secede from Somalia. No country recognized the so-called “Somaliland” in the past 15 years and this is an indication of the failure of this policy and they themselves recongnize it. Only the Somalis can decide their faith so you do not have any right whatsoever to advocate for a dissemberment of my country. I am sure you do not wish I to advocate for your country to be dissembered. So please do not interfere in the internal affairs of Somalia which you do not have enough understanding.

3. On Michael van Notten
Your arguement that Michael van Notten is rich is a weak one. Are you telling me all these big comapnies or individuals who fuel wars in Africa are not rich. The man advocated for no strong State structure to exist in Somalia and to only deal with clans like during the European occupation of Africa. Divide and rule concept smells from this. The world has moved on including Somalia. His idea is to have weak authorities so he can get whatever he wants from those localized weak clan authorities and when finished with their resources move to the next victim. The scramble for African will not be repeated again.

Your belittling of Michael expulsion from Northern Somalia is amusing. No clan expelled him but the authorities of “Somalialand”. It is absurd even more to the Somalis you talking about Gibril Younis, Makahil etc as if clans have ruling government structures in Somalia. He was expelled by a government which is made up of all the clan in those regions. Those who demand of prove of the claims I have made against Michael the prove is his expulsion and if you need more then you can contact the government of “Somaliland”. What is more absurd is you talking about “Somaliland” fearing attack from this non-existing Kingdom of Freedonia.

The humanitarian projects he has done you are talking about are to me only cover-up to enter the country and conceal the hiden agenda.

4. Somali indentity and the basis of the protracted civil conflict

Yes Somalis are made up of clans and their number are many. But outsiders cannot comprehend that Somalis consider themselves as one nation and this identity of Somalism borders extreme xenophobia. Clan is just an internal social structure but not overal national identity. Somalis share the same language, culture, religion and way of life. We may be structured along clan lines but when a foreigner comes to the play the Somalis see themselves as Somali. And no foreigner can never be considered a Somali but will be tolerated like a guest. Have you ever seen a Somali identify himself when asked by a foreigner who he is by his clan name and not as Somali. A Somali will tell he is that clan only when asked directly. I am sure Jim himself will attest to this. So this libertarians who advocated for clan law got it wrong and are advocating for a concept which is based on drops of facts from the Somali society.

Somali civil conflict has more to do with external inteferences, war economy and power hungry individuals. Clan is only mobilizing tool for the warlords. The political and armed group in Somalia are allied across clan lines. It is about gaining power. It is not different from other conflicts in Africa like Liberia or Congo. Somalia located in a strategic area of Horn of Africa and bordered by countries like Ethiopia who are its historical enemies has contributed for lack of end to the conflict. The conflict of Somalia as mere clan competition is a cheap analysis of the true fact in Somalia. It is like deducing the Iraq expanding conflict as competition between Kurds, Sunni and Shia and thus forgeting the causes of the conflict which is the invasion, oil, regional interests and Al-Qaeda. The Somali conflict is political and also has regional dimmension to it.

I hope this points has shade for you some light to the complicated Somali situation.

abc March 3, 2006 at 10:21 pm

Last year’s Live 8 concert of Bono and Geldof was remarkable in at least one sense. African musicians were effectively “quarantined” to a theatre different from where the real Live 8 concert held. Meanwhile the concert purpoted to be all about Africa. Like in many other African issues, the self-appointed “medicine-man” purports to know more than the sick man without ever bothering to ask him: the man who isn’t wearing the shoe tells the one who wears it where he feels the pain.
I completely identify with the tenets of libertarianism. However, it is good to observe that when that liberty of the individual is pushed too much, it turns into a narcissistic obsession that inordinately extols individualism – one of the hallmarks of the decadence of modernity. Anarchism, in the sense of absolute anarchy, could equally fall prey to tyranny – that of the individual. I think one tyranny is as evil as another.

This lands me on the so-called “efficient anarchy” or put mildly, the now ubiquitous mantra of “self-enforcing exchange” of pre-colonial Africa. I do not know from whence isolated cases here and there have come to be the basis of scientific induction. The Africa in question doesn’t correspond to the one I as an African, have known by history and experience. Most of the African societies cited as examples of stateless societies where individuals traded and bartered on the basis of self-enforcing exchange relations were also societies that condoned slavery. Is slavery not fundamentally antithetical to the efficient anarchy hypothesis?

Somalia might be stateless from the point of view of an outsider – much as Japan is religionless from outside (this, in spite of the fact that every Japanese house enclose a family shrine and their technologies embody diverse elements of their traditional religious beliefs)- but to a Somali, who understands the language and intuitions of his culture, nothing could be further from the truth.

Economists and journalists should confine their analysis to what their methodologies are good for: analysis of data as quantum. When they begin to pretend to be anthropologists and philosophers, they sound simply, silly.


Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: