Marginalization and Social Cohesion among Minoritized Clan Groups and Dominant Groups, Aid Actors, and Local Authorities in Mogadishu


This commentary examines the issue of clan-based marginalization experienced among internally displaced people (IDPs) from minority and marginalized groups in Mogadishu. These clan groups mainly hail from the Bay, Middle, and Lower Shabelle regions of Somalia and settle on territory dominated by a different clan that most of the time perceives them as outsiders and not residents with rights. Stronger inter-clan group relations need to be forged to support sustainable integration of these minority and marginalized clan groups – especially those that choose to call Mogadishu home.

To this end, the Somali Public Agenda (SPA) and the Regional Durable Solutions Secretariat (ReDSS) facilitated a locally led and community-driven dialogue forum held in Mogadishu on 15 June 2023. The forum brought together fifty members of the displacement-affected community (DACs) including IDPs, the host community, and local authorities. The commentary highlights the impact marginalization has on social cohesion and its implication on durable solutions and presents recommendations for finding solutions to these challenges. It is the first in a series of commentaries and briefs that will be based on similar locally-led and community-driven conversations in Mogadishu, Baidoa, and Kismayo. This initiative is part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded Scaling Solutions in Somalia Project that is being implemented through the Danwadaag Durable Solutions Consortium in Baidoa, Kismayo, and Mogadishu.

Discussion and Analysis

Newly displaced persons in Mogadishu use bonding social capital to overcome immediate displacement vulnerability but need inter-group social connections for sustainable integration. Displaced persons living in Mogadishu who mainly come from the Bay, Middle, and Lower Shabelle regions rely on social relations developed in their place of origin to access resources in Mogadishu. According to the forum participants, this relationship is often based on an acquaintance or clan affiliation (bonding social capital) and is viewed as a resource that assists the new arrivals in finding information on where to settle and how to get immediate assistance from aid agencies. For instance, when people from DACs arrive at IDP camps, they usually contact their relatives or neighbors from their place of origin who already live at the camp and stay with them for days or weeks before they can find an alternative residence. If they do not have relatives or acquaintances at the camp, they struggle to secure housing and are forced to find their own connections to aid themselves. This heightens their vulnerability. Regardless, bonding social capital is insufficient to support these IDPs to attain greater rights in Mogadishu. This will only come through stronger and denser social relations between these minority and marginalized clan groups and the dominant clan groups in Mogadishu since the latter control most of the resources necessary for IDPs to permanently overcome their displacement vulnerabilities.

The commodification of IDPs and aid diversion has a negative effect on the levels of trust, acceptance, transparency, and accountability necessary to foster social cohesion. Minority and marginalized groups in Mogadishu IDP camps are exploited by gatekeepers, land owners, and local authorities. Public land to host IDPs is not available and people from DACs are forced to settle on private land. Landowners and gatekeepers – predominantly from dominant clan groups – leverage access to the land to create IDP sites and connect these sites to local aid actors to supply the aid. They also engage with some local authorities to produce beneficiary lists favorable to their sites that aid actors are often compelled to use. Whenever the aid is distributed, the gatekeepers demand nearly sixty percent of the cash and material assistance transferred to the IDPs in exchange for allowing them to live in their camps. This leaves IDPs with less than they require to meet their basic needs. The money demanded by the gatekeeper is often shared with landowners and the local authorities that control the beneficiary lists. Failure to comply with these instructions can lead to evictions of non-compliant IDPs and deregistration from beneficiary lists, cutting them off from aid. This was described by a participant in the forum:

“The humanitarian and aid agencies received us and distributed cash vouchers as we came here. However, the gatekeepers asked us to give them part of the cash voucher, and if we did not, they would evict us from the camp. For instance, if 120 USD is in the cash voucher, the IDP member would take only 30 to 40 USD, and the camp leader, gatekeeper, and district officials would take the rest. Every month, when the cash is sent in the voucher, the IDP member should pay most of the money to those people. They will be evicted from that camp if they do not do that.”

Consequently, this situation significantly impairs the ability of these IDPs to trust local and regional institutions that are meant to protect them. As found in the Local Reintegration Assessment EndLine Report, trust in institutions is a key factor for IDPs to perceive themselves as integrated and therefore a critical issue to consider in durable solutions programming.

Lack of equal access to livelihood opportunities and basic services is a key driver of feelings of exclusion among minority and marginalized IDPs in Mogadishu. IDPs from minority and marginalized clans face clan-based discrimination from the dominant clans in Mogadishu that control access to socio-economic resources. Protection of rights in Somalia has been primarily based on clan affiliation as a result of state collapse after the fall of Siad Barre’s regime. Additionally, the legacy of the civil war created clan-based territorial claims wherein specific locations are claimed by specific clans, and people that come from that clan are treated as residents while others are treated as guests. They may be denied access to land or housing and may be unable to find suitable employment or business opportunities due to their clan affiliation. Individuals from minority and marginalized communities often face challenges accessing credit and other financial resources necessary to start a business or improve their economic circumstances. Where they get livelihood assistance to set up businesses, these businesses often are not sustainably profitable as individuals from dominant clans might opt not to buy from them. This points to the need to integrate social cohesion programming into livelihood technical programming to ensure relationships of trust and mutuality are built to sustain socio-economic integration.

Representation of minority and marginalized groups in government and aid spaces has the potential to foster greater trust in these institutions. Representatives of minority and marginalized IDPs at the forum felt that it would be advantageous to have officials with the same ethnicity, dialect, and cultural background in the district administration as minority and marginalized IDPs when dealing with them. This can help establish a greater rapport and understanding between the officials and the affected communities, ultimately leading to more effective and sensitive handling of their conditions. Furthermore, the local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that advocate for minority and marginalized groups can serve as intermediaries between marginalized IDP groups, aid actors, and government officials. These organizations are trusted and often have a deep understanding of the needs and challenges faced by these communities. They can effectively communicate their collective needs, rights, and legitimate interests to aid actors and authorities. A female participant in the forum from a CSO advocating for minority and marginalized groups underscored the critical role such NGOs play in advocating for the rights of minority and marginalized groups and connecting the IDPs, government, and aid agencies:

“Recently, the UN agencies started to create and empower local NGOs that advocate for minority and marginalized groups. One is partnered with the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide cash vouchers to minorities and marginalized DACs. The organization helps identify minority and marginalized groups.”

Limited interaction between IDPs from minority and marginalized groups and their government representatives contributes to weak vertical social cohesion and is a barrier to attaining durable solutions. Access to rights as a condition of attaining durable solutions requires re-establishing the relationship between the citizen and the state. This means that the state protects, promotes, and fulfills the rights of its citizens by enacting and implementing laws and policies on human rights. Whereas the Somali government at the federal and Mogadishu level have enacted a number of laws, policies, and strategies to tackle displacement-related vulnerabilities – including marginalization, they have not invested as much in platforms to directly engage their citizens. This limits the level of interaction between the government and the displaced population, which affects levels of trust and confidence in the latter in these government institutions. Trust in institutions is important as it is a strong factor of perceived integration.

More open and honest locally-led conversations on addressing marginalization and promoting social cohesion are needed. Addressing the issue of clan-based marginalization requires a community-driven, open, and honest conversation to understand the connecting and dividing factors of social cohesion. These conversations should be aimed at strengthening the quality and diversity of relationships between minority and marginalized groups and dominant groups (horizontal social cohesion). It should also focus on strengthening linkages between the minority and marginalized groups and society and the local authorities, aid actors, and markets based on trust, respect, mutuality, and equal opportunity (vertical social cohesion).

Conclusion and recommendations

Durable solutions for IDPs cannot be realized as long as there is no form of discrimination or marginalization. Promoting social cohesion between minority and marginalized groups and dominant groups in Mogadishu will require addressing the barriers that exacerbate their social distance. A key issue is aid diversion, which affects levels of trust, acceptance, transparency, and accountability as IDPs are seen as a commodity. Another is the perceived unequal access to socio-economic opportunities including access to basic services among minority and marginalized groups. It also means investing in interventions that will bridge the gap between these two groups and link the minority and marginalized groups to local authorities and aid actors.

There were three main recommendations from the forum:

  1. Durable solutions actors should engage local minority and marginalized rights advocacy non-governmental organizations as connectors between minority and marginalized IDPs, local authorities, and other aid actors. These organizations have established connections with the aid world and are trusted by the minority and marginalized IDPs to represent their interests.


  1. Durable solutions actors should support direct engagement between minority and marginalized groups and local and federal authorities. These could go a long way in building trust in these state institutions necessary for local integration. This can be done through joint monitoring sessions with aid actors or through town hall-style forums where these IDP groups can speak directly to their local and regional governments and expect feedback. In the same breath, these government actors should operationalize their governance accountability mechanisms that allow the IDPs to report cases of aid diversion and corruption.


  1. Government and aid actors must find creative and constructive ways to engage with informal duty bearers such as gatekeepers and land owners. Gatekeepers and landowners are incentivized to extract aid from IDPs because they allow them to settle on their private lands. Given the fact that public land is scarce in Mogadishu, there needs to be durable political settlements that recognize the role that gatekeepers and landowners have in contributing to reducing displacement vulnerability. This will require outside-of-the-box thinking that is aligned with the realities of the political economy in Mogadishu.

This commentary jointly produced by Somali Public Agenda and the Regional Durable Solutions Secretariat (ReDSS) is part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded Scaling Solutions in Somalia Project that is being implemented through the Danwadaag Durable Solutions Consortium in Baidoa, Kismayo and Mogadishu.

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