Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What Somalis think about Somalia

In Dec. 2010, the National Democratic Institute released a fascinating study (PDF) of Somali opinion on a wide variety of topics based on 38 focus groups in 11 locations in Somalia and two near Nairobi and 35 one-on-one interviews with traditional and religious leaders.

The discussions and interviews took place in June 2010 and involved 434 Somali participants. While the results may have been skewed by the locations in Somalia where they took place, this is one of the few efforts to obtain in an organized way Somali opinion on Somali issues. A few of the results are surprising, at least to me.

Some of the key conclusions follow:
  • The participants viewed Somali clanism as a “cancer.”
  • There was a strong desire for national reconciliation.
  • The participants wanted the government to focus on stability and security.
  • They welcomed rule by Islamic law rather than clans.
  • Sharia is the best system of law for Somalia, including as the basis for the new constitution.
  • Religious leaders have an important role to play in government.
  • The participants were less able to define a role for traditional leaders.
  • The participants had unclear ideas about the meaning of democracy and some saw it as anti-Islam.
  • Most participants equated federalism with clanism.
  • The participants said no real government currently exists in Somalia and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) does not represent their interests.
  • The situation in Somalia has deteriorated under the TFG.
  • The participants wanted to eliminate the 4.5 formula used by the TFG.
  • There was strong support for a referendum on the new constitution.
  • The participants expressed a willingness to put limits on freedom of expression in Somalia.
  • Many participants were unwilling to give special rights to minorities.

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