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The Somalia Crisis Research Paper

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Updated: Oct 4th, 2019


While many failed states are at least showing signs of moving towards stable governments, the same cannot be said about Somalia. Even with the intervention of an international community that has been striving to create a framework of negotiations for feuding parties, Somalia has continued to degenerate into more and more chaos.

By evaluating the history of Somalia as it pertains to the genesis of her crisis, it is increasingly becoming clear that for any negotiations to succeed, a unifying and accommodating system for all parties is needed. Such a system would have to be precisely designed so as to accommodate and integrate all prevailing interests in a way that will encourage all relevant groups to embrace peace and form a government.

Such a move would involve the accommodation of clans and political factions among other groups. These groups can be encouraged to integrate by accommodating their interests and emphasizing on possible unifying catalysts like the prospect of a working nation, common religion and language among other parameters that can be actively and silently enshrined in a credible agreement.

Historical Depiction

The genesis of various political factions in Somalia that have for a long time failed to unite originates in a way from colonization (History of Somalia). For most part of the colonization period, Somalia was divided into diverse political territories.

These territories were mainly controlled by the British, Italian and Ethiopian interests (History of Somalia). Old and emerging political groups have therefore continued to rule sections of Somalia in isolation. Accommodating and integrating groups with political, economic, and social influence in Somalia is therefore fruitful in resolving the conflict.

Britain was the first country in Europe to establish a base in Somalia. Her main interest at the time was to use the Somalia coast as a fueling station for her ships en route to India. In this direction, France and Italy established separate bases in the northern areas of Somali to fuel their ships as well (Crawford).

Following a near brink to armed combat between France and Britain in 1888, the two countries agreed on boundaries separating their small territories along the coast of Somalia (Ayittey). Such confrontations gave formal powers to clans around Somali. For example, in an effort to consolidate their control, the British signed multiple treaties promising the protection of Somali chieftains and clans (Ayittey).

Although a substantial territory in Somalia had by then been placed under the control of France and Britain, most of the territory in Somalia was being disputed between Italy and Ethiopia. Hostilities between Ethiopia and Italy led to the battle of Adowa where the Italians were defeated by Ethiopians (History of Somalia).

Following the defeat of the Italians by Ethiopia at the battle of Adowa, a large territory (Ogaden) that was previously under their control was taken by the Ethiopians (Ayittey). A stage was therefore set for a series of conflicts between Italy and Ethiopia over the control of the Ogaden region (Crawford 148).

Following the Second World War, Somalia degenerated into more conflicts originating from an extension of WW II. In WW II, the Italians and the Britons were fighting on opposite fronts. Besides, the fascist regime in Italy at the time was keener on expanding oversea territories (History of Somalia).

What resulted from these conflicts was a continual shift of territories among the British, Italian, French, and Ethiopian powers. Around 1950, it was agreed that the initial 1897 agreement on territories be adopted again (History of Somalia). Following post WW II agreements in Europe, British and Italian territories in Somalia were granted independence in 1960 (Ayittey).

These two territories that had been under the British and Italian control united to form the country that became known as Somalia (History of Somalia). On the other hand, the French territory was granted self control 17 years later (1977) (History of Somalia).

At independence, it became impossible for all the regions under the influence of separate colonial powers to integrate (Ayittey). Since these territories had been in continual conflicts, for colonial powers had strived to increase their territories, integration of Somalia was almost unachievable. Indeed, territories had been shifting between multiple colonial powers.

Besides, methods of expanding territorial control that had been employed by colonial powers where the powers of clans and chieftains were accommodated contributed to a framework for future conflicts (History of Somalia). Clans and chieftains have continued to act as drivers of conflicts in Somalia to date. The Somalia region has thus failed to Integrate successfully.

Indeed, the prevailing challenge of uniting the entire Somalia region at independence precipitated a scenario for protracted conflicts in the future. Following independence, Somalia engaged in a policy of reuniting with regions in French Somaliland, in the north of Kenya, and in parts of Ethiopia (History of Somalia).

At this time, most world powers (including Britain) were in favor of Ethiopia and Kenya, making the efforts of Somalia unsuccessful (History of Somalia). In a bid to reunite with lost territories, politics in Somalia increasingly shifted towards the Soviet Union (Ayittey).

Such a direction was especially consolidated when Siad Barre took power towards the end of 1969 (Ayittey). The prevailing culture of acknowledging the influence and power of clans was thus ignored, for imported soviet ideologies on the supreme power of the political party became integrated in the country (Ayittey).

A wrong turn was therefore adopted as the important institution of the clan became isolated by the government. The decision of isolating clan interests from the government exacerbated an imminent conflict. Precipitating this conflict was the event where Somalia was defeated by Ethiopia during the battle for the Ogaden region in 1977 (Ayittey).

The defeat of Somalia mainly occurred following the betrayal of Somalia by the Soviet Union, for the Soviet Union provided a weak Ethiopia with troops and arm supplies (History of Somalia). Following this development, clans and political factions begun strategizing on toppling the Somalia government reigning at the time (History of Somalia).

In1988.the strategy of overthrowing the government by clans and political factions led to a civil war. It was this civil war that culminated in the eventual collapse of Siad’s government in 1991 (History of Somalia). In this confusion, as Somalia plunged into deep chaos, Siad Barr retreated to his own clan where he crowned himself a warlord (History of Somalia).

As a result, Somalia was thus split into multiple regions under the control of factions. Efforts by the international community to unite factions and restore peace in Somalia have so far achieved very limited success.

Despite efforts from the United Nations, where in 1993, more than 15 groups in control of portions within Somalia were guided in peaceful meetings in Addis Ababa; ceasefire proved elusive and fighting increased (Ayittey). Moreover, in 1994, a precarious environment susceptible to increased conflicts was created when the United States and other powers withdrew their peace troops from Somalia as a result of increasing fatalities.

Multiple efforts by African countries and the United Nations to support a weak federal government have also been unable to achieve a visible measure of success (Ayittey).

Current Status

The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has been instrumental in trying to negotiate a peaceful settlement in Somalia and other African countries in conflict (Amnesty International). Through IGAD, negotiations have centered on uniting Punta land, Somaliland, and several leaders in hold of territories within Somalia (Bryden 15).

The division of the Somali region into multiple parcels of territories of unclear size corresponds to the colonial state of Somalia when the country was divided between multiple colonial powers that kept fighting to increase their areas (Bryden). As it will become clear here, it has been difficult to accommodate and integrate factions controlling small territorial areas within Somalia.

Such a scenario has mainly arisen from the long history of protracted conflicts and conflicting interests between the factions (Bryden). Oftentimes, clan and political chieftains have continued to fight over grazing land and other resources; therefore, warlords have continued to create a situation where the size of a political chieftain is determined in many ways by military capabilities (Austin).

In 2000, following Negotiations in Djibouti, an attempt to integrate political leaders controlling parcels of territories in Somalia was made (Cornwell 18). During the negotiations, elders from Somalia clans appointed Abdulkassim Salat Hassan to act as a transitional leader of Somalia for 3 years; consequently, a step towards unification and peace was made (Cornwell 18).

This was however not to be, for some warlords that were mainly drawn from the southern part of Somalia rejected the proposal (Cornwell 19). Moreover, in 2002, another group of Somalia warlords drawn from the south-western part of Somalia declared independence (Hansen 210). Djibouti talks were thus unsuccessful in uniting political factions and establishing peace within Somalia (Hansen 210).

One factor that had helped to water down the Djibouti talks arose from political interests from a number of regional neighbors who had a keen interest in the composition of a possible government in Somalia (Dagne 331).

For example, the Somali factions that had rejected Djibouti negotiations claimed that they had been motivated by some external pressure from countries like Ethiopia (Dagne). Moreover, many factions had an interest in obtaining a substantial number of government positions in an agreed government (Dagne).

Another effort to unite Somalia and establish a government was made during another series of talks that were held in Nairobi from 2003 (Dagne 348). These talks have mainly been organized under the auspices of governments within East Africa (IGAD) with the support of the European Union and Arab nations among other supporters (Dagne 350).

IGAD talks have been successful in bringing together about 20 armed political factions and Puntaland to discuss a possible political settlement and integration.

However, as it happened in the Gelgudud area in 2004 where dozens of people were killed, intermittent fighting between clans has continued (Dagne 352). Clans and political factions have therefore continued to compete over resources like grazing lands and water, so, derailing the prospects of a possible compromise.

Despite several hurdles, Nairobi talks succeeded in hammering out a possible compromise. In the Nairobi agreement, a parliament consisting of 275 members was to be constituted through a method that had been precisely designed to accommodate clan elders and Somali warlords (Dagne). Each of the four clans with the most extensive populations was given powers to appoint sixty one parliamentarians (Neil).

On the other hand, minority clans were given powers to appoint thirty one parliamentarians (Neil). The mode of appointing parliament representatives was left upon clans to decide (Neil). Under the agreement, elected parliamentarians were given the responsibility of electing a president (Neil). Also, clans were expected to maintain many functions and powers under a devolved federal kind of a government (Neil).

As a result of the significant progress that had been made towards establishing the Nairobi agreement, reluctant groups such as the Juba Valley Alliance, Somali National Front among others embraced the agreement and accented to it (Neil).

Among the challenges that have hindered comprehensive implementation of the agreement Include imminent suspicion between clans (Neil). It can be remembered that during his tenure, Siad Barre was biased in appointing government officials as government positions were mainly awarded to individuals from his Marehan clan (Neil).

Besides, it is difficult for many factions that operate in Somalia to cede control of their small territories in favor of a federal government (Austin). With no police force and other important institutions, disarming militia groups and establishing the rule of law will always remain a significant challenge (Austin).

Amidst these challenges, political factions that operate in Somalia signed an agreement in 2006 for a system of sharing power; thus, bringing into force the anticipated Transitional Federal Government leadership (Neil). Sherif Sheikh Ahmed (Current president of the TFG) has been striving to integrate armed factions that have not embraced the Nairobi agreement yet (Neil).

Sheikh’s transitional government has been facing an almost impossible task of creating an operating government within Somalia (Austin). A number of countries including Eritrea have been accused of contributing to the challenges that are faced by the TFG by aiding armed factions that are vehemently opposed the Transitional federal Government (TFG) (Austin).

Indeed, the TFG has only managed to control a small portion of Mogadishu with the support of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISON) troops (Austin). Establishing important institutions like the police force and the Judiciary has especially been a difficult challenge for the TFG. With a limited control over Somalia due to its inability to subdue militia factions and with limited resources, the TFG has been very ineffective (Austin).

For example, about half of all trained police and a substantial number of military men have vacated the TFG due to non payments (Austin). Lately, there has been an increasing concern over the alliance between a number of militia groups that operate in Somalia and terrorist groups (Austin).

Al Shabaab (a military faction that is backed by the Al Qaeda terrorist group) has especially opposed the federal government and even managed to threaten and attack countries offering support to the TFG (Ayittey).

In 2006, a group called the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) defeated warlords operating within Somalia and centralized its base in Mogadishu (Dagne). Although many of these warlords had signed the Nairobi agreement, they had not been willing to accommodate the TFG (Dagne 353).

Following this development, TFG forces together with the Ethiopian military launched a successful offensive against the ICU elements in Mogadishu (Dagne 353). During 2008, an agreement to accommodate former ICU elements, integrate and coordinate security through a joint committee, and withdraw Ethiopian troops was reached (Dagne 354).

However, this agreement has proved to be ineffective as concerned parties including the TFG have been compounded in internal conflicts, and worse, they have failed to respect the agreement. Another round of talks in Djibouti is currently ongoing with an overdriving policy of creating a new government that will accommodate all parties with political significance in Somalia (Dagne 354).

Meanwhile, amidst ongoing efforts to create a functioning government, Al Shabaab has been expanding its influence in Somalia (Dagne 354). With the radical nature of Islamic extremism present in Somalia, more and more people can easily unite with Al Shabaab among other extremist groups; thus, creating a more precarious situation (Dagne).

Potential Explanations

Multiple endeavors have been applied by the international community in an effort to resolve the crisis that exists in Somalia. Although some measure of success has been accomplished, the present crisis in Somalia has hardly been mitigated.

Several attempt made to resolve the Somalia conflict have been watered down by squabbles among Nations; consequently, making it difficult to create of a well coordinated process that would form a working government (Hansen 210).

For instance, the 1997 peaceful efforts were mainly hindered because of squabbles between Egypt and Ethiopia. In this case, Egypt was accused of initiating a plan that had been tailored to weaken Ethiopia while resolving the Somalia Conflict (De Maio 7).

Besides, a number of negotiations intended to reach a settlement on the Somalia crisis have been hastened; lasting for just about two weeks in some cases (The 1993 talks in Addis Ababa) (Hansen 212). Such a move has failed to create enough time for comprehensive and exhaustive talks that would address all the concerns on the ground.

However, none of these challenges can approach the boulder that has been placed by Somali warlords who have acted to precipitate more and more conflicts (Hansen). A host of warlords have an array of interests which are drawn from enormous economic resources and political power that they gain from the Somalia conflict (Hansen).

It is true that for a comprehensive political settlement in Somalia, there is a need to integrate clan leaders, for clan elders have considerable influence over the Somali people (De Maio 7). Still, it is important to evaluate the dual roles of warlords, for warlords exploit their clans and use their enormous economic resources to establish their powers (Hansen).

With no economic resources, the influence of warlords over their clans is non existent. Oftentimes, warlords exploit clan leaders by bribing them and or threatening them in a complex relationship where immense clan powers are transferred to warlords (Hansen).

A system of patronage is thus enhanced within a clan by warlords capable of using their power and resources to help their accomplices and themselves evade the rule of law (Hansen). A substantial amount of wealth that has been accumulated by warlords is normally distributed to individuals from their clans; consequently, consolidating the capacity of warlords to control their clans in the process (Salih 75).

Since their influence will automatically be significantly trimmed by a rule of law system that will decrease their wealth, it can be seen that warlords will forever resist the establishment of a government in Somalia (Salih 75).

Moreover, their interests are quite parallel to genuine interests of the clans that they claim to represent. In the interest of uniting important parties in Somalia, focusing immense energy on warlords is unnecessary as warlords will always represent their own interests. Moreover, their existing powers are proportional and therefore, vulnerable to their economic wealth.


So far, due to several challenges that include a limited economical capacity, the TFG has been ineffective in establishing a government within Somalia (Siler 600). As of now, it is hard to see the TFG overcome the many challenges that it currently faces (Siler 600). A likely scenario is the return to political territories operated by clan factions in the near future (Bruton 2).

Meanwhile, the Somalia crisis has continued to move in new a dimension that reflects across the Globe (Bruton 8). On one hand, the piracy problem around waters bordering Somalia has been escalating (Bruton 8). On the other hand, Islamic extremism and terrorism are fast integrating with the Somalia Society (Bruton 9).

In order to mitigate the piracy problem and prevent terrorist groups like the Al Qaeda from establishing strongholds in Somalia (through linkage with militia groups such as the Al Shabaab), the international community will develop an increased interest in Somalia (Bruton).

With increasing unease over the state of the protracted chaos that has continued to define Somalia, western powers may adopt a different policy approach designed to guard their security interests (Samatar 625). A possible policy change would be to acknowledge a powerful group like the Al Shabaab and provide the group with support under certain conditions (Bruton).

The most important criteria under such an agreement would be for the group to halt any associations with terrorist organizations like the Al Qaeda (Samatar 628). Measures would then be taken to strengthen an Islamic government; thus, accommodating Islamic interests, clan interests, and other interests that have so far remained a challenge to accommodate under a single agreement (Samatar).

Still, it is possible for the International community to adopt a different approach towards resolving the Somalia crisis; however, the nature of the approach will likely remain radical and would also be tailored to mitigate security concerns such as the threat from terrorism (Bruton). In such a case, the possibility of a military deployment is possible.

Such a move can especially catalyze from a major terrorist attack on western interests by an Al Shabaab group that is coordinating with the Al Qaeda (Bruton). With the current state of affairs whereby a weak TFG is supported by a weak AMISON troop that is poorly funded, it is just a matter of time before the TFG collapse; therefore, causing interested parties around the Globe to rethink a new strategy (Bruton).


Somalia has presented a difficult conflict to resolve where a complex and delicate network of interests relate. Recognizing the importance of the clan culture that exists in the culture of Somalia, negotiations on a possible peaceful settlement have strived to accommodate the interests of Somali clans. An inherent challenge that has arisen from this approach has been to mistakenly equate warlords to clans.

These two are different and can serve very different interests. The challenge would be therefore to develop a system that will endure in the protection and accommodation of interests. Such a system will not be based on personalities like warlords but on a working constitutional framework with a clear system of procedures.

Moreover, it is important to accommodate and respect the Islamic interests of the Somalia people. Indeed, many Somalis have been developing apathy towards western powers and the TFG. Although it is important to accommodate and integrate all parties and interest within Somalia, such integration needs to evaluate real interest groups and promote the integration processes through clear procedures.

Works Cited

Amnesty International. Amnesty Recommendations to the AU” Amnesty International.12 Feb. 2007. Web.

Austin, Barry. “Challenges and Psychological Dynamics of Negotiating Risks” Good Field Institute. 19 Mar. 2009. Web.

Ayittey, George. “The Somali Crisis: Time for an African Solution.” American University. 28 Mar. 1994 Web.

Bruton, Bronym. “Somalia: A new Approach.” Council of Special Relations Journal 70.52, (2010): 2-14. Print.

Bryden, Matt. “Somalia and Somaliland: Envisioning a Dialogue.” African Security Review, 13.2 (2004): 15-30. Print

Cornwell, Richard. “Somalia” Africa Security Review 13.4 (2004): 18-23. Print

Crawford, Young. “Beyond the State Crisis” Washington: John Hopkins. 2002. Print.

Dagne, Ted. Somalia: “Prospects for a lasting Peace.” The Mediterranean Quarterly 20.2 (2009): 331-54. Print.

De Maio, Jennifer. Ethnic Conflict in Somalia. New York: Lexington Books. Hansen, Stig. “Warlords and Peace Strategies: The case of Somalia.” Journal of Conflict Studies 18.7 (2003): 210-24. Print.

History of Somalia. Grameen Foundation. History World. 30 Oct. 2002. Web. <http//www.historyworld.com>

Neil, Ford. “Somalia: Agreeing not to disagree.” Conflicts Review. 1 Apr. 2004. Web.

Salih, Mohamed. “Crisis Management in Somalia” Sweden: HSC, 1994. Print.

Samatar, Ismail. “Destruction of State and Society in Somalia” The journal of Modern African studies 30.4, (2008): 625-41. Print.

Siler, Michael. Strategic Security issues in sub-Saharan Africa. Westport: Greenwood, 2004. Print

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