TRIBE, TRIBALISM AND CULTURAL CHANGE-KUWAIT 2008
By Kevin Anthony Stoda
On April 1, 2008 the AWARE Center in Surra, Kuwait hosted a "diwaniya" (i.e. a meeting) which focused on the evolving tribal system in Kuwait and its current impact on Kuwaiti society. The presenter that evening was anthropologist Dr. Mohammed Al-Haddad of Kuwait University, who has published extensively on the phenomena of tribalism for many decades. The presentation and subsequent discussion was considered fairly timely as tribalism significantly effects all Kuwaiti elections, and national elections for the country's National Assembly are to be held on the 17th of May. (The Emir of Kuwait had closed the parliament down and had called for new elections two weeks earlier.)
Within days of the parliament being closed down, tribes, tribal politicians and other local kingmakers were already holding illegal gatherings to determine who would run and who would win. In this way, these tribal political figures function as a cartel group in the five Kuwaiti governates, ensuring tribal-rather than civil-dominance of the popular election of officials in one of the two wealthiest countries on the planet.
This time around, though, the Kuwaiti government has been playing tougher than usual with the tribes and tribesmen and has actually arrested several tribal leaders who have openly broken Kuwaiti election laws. This led to tribesmen, who over several days had witnessed arrests of their members and leadership, to confront violently the government's criminal investigators on March 26, 2008-i.e. with the hopes of freeing the tribesmen. (There was another such violent confrontation yesterday evening.)
With all of this recent focus on tribes and tribalism, a very large Kuwait audience overfilled the diwaniya hall at the AWARE Center on April 1, 2008, in order to learn the basics on tribalism in Kuwait from a renowned expert in the field.
DEFINITIONS OF "TRIBE"