A Country in Turmoil
Population: 7,488,773-9,656,500(July 2001 est.)
Life Expectancy: 46.6 years
Ethnic Groups: Somali (85%), Bantu, Arabs
Religion: Sunni Muslim
Literacy: 24% (total population)
Exports: Livestock, Bananas, and Fish
Currency: Somali Shilling (SOS)
External Debt: US$2.6 billion
Internally Displaced Persons: 350,000
Children 5-14 Years of Age Currently Working: 41.9%
Source: CIA Factbook and The United Nations
Eldery Women Outside a Traditional Hut
Young Girl With Bride to Be in a Traditional Hut
Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia, is an
extremely dangerous city where different clans constantly battle for control.
People Suffering from Drought and Famine. The delivery of food is often restricted by fighting among competing clans.
1. Is Somalia a State?
Somalia is a country that has experienced excessive amounts of political instability during the past decade. Somalia, like most other countries in Africa, was colonized by European nations during the late 1800s. In 1887, Britain became concerned with keeping the route to India open through the Suez Canal, which was opened in 1869 and as a result Britain proclaimed Somalia as a British protectorate and named it British Somaliland.
In the beginning of the 20th century British control of British Somaliland was challenged by native uprisings. In 1910 the British abandoned the interior of Somaliland and withdrew to the coastal regions. Italy seized the opportunity to extend its control inland and took over many of the regions that the British had abandoned.
In the aftermath of W.W.II, Italy was forced to relinquish its possessions in Africa and control of Somalia was given to the United Nations and for 10 years it was a UN trust territory under Italian administration until July 1, 1960 when Somalia was granted independence and it merged with the former British protectorate of Somaliland.
Somalia's transformation into an independent state was peaceful in the beginning but is soon erupted into a violent conflict. In 1969 Abdi Rashid Ali Shirmarke, Somalia's second President, was assassinated and in the following days a military coup, led by Major General Muhammed Siyad Barre, tgained control of the country. In 1970 Barre declared Somalia to be a socialist state.
Armed domestic opposition to Siyad Barre arose in 1988 in the Northern part of the country. The Somali National Movement (SNM), the United Somali Congress (USC), and the Ogadeni Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM) joined forces to fight against Siyad Barre's government. In 1990 as Barre began to lose control of the country, the local political and business figures came together to sign the Mogadishu Manifesto, calling for Barre's resignation.
Mohammed Siyad Barre fled Somalia in January 27, 1991 and Somalia descended into a state of anarchy. After Barre fled from the country the USC established an interim provisional government, which was headed by provisional President Ali Mahdi Mahammad. As of September 1991, Somalia is effectively under the control of as many as 12 rival clans and sub clans.
Somalia currently has no stable government and
many of the areas of the country continue to be under self-rule with control
held by local leaders. Somalia is a country comprised of roughly 7.5 million
people, many of who are nomads or refugees. The establishment of a government
has proved to be extremely difficult and currently Somalia remains a lawless
Keeping a Shaky Peace in Somalia
2. What Kind of Nation is Somalia?
Prior to the civil war that occurred in Somalia in 1991 the country appeared to be one of the most homogeneous countries in Africa. The majority of people in Somalia are ethnic Somalis who speak dialects of the same language and practice the same religion. However, a multitude of ethnic and cultural divisions exists within the country. The practice of Islam varies nationwide, and has over the years, been influenced by different aspects of Arab culture.
Somalia has a significant number of ethnic and economic minority groups. People of Bantu descent tend to live in farming villages and in the southern part of the country. Individuals of Arab descent and other non-African immigrants tend to reside in the coastal cities, such as Mogadishu. Among Somalis, a primary division exists between the Samaale and the Sab. The Samaale are the majority of the Somali people and consist of four main clan families the Dir, Isaaq, Hawiye, and Daaroodeach which is further divided into sub-clans. The Samaale are primarily of nomadic origin and live throughout Somalia and in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti. The Sab consist of two clan families, the Digil and Raxanweyn, located primarily in southern Somalia, where they combine farming and herding and are more likely than the Samaale to be sedentary.
During the colonial period of dominance the Somali people were divided between British, Italian, and Ethiopian rule. The political climate of the rest of the world often had a large effect on African colonies, especially Somalia. During World War II the rivalry between the Axis powers and the Allied powers in Europe also had an effect on the social and political climate among the Somali people.
Following Somalia's independence in 1960 the government supported the idea of Pan-Somalism, which is the belief that Somalia should unite all Somali-inhabited territories. The goal of Somali unification led to a military buildup that eventually resulted in war with Ethiopia and fighting in northern Kenya. The battle for Somali regions led to a shift in the political ideology and interactions with other nations. Somalia, which prior to 1963, had been allied with Western nations shifted their geopolitical alliances to the Eastern powers.
Currently Somalis are located in Somalia as well as in many neighboring countries such as Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Kenya.
3. What Kind of Government does Somalia have Presently?
In 1991 when Mohammed Siyad Barre fled the country the state was consumed by a virtual state of anarchy. Somalia has had no recognized government since January 27, 1991, when the United Somali Congress ousted Barre. Overall Somalia is politically unstable. After the collapse of the Somali government various factions decided to vie for control of Somalia,which resulted in chaos, clan warfare, and interclan fighting. Although Somalia is not as lawless as it was at the time when Barre was ousted Somali factions still continue to fight for control of the territory.
Somalia has not had a central government since President Siad Barre fled in 1991, leaving the country at the mercy of its numerous warring factions and where clan or Islamic Shari'ah law rule. Owing to continuing unrest in the south, a central government is unlikely to evolve soon. A decentralized central federation of regional political entities has emerged, including the self-proclaimed but unrecognized Republic of Somaliland in the northwest, the self-proclaimed Puntland State in the northeast, Jubaland in the south near Kismayo, and a future Banadir regional administration around Mogadishu when warlords Hussein Aideed (son of late General Farah Aideed) and Ali Mahdi settle their differences.
The lack of a centralized state has been a boon for Somaliland and Puntland, as the absence of the corruption and repression that characterized the previous government has facilitated local economic activity. The contrasts between the troubled central and southern regions and the relatively peaceful and stable north are dramatic. In Somaliland and Puntland, the presence of few regulations, nominal taxation, and negligible price controls has encouraged the establishment of many new businesses; but the stability in these areas is indeed relative, and entrepreneurs remain vulnerable to theft and violence. This risk is much greater in the unstable southern and central portions of the country, in which domination by clan militias, banditry, and looting make the free movement of people, goods, and services nearly impossible.
When the Transitional National Government was created and President Hassan was appointed to office in 2000 one of the first actions of the government was to establish a military force that would be able to bring peace to the country. 6 weeks after his inaguration, President Hassan solicted 5,000 milita men to begon training as a national force.
Somalia currently has no centrally functioning government and has a loosely organized legal system that is virtually ineffective. Somalia is attempting to form a government so that the country can once again stabilize their internal structure. President Abdulkassin Salat Hassan and Prime Minister Hassan Abshir Farah are attempting to use the Transitional National Government that has been established in Somalia as a way of bringing about unity within the entire country.
4. Is there a Specific Ideology or Economic Structure in Somalia?
At the Somali Peace conference held in Djibouti from May to August 2000, a Transitional National Assembly was established under a plan sponsored by Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guellen and endorsed by the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity. The assembly elected Abdulkassin Salat Hassan as President of Somalia. Several neighboring countries of Somalia have recognized Hassan's Transitional National Government, and the UN has given it de facto recognition since its participation in the General Assembly in September 2000, the authority of Hassan's government have not been established throughout the country, and it still continues to face strong opposition from some clan leaders, as well as the two autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland. These regions have been able to establish a relatively peaceful self-sufficient economy beyond the violence of Mogadishu.
Somalia is a very divided nation that lacks any sense of cohesive government and therefore there is no real overall ideology of the country. Somalia is attempting to stabilize many of the internal conflicts that continue to prevail in the country along with attempting to create a political ideology and a foreign policy.
Civil unrest has been a primary obstacle to economic policy making and development. Economic policymaking has also been restricted due to the country's reliance on agriculture that is vulnerable to climatic conditions. Prior to the recent conflict, about 60% of the population in Somalia was pastoralists or agropastoralists, and about 20% were agriculturists. Except for a small number of Somalis who rely on fishing, the remainder of the population was urban dwellers, employed as government workers, shopkeepers, factory workers, and traders.
Pastoralists raise camels, cattle, sheep, and goats. Agropastoralists, found primarily in the interriverine areas, rely on a mixture of herding and farming. They usually have a permanent home in addition to their portable huts. The Somali oil industry has been largely disrupted due to the political unrest and the operating condition of the refinery in Mogadishu has been severely affected. Agriculture accounts from nearly two-thirds of the GDP of Somalia. The principal food crops, grown by small-scale farmers, are sorghum, corn, sesame, cowpeas, sugar cane, and rice. Commercial crops are bananas, citrus (mainly grapefruit and lemons), vegetables, cotton, frankincense, and myrrh. The growing trade connections that Somalia is creating with the Middle East may help boost future growth.
A Somali woman waits at a camp for displaced people in Mogadishu. Many Somalis
depended on the $1 billion in remittances annually from relatives working overseas.
5. What is the Political Culture of Somalia?
Somalis belong to clans and sub-clans. These hierarchical descent groups, each said to originate with a single male ancestor, are a central fact of Somali life. Understanding how Somali people relate to one another requires some knowledge of the clan system.
In Somali society, clans serve as a source of
great solidarity as well as conflict. Clans combine forces for protection,
access to water and good land, and political power. The Somali clan organization
is an unstable system, characterized by changing alliances and temporary coalitions.
The society of the pastoral Somalis is fundamentally democratic. Traditionally, decisions are made by councils of men. These councils are egalitarian, sometimes to the point of anarchy, although age, lineage seniority, and wealth can have influence. In these councils, anthropologist I. M. Lewis points out, "all men are councilors and all men politicians." Somali egalitarianism permeates all aspects of society. In Somalia, it is not at all unusual for a poor and uneducated nomad to approach a high government official as an equal and engage him in a discussion about the affairs of state.
A fundamental aspect of traditional Somali political organization is the diya-paying group. Diya is compensation paid by a person who has injured or killed another person. A diya-paying group is made up of between a few hundred to a few thousand men linked by lineage and a contractual agreement to support one another, especially in regard to compensation for injuries and death against fellow members.
While Somalia's political culture is basically egalitarian, social and political change have created new patterns of social life. In recent years, a new urban group, educated in Western-type schools and working as merchants or in government, has emerged. These urbanites enjoy more wealth, better access to government services, and greater educational opportunities for their children than do other sectors of society.
For Somalis who are settled or partly settled farmers, the village and its headman assume social and political importance. In rural areas, links to the cities remain strong, with rural relatives caring for livestock owned by the urbanites.
For all Somalis, the family is the ultimate source of personal security and identity. Somalis typically live in nuclear families, although older parents may move in with one of their children. Households are usually monogamous; in polygamous households (one fifth of all families), wives usually have their own residences and are responsible for different economic activities. Traditionally, marriages were arranged, since marriage was seen as a way to cement alliances. Increasingly, however, parents are willing to consider love interests if they think the match is suitable.
Somali culture is male centered, at least in public, although women play important economic roles in both farming and herding families and in business in the cities. Female labor is valued for productive tasks as well as for household chores, as long as the male is still seen as being in charge. In recent years, war, drought, and male migration have dramatically increased the number of female-headed households.
As the result of efforts by the socialist regime to improve opportunities for women, Somali women have more freedom to become educated, to work, and to travel than do most other Muslim women. Before the 1969 revolution, 20% of primary school students were girls; in 1979, the figure approached 40%.
The government-owned Xiddigta Oktobar, published in Somali, is the only daily newspaper,which includes periodicals in Arabic, English and Somali. Two government-owned radio stations, Radio Mogadishu and Radio Hargeisa, broadcast in Arabic, English, Italian, Somali and some other languages. The state-run television station did not begin operations until 1983. Furthermore, the collapse of Somalia's infrastructure because of the civil war has caused widespread disruption to the country's telecommunications systems.
6. What Kind of Political Parties are in Somalia?
Currently Somalia maintains a transactional government. Somalia has an executive president that was voted into power by a assembly in 2000. The Peoples Assembly, a unicameral legislative body, has representatives that are elected for five-year terms by direct popular vote. The former British Somaliland has proclaimed itself independent and elected its own president.
Recent attempts to establish a new authority,
based in the capital Mogadishu, have had mixed results. And much power still
lies with armed factions and warlords who are notorious for switching allegiance.
The Transitional National Government (TNG) emerged out of a peace conference of Somali clan leaders in Djibouti in 2000. At the conference Abdulkassim Salat Hassan was elected President and subsequently Hassan Abshir Farah was named Prime Minister. Since few warlords have decided to recognize the government, this leaves Somalia without a powerful central government. A proposal that suggested widening the TNG to include opposition warlords in the national unity cabinet received little backing in December 2001. The TNG controls only parts of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, and pockets elsewhere in Somalia.
The Somali Reconstruction and Restoration Council (SRRC) represents the main challenge to the TNG. The Somali Reconstruction and Restoration Council is a loose coalition of opposition warlords from southern Somalia, many of whom have backing from Ethiopia. Its leaders say the transitional government is not representative of Somali society and has little control over the country. They have called on the international community to intervene in Somalia and set up a new transitional government.
Hussein Mohammed Aideed is the leader of the United Somali Congress/Somali National Alliance (USC/SNA). He is the son of the late General Mohammed Farah Aideed, the warlord who helped to remove President Siad Barre from power, and then fought US forces in Mogadishu in 1993. Hussein Aideed now controls the southern areas of Mogadishu.
Muse Sudi Yalahow is also based in Mogadishu, but enjoys support from Ethiopia. He leads the United Somali Congress/Somali Salvation Alliance (USC/SSA).
General Morgan is allied with the Somali Restoration and Reconciliation Council (SRRC). Morgan is one of the most notorious warlords in Somalia. His faction is opposed to the Transtional National Government because he feels they are an extremist group with ties to terrorists.
Hassan Mohammed Nur Shatigudud is Commander of the Rahanwein Resistance Army (RRA) and controls the regions of Bay and Baykol. Once a supporter of the TNG, Shatigudud became a strong opponent of the interim administration in October 2001.
Aden Abdullahi Nur Gabyow
was a defence minister in the Siad Barre era, Gabyow now leads the southern-based
Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM). Hussein Aideed, Shatigudud and General Gabyow
say they can no longer rely only on neighbouring countries in the region to
help bring an end to over a decade of factional fighting.
Osman Ali Atto and his supporters are based in souther Mogadishu. Ali Atto is the former fianancer for General Farah Aideed. He is now the leader of a dissident faction of the USC/SNA.
Jama Ali Jama is the new leader of Puntland - the autonomous state in northeastern Somalia, which was established in 1998. The administration in Puntland does not recognize the transitional government in Mogadishu.
Mohammed Ibrahim Egal is President of the breakaway republic of Somaliland, the northwestern region that declared independence in 1991 after the overthrow of Siad Barre. He established a new political party, the Allied People's Democratic Party (UDUB), in 2001. Mohammed Egal's term of office expires in 2002 when elections are scheduled.
7. What is the Electoral Process in Somalia?
Currently Somalia's government is in a transitional phase and therefore is in the process of establishing an electoral process. In Somalia there are many different factions that are attempting to gain power and this is making the process of creating a governmental structure very difficult.
8. What is the Foreign Policy Objectives of Somalia?
The provisional government established in February 1991 inherited a legacy of problematic relations with neighboring states and economic dependence on aid from Arab and Western nations. Relations between Somalia and its three neighbors-- Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya have been poisoned for more than two decades by Somalia's irredentist claims to areas inhabited by ethnic Somalis in each of these three states.
Civil strife in Ethiopia and repressive measures due to the Ogaden war caused more than 650,000 ethnic Somalis and Oromo residing in Ethiopia to flee to Somali by early 1978. The integration of so many refugees into an essentially agrarian society affected by persistent drought was beyond Somalia's economic capacity. In the absence of a peace agreement, prospects for repatriation continued to be virtually nonexistent. The Siad Barre government's solution to this major political, social, and economic problem was to make the search for generous financial assistance a focal point of its foreign policy.
Somalia has a long history of cultural, religious, and trade ties with the Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula, which lies across the Gulf of Aden. Although Somalis ethnically are not Arabs, they identify more with Arabs than with their fellow Africans. Thus it was not surprising when Somalia joined the League of Arab States (Arab League) in 1974, becoming the first non-Arab member of that organization. Initially, Somalia tended to support those Arab countries such as Algeria, Iraq, and Libya that opposed United States policies in the Middle East. After its defeat in the Ogaden War, the Siad Barre regime aligned its policies more closely with those of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Subsequently, both of these countries began to provide military aid to Somalia. Other Arab states, in particular Libya, angered Siad Barre by supporting Ethiopia. In 1981 Somalia broke diplomatic relations with Libya, claiming that Libyan leader Muammar al Qadhafi was supporting the SSDF and the nascent SNM. Relations were not restored until 1985.
Throughout the 1980s, Somalia became increasingly dependent upon economic aid from the conservative, wealthy Arab oil-exporting states of Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. This dependence was a crucial factor in the Siad Barre regime's decision to side with the United States-led coalition of Arab states that opposed Iraq following that country's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Support for the coalition brought economic dividends: Qatar canceled further repayment of all principal and interest on outstanding loans, and Saudi Arabia offered Somalia a US$70 million grant and promised to sell it oil at below prevailing international market prices.
Controversy over the Siad Barre government's
human rights policies clouded the future of United States military cooperation
with Somalia. In 1990 the United States revealed that Mogadishu had been in
default on loan repayments for more than a year and therefore, Somalia was
ineligible to receive any further United States aid. During the height of
the fighting in Mogadishu in January 1991, the United States closed its embassy
and evacuated all its personnel from the country. The embassy was ransacked
by mobs in the final days of the Siad Barre regime. The United States recognized
the provisional government shortly after its establishment. Since the outbreak
of the civil war, the United States has consistently urged all parties to
come together to resolve their dispute by peaceful means. The United States
government has supported the territorial unity of Somalia and as of May 1992
has refused to recognize the independence of northern Somalia proclaimed by
Prior to the collapse of Siad Barre's regime Somalia was a member of the United Nations and its specialized agencies, the Organization of African Unity, the League of Arab States, and the World Bank. Somalia is currently attempting to rebuild itself internally and therefore is not actively involved in international affairs. Somalia currently is not a member of the United Nations and after 1991 closed its embassy in most western nations.
9. How is Somalia Involved in International Affairs?
Prior to the collapse of Siad Barre's regime
Somalia was a member of the United Nations and its specialized agencies, the
Organization of African Unity, the League of Arab States, and the World Bank.
Somalia is currently attempting to rebuild itself internally and therefore
is not actively involved in international affairs. Somalia is currently a
member of the United Nations, the OAU, and the Arab League. After the collapse
of the Siad Barre regime in 1991, Somalia closed its embassy in most western
nations, and therefore, now maintains relatively little direct contact with
Somalia's political situation is an ideal example of the hardships and disunity that many African nations have encountered in the post-colonialist era. Since its independence in 1960, Somalia has encountered political, economic, and cultural instability. Somalia, like many other African nations, was controlled by a dictator under an authoritarian regime. Siyad Barre, who assumed control of Somali in a coup in 1969, declared Somalia as a socialist state and nationalized the economy. President Barre was ousted out of power in 1991, which left Somalia in a virtual state of anarchy.
Along with the majority of African nations, colonialism has had a dramatic effect on Somalia. Although the reign of colonial powers in Somalia ended more than forty years ago, it still continues to greatly affect the country. Since 1991 Somalia has undergone many changes in its political structure: "Boundaries drawn in colonial times, even if unchanged after independence, still create enormous problems of national unity, especially in Africa" (Tharoor, "Messy," 3). Since the collapse of Siyad Barre's regime several areas of Somalia have created their own governments due to the lack of a centralized national government. Somaliland, Puntland, and the recently declared Southwestern Somalia have established relatively stable governments.
Somalia's political structure is similar to many other nations on the African continent. Colonization by European nations has had a drastic impact on the political situations of its former African territories. The Barre regime was aligned with the Soviet government during the Cold War and it received goods and support from them. Barre's regime collapsed around the same time as the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union disintegrated. The Cold War had a dramatic influence on the development of African nations. Many nations received their independence during the height of the Cold War and in order to receive support and assistance from outside nation-states they had to align themselves politically with either the Soviets or Americans. The disintegration of the democratic/socialist division throughout the world left Somalia, as well as many other African nations, vulnerable to political opposition.
Neighboring nations, such as Ethiopia and Kenya, have attempted to help Somalia reestablish a functioning government. In 2000, the Transitional National Government (TNG) was formed. The TNG is the first attempt to establish a government since the ousting of President Barre in 1991. Countries, such as Ethiopia and Kenya, have displayed interest in stabilizing the political situation in Somalia because they face internal problems that are directly related to the instability in Somalia. Economic and social problems have arisen throughout the area due to the collapse of the Somali government. The problems that Somalia has faced over the last decade have not only affected their internal situation but have also influenced the political, social, and economic structures within numerous other African nations.
Somalia is culturally and ethnically different from the majority of African nations. Prior to the civil war that erupted a decade ago, Somalia appeared to be one of the most homogeneous countries in Africa. Although Somalia has a significant number of ethnic and economic minority groups, the people primarily speak the same language and practice the same religion. Unlike Rwanda, where ethnically different people were separated from one another, the idea of Pan-Somalism arose after de-colonization. During the colonization era the regions of Somalia were controlled by different European powers, but upon independence Somalis wanted to unite into one nation. The idea of Somali unification created problems between Somalia and its neighbors since many Somalis live in areas that stretch into Somalia's neighboring nations. Currently Somalis are located in Somalia as well as other neighboring countries such as Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Kenya.
Somalia remains a country with little corroborative
organization, a relatively ineffective government and is still extremely fragmented
and relatively unlawful. Somalia, like many African nations, is without a
national government and is in a persistent state of turmoil and upheaval because
of decentralized authority. The lack of a centralized state has helped to
encourage the separation of Somaliland and Puntland from the previously centralized
state. Within Somalia the contrast between the troubled central and southern
regions and the relatively peaceful and stable north is dramatic. Somalia's
political turmoil is an excellent example of the effect that the involvement
of outside countries can have upon a developing nation. Somalia is a nation
that has been shaped by numerous events that range from its early colonization
to the external events of the Cold War. Similar to the majority of African
nations, Somalia is entrenched in the political developmental process and
has a long way to go before it can be deemed democratically successful by
Constructed by: Jennifer Roth '04