Somalia is a prime example of state failure (Amburn, 2009) and it is widely know to be a very dangerous country. The terror group Al-Shabab regularly kills and attacks in central and southern Somalia, often also towards the Kenyan border.
About two weeks ago a United Nations (UN) convoy was attacked, and while only the security guards were killed, it only emphasizes that the enemy does not stop for anything (BBC News, 2014). The Somali-Kenyan border has been a place to avoid since the Kenyan troops entered Somalia last year to help reconstruct law and order (Henderson, 2014).
But is reconstruct even the right word? How could this country fall into such a seemingly bottomless situation? And even more interestingly, how could it become the home of Al-Shabab, and offer a safe haven for terrorists as we call them? This short paper will only scratch the surface of these reasons, but more importantly it aims to lay out and analyze the history for fellow members of my student society.
The Scope of this Blog
It would be interesting to recap the history of a nation which has a flag with a five-pointed star. To this day it still stands for the Somali race, which can be found in “Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and the former associated British and Italian colonies.” (quoted from Embassy of Somali Federal Republic in Ankara, Turkey, 2014), and is a larger territory than the country Somalia itself owns today (Harper, 2012, 12). However, due to the nature of this blog, it is not possible to explore the whole history of Somalia (or the idea of the united Somali race in so-called Greater Somalia), and therefore this piece will focus on the time after the Cold War, namely 1990/1991. It will offer a brief insight of what has happened in the past 20 or so years within the country, and will look at some issues that need to be resolved.
Unorganized since the End of the Cold War
It can be argued that Somalia has been the scene of a civil war since 1991, when the last president, Siad Barre, was overthrown (Harper, 2012, p. xii). Since then, peacekeeping missions have tried to organize and structure the country, preferably putting it on a path towards democracy. But how can Somalia have been in this vague and indefinable state for longer than two decades, even though the country’s population has mainly the same language, ethnicity and culture, which is often the reason for such conflicts? (Harper, 2012, 12, 15; Lewis 2002 262-266)
When the dictatorship and the president were overthrown in 1991, a civil war had been ongoing for over two years, as the power of Siad Barre mainly ruled the capital, Mogadishu. Over a decade earlier in 1974/75, the president’s power began to diminish – when a terrible drought hit the country. First attempts were made to overthrow the president and in the years leading up to 1991 multiple movements and state critical groups emerged (Harper, 2012, p.54).
More complicated than the West imagined
This is when clan politics came into play and different groups turned against each other and against themselves, deepening the civil war further. Clan politics are very important within Somalia, even though they are very difficult to understand, since they are very ambiguous (Harper, 2012, 36ff). While no state entity has existed in the last few decades, clans offered “organizational and legal structures” (quoted from Harper, 2012, p. 39), where no other structures where found. Warlords, clan leaders and all different kinds of leaders all existed in different areas of the country. The crisis got worse when the fight for food and power continued without delay and at this point the international community felt pressure to act. (Chijioke Njoku 2013 143ff; Harper, 2012, p.56ff).
Many efforts have been made to gain control of the country, establish a state or even for peace. A weapon embargo was enacted and a UN operation taskforce was dispatched in 1992, while the troop size was continuingly strengthened (UNSCR 794, 775, 794). The United Nations tried to defuse the situation with all necessary means and with a special operation called “Restore Hope”, but due to the tremendous failure of the operation, the troops withdrew their peacekeepers eventually in 1995 (Kuzmarov 2013; UNSCR 794, 814, 837).
The overall failure of the mission had not been predictable, and the Black Hawk Down incident traumatized the public, which may have lead to an early termination of the mission. The country however, still faced a severe crisis. Outside help was neither wanted nor endured, and the first UN resolution to use active military force against a sovereign state, had failed. (Chijioke Njoku 2013 143-154; Harper, 2012, xii, 60; Lewis 2002 267-275; S/PRST/1995/15).
It can be argued, that the United States were partly responsible for this outcome, since they had shipped weapons to Somalia during the Cold War (Kuzmarov 2013). Officially, the UN did not abandon Somalia, however, only a “small political mission” should continue (S/PRST/1995/15). From 1995 onwards, the UN Security Council was kept informed about the developments in Somalia, but it did not act upon the still enduring crisis. The UN aid was focused on humanitarian and financial aid, rather than actively establishing a well-functioning state through military power. So who can be blamed for the enduring situation after even the United Nations had failed to help? And whose responsibility is it to make sure Somalia is well functioning today?
The case of Somalia is a very unique one, and partly the US and UN member states can be blamed for interfering with business that wasn’t theirs, while on the other hand the country hardly knows the state of peace and terrorism easily crosses borders to the neighboring countries. Overall, it is partially everyone’s fault that the country did not find calmness through the UN in the nineties.
In the years to come, many different approaches were attempted: International peace conferences, financing the war lords while trying to help civilians, and many more. However, it appeared that the state of Somalia was resistant against all external help. Many self-declared rulers spent more time outside of the country than inside, and conferences were sponsored to suppress the guilt of many international players (Harper 2012 p. 64).
Where a vacuum began to exist, islamic groups planted themselves and seized the opportunity for power. There was no centralized ruling authority, but from village to village different warlords ruled (Harper 2012 p.69). Structures and habits emerged that no external intervention could hope to understand, and as history has shown, could not stop (Chijioke Njoku 2013 161-164). In contrast to many western thought-processes, Islamic groups are nothing new to the country. The country is primarily Islamic and after the clan politics in the 1990’s, religion began to play a more active role in the 2000’s. (Harper 2012 p.70, 77)
Temporary Governments and Healing from the Inside?
Two different transnational governments which were implemented by conferences outside of the country, failed as well (ca. 2004 to mid 2012), and the current parliament which has been in place since 2013, works with a temporary constitution. The country is now in the process of building a federal parliamentary republic and just last week a new Prime Minister has been appointed by the President and confirmed by Parliament. However, where the country is going in the near future, remains unknown. (Cia.gov, 2014; Mail Online, 2014; Twitter Somali President 2014 ). It will take years to come, to heal and banish the insurgency present today (UN News Section Service 2004).
The Somali people have to figure out their future by themselves. The parliament, which is in power today realistically remains questionable. The autumn of 2014 has brought with itself a governmental crisis which might or might not put the country towards the right path for some free elections in 2016 (“Vision2016”). Quick and severe steps will have to come from within the country, to make the state of Somalia work. Many questions will have to be answered in the next year: Will the self-declared country of Somaliland be part of Somalia? Will the flag stay the same? How is it ensured that a federalist state is established and no power left in al-shabab’s hands? Since the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) in 2007 had begun and the transitional governments are in place, the country could be at a turning point these days (UNSCR 1744).
- Ali Abdi, F. (2014). SOMALIA: 2016 Election: Optimism, Misgivings, and Leadership Analysis |. [online] Horntribune.com. Available at: http://horntribune.com/somalia-2016-election-optimism-misgivings-and-leadership-analysis-2/ [Accessed 30 Dec. 2014].
- Amburn, B. (2009). Failed States 2007: Long Division. [online] Foreign Policy. Available at: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/failed-states [Accessed 30 Dec. 2014].
- BBC News, (2014). Somali bomb explodes near UN convoy. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-30306174 [Accessed 30 Dec. 2014].
- Chijioke Njoku, R. (2013) “The History of Somalia” Greenwood: Santa Barbara (CA), USA
- Cia.gov, (2014). The World Factbook. [online] Available at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/so.html [Accessed 30 Dec. 2014].
- Embassy of Somali Federal Republic in Ankara, Turkey, (2014). Somali Flag Facts – Somali Embassy in Ankara. [online] Available at: http://www.somaliembassytr.org/somali-flag-facts/4571762500 [Accessed 30 Dec. 2014].
- Harper (2012) “Getting Somalia wrong? Faith, War and Hope in a shattered state” Evan Smith: London
- Henderson, I. (2014). ACCORD – Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia. [online] Accord.org.za. Available at: http://www.accord.org.za/publications/policy-practice-briefs/1013-kenya-s-military-intervention-in-somalia [Accessed 30 Dec. 2014].
- Kuzmarov, J. (2013). Black Hawk Down: The Real Story. [online] Historynewsnetwork.org. Available at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/153561 [Accessed 23 Dec. 2014].
- Lewis, I.M., (4th ed.) (2002) “A modern history of the Somali: Revised, updated and expanded” Ohio University Press: Athens
- Mail Online, (2014). Somalia appoints new prime minister after damaging spat. [online] Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-2877759/Somalia-appoints-new-prime-minister-damaging-spat.html [Accessed 30 Dec. 2014].
- Twitter Somali President, (2014). Somali President (@SOPresident) | Twitter. [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/SOPresident?lang=en [Accessed 30 Dec. 2014].
- UN News Service Section, (2014). UN News – Somalia: Security Council calls for unity amid political crisis. [online] Available at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=49576#.VJPwnBJkMU [Accessed 30 Dec. 2014].
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 733 (1992) Items related to the situation in Somalia S/23445 available on http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Documents/733.pdf, cited as UNSCR 733
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 775 (1992) Items related to the situation in Somalia S/RES/775 available on http://www.un.org, cited as UNSCR 775
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 794 (1992) Items related to the situation in Somalia S/RES/794 available on http://www.securitycouncilreport.org, cited as UNSCR 794
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 814 (1993) Items related to the situation in Somalia S/RES/814 available on http://www.un.int, cited as UNSCR 814
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 837 (1993) Items related to the situation in Somalia S/RES/837 available on http://www.un.org, cited as UNSCR 837
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 885 (1993) Items related to the situation in Somalia S/RES/885 available on http://www.securitycouncilreport.org, cited as UNSCR 885
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 1744 (2007) Items related to the situation in Somalia S/RES/1744 available on http://www.un.org, cited as UNSCR 1744