Somalia: Current Conflicts and New Chances for State Building

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Publication Series Democracy, Volume 6


In spring 2008, Somalia once again is projecting images of war and humanitarian crisis. The country, however, seems to have almost disappeared from the world news and the concerns of international observers. In all the military escalations, innocent civilians – some already displaced by and fleeing from the re-emerging conflicts – have lost the foundations of their livelihoods, not to mention their hope for change. The situation today has all the ingredients of a disaster that compounds Somalia’s already endemic human insecurity.

The country has endured seventeen years of complete state collapse and we can recount at least fourteen failed reconciliation conferences. Somalia has “resisted” a whole series of external interventions to bring about peace and stability and to reconstitute the state: Since 1991, when the regime of Siyad Barre collapsed and its institutions were dismantled, clan-based factions filled the gap but failed to unite. They attacked each other and provoked a war that caused the deaths of an estimated 250,000 people and drove hundreds of thousands out of the territory. In December 1992 a “massive peace enforcement intervention” began, first led by the United States and later handed over to the United Nations in an attempt to re-establish a central government. This was the first of several efforts by the international community to provide Somalia with the kind of centralised state structure that most external actors associate with “proper” governance.

The year 2006 brought a dramatic turn with the short-lived rule of the Council of Islamic Courts, used amazingly to re-establish some degree of security (at least in Mogadishu). But all security disappeared after six months when the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), with the help of the Ethiopian army (and US support in the background), removed the Courts from power, leading them and other opponents of the TFG to pursue an escalating insurgency. The “military success” of the TFG will, however, be of no avail if no political solution is found for one of Africa’s most complicated conflicts. Any failure will haunt first the Ethiopian forces, but also the troops deployed by the African Union – and in the meantime, the Somali people will continue to suffer. The African Union’s intervention needs to be coupled with new and creative political initiatives in order to achieve a solution. But how to go about creating such initiatives? Who should be involved and in what way?

Product details
Date of Publication
July, 2008
Heinrich Böll Stiftung
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