Skip to main content

Last updated: June 2022

The structure of the Somali governance

Somalia is a Federal State composed of two levels of government: the federal government and the federal member states, which include both state and local governments. Federal Member States (FMS) also dispose their own constitutions and armed forces.

South-Central Somalia includes the following FMS: Jubbaland, South-West, Benadir, Hirshabelle and Galmudug. Mudug region is divided between Galmudug and Puntland, with Galmudug controlling the southern half of the region. Puntland, as a self-proclaimed autonomous state within the Somali Federal State, was established on 1 August 1998.

Somaliland declared its independence in 1991 while the civil war was occurring in the rest of Somalia. Somaliland remains largely internationally unrecognised.

In terms of territorial control and influence, areas of Sool and Sanaag regions and the area of Ayn (Togdheer region) are contested between Somaliland and Puntland.

The role of clans in Somalia

Layered in all aspects of life, the clan is both a tool for identification and a way of life. Clans define the relationship between people and belonging to a strong clan matters in terms of access to resources, political influence, justice, and security.

Somalis are roughly divided in five large family clans: the Dir, the Isaaq, the Darood, the Hawiye and the Rahanweyn. Large segments of the Somali population are considered as minorities, either in local context or in Somalia in general, living amongst larger clans. Somalis are traditionally attached to a territory where their kin are supposed to be more numerous. Until today, most Somalis still rely on support from patrilineal clan relatives.

Clans often compete against each other, as well as against other actors. Clan militias are also important actors of political life across Somalia. Under the xeer system, clan elders act as mediators or arbiters, and play a central role in the resolution of local and intra-clan disputes.