Dispatches from a nomad: Revenge clan killings claim dozens in Sool region

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Revenge killings are a common feature amongst nomads everywhere in the world, including Somalia’s myriad clans that often fuelling a complex web of the unstoppable circle of violence.

In the past few weeks, such clan feud has left over 100 dead and more than 200 others seriously wounded in the disputed Sool region in northern Somalia. The region, together with Sanaag and Aayn, are all claimed by Somaliland and Puntland states ,and in the recent past been an epicentre of deadly clan violence, including between Puntland and Somaliland States.

The latest violence in the village of Dhumay in Sool region, which is 45km south of the regional capital Las Aanod, started in early September after a man was killed. The two men belonged to the feuding communities, which have clashed before — recently a year ago — under the same circumstances.

The story is the same every time and is ignited by revenge. In Dhumay, the slain man’s close relatives revenged, prompting a circle of revenge killings that ended up into a full-blown war between the Bahararsame and the Qayaad subsub clans of the Dulbahante, a subclan of the Darod.

As hugely reported by local media, the war involved heavy weapons, including artillery fire, mortars and heavy machine guns, used by both sides. The fighting has defied all attempts to stop it from clan chiefs, clerics and even the Somalia government. The violence is the most trending news item on traditional media, digital and on social media, as well with a barrage of attacks in form of volleys of mostly hate speech comments from interested parties.

 

COUSINS’ BATTLE

Counter accusations by Puntland and Somaliland administrations of abating the violence has added another new twist into the battle and a hardline stance from the feuding sides.

The sad part is that the Dhumay violence is actually between cousins from the Dulbahante of the larger Darod clan, with divergent political affiliations for Puntland and Somaliland respectively.

War is generally very expensive. In the Dhumay violence, the war is said to be financed by relatives in Diaspora and local businessmen. The Somaliland and Puntland are also accused of secretly supporting either side. No evidence is, however, available to prove this possible notion.

However, what is known is that when your clan is involved in a battle, there is a harambee to buy food, fuel, weapons and ammunition for your cousins in the battlefield. This harambee in Somali is called ‘qaaran’, from the root word ‘qaran’, which literally means a State or nation. The state in this case here is the clan. This gives you a hint as to how important clans are regarded by Somalis.

 

TIT FOR TAT

What actually fuels revenge killings amongst nomads is the idea of being seen as weak. In the Somali context the revenge is often pre-meditated or planned. Relatives of a slain man or woman would actually sit and carefully choose their target from the other clan that they plan to revenge against.

This could also possibly be the cause of the renewed tribal clashes in Marsabit, Moyale, Mandera and Wajir counties pitting the Borana, the Burji, the Gare, the Gabra and the Rendiles on one side and the Somali clans on the other. These Kenyan tribes are predominantly nomads as well.

To break it down for you, if a man, for example from clan X, kills another from clan Y, close relatives of the slain clan Y man would arguably sit and plan to kill another man of the calibre or equal in status from clan Z. Talk of tit for tat.

So, for example, if their dead brother was a businessman, they will target to a businessman from the other clan, who is closest to him by blood. And if he is a farmer, then the closest blood farmer from the other side, unfortunately becomes the target and vice versa.

Most of the killings in Somalia — which often go unresolved — are as a result of this crazy nomadic mentality, pushed purely by ego and the struggle for supremacy. In the nomadic life, only the strong survive and no group wants to be the losers. In the process, you get two sides well prepared to take the battle to the wire, with no sign of weariness. This explains why violence in Somalia or amongst nomads is never ending. Sadly, it is their way of life.

 

BIGGEST KILLER

More than often — during such circles of violence —, many innocent people are caught up in the crossfire. Stray bullets and mortar rounds are the biggest killers in Somalia simply because those fighting are on the alert and often evade direct fire from their opponents because they fight from barricaded frontlines strengthened by sand or walls.

Bullets and mortars are blind and don’t choose who to hit and so you find totally unaware persons far from the battle field or theatre of battle who unfortunately end up as victims or collateral damage as known in military language.

This leaves me wondering when will we, the Somalis or the general nomadic communities, realise that we cannot win against each other. It is time to stop this primitive behaviour of revenge killings, which actually ends up claiming more souls than the one single soul we so desperately fight for.

The following message is for the cousins fighting in Dhumay, Sool region, and all those supporting or simply watching as the brothers senselessly decimate each other. They should remember the famous Somali saying: “Dagal wiil kuma dhasho, wiil ba ku dhinta”. “War does not give you a son, it takes a son away”.

 

DID YOU KNOW?

That Somalis are composed of 4.5 major clans and minorities grouped together to form half a clan. The four major clans are Hawiye, Dir, Darod and Rahanweyn or Digil and Mirifle. Minorities include the Bantu or the Jareerweyne, the Banaadiri, the Bajuni, the Madibaan, the Tumaal, the Yibir and many other smaller communities.

That the clan acts like an insurance system. It is expected that closest relatives or clan members ought to defend and support each other. You are required to chip into a clan harambee or qaaran whenever a calamity befalls them. Calamities could be natural as in droughts or man made like in war. Each clan acts like a state and has a council of elders, who manage its internal affairs and represent them during negotiations with other clans.

 

Mohamed is a Somalia expert and former Correspondent based in Mogadishu.

Source: The Star

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