Saturday, September 29, 2007

Laws of the Somalis

I am currently reading a book called the Law of the Somalis by Michael Von Notten. He married a Somali woman and lived there for many years. His book is one of the most significant, I have read for a while.

Von Notten describes how a set of customary laws and tribal judges can work to establish a peaceful society, without any need for a national parliament, statutory legislation, national police and other state paraphernalia. The customary laws of Somalia are quite similar to God’s laws in Exodus and Leviticus, including restitution for theft. The system of judges is similar to that described in Deuteronomy. What the Laws of the Somalis shows is that God’s law works, even if he is not acknowledged.

The sad thing is that attempts by colonial powers and world powers to impose democracy on a tribal culture is destroying a legal system that worked effectively. God has never given democracy a tick (Ex 23:2) but he has given his approval to tribal culture (Gen 49). Democracy just does not work in a tribal culture.

When the electorate is composed of close-knit tribal, religious, linguistic or ethnic communities, the people invariably vote, not on the merits of any issue, but for the party of their own community. The community with the greatest numbers wins the election, and the minority parties then put rebellion and secession at the top of their political agenda. That is nothing but a recipe for chaos (p.127).
The winners use the power of government to benefit their own members, which means exploitation of the members of other clans. Consequently when there exists a governmental apparatus with its awesome powers of taxation and police and judicial monopoly, the interests of the clans conflict. Some clan will control that apparatus. To avoid being exploited by other clans, each must attempt to be that controlling clan.
A democratic government has every power to exert dominion over people. To fend off the possibility of being dominated, each clan tries to capture the power of that government before it can become a threat. Those clans that didn't share in the spoils of political power would realize their chances of becoming part of the ruling alliance were nil. Therefore, they would rebel and try to secede. That would prompt the ruling clans to use every means to suppress these centrifugal forces… in the end all clans would fight with one another (p.136).
Efforts to impose democracy on a tribal society actually produces rule by warlords.

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