Somalia Geopolitics (2015)

By | December 15, 2021

Born on 1 July 1960 from the union between Somalia, a former Italian colony under protection on behalf of the United Nations, and the English protectorate of Somaliland, the Republic of Somalia stood out as one of the very few African states that were linguistically and culturally homogeneous at the time of ‘independence. However, it has become the exemplary case of what political scientists call a ‘collapsed state’ or ‘failed’.. In 1969, a coup led by General Siad Barre established a military regime, whose fall in 1991 was followed by the outbreak of the civil war. After a first international military intervention from 1992 to 1995, more than a dozen peace conferences and a second international mission (since 2007) of the African Union (African Union Mission in Somalia, Amisom), the conflict, concentrated mainly in the south of country, is still far from being resolved, although it has gone through very different phases. On the other hand, Somaliland in the north and Puntland in the north-east have reached a different degree of political stabilization and social recomposition. The civil war pitted the warring factions along the lines drawn by clan membership which, through family genealogies, represents the basis of Somali society. After the failure of the Transitional National Government (TNg), established following the agreements reached during the Arta Peace Conference (Djibouti) in 2000, in January 2004 a new Transitional Federal Charter was launched in Nairobi (Kenya), which brought to the election of the Federal Transitional Parliament (Ftp) and the Transitional Federal Government (Tfg) with Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed as President of the Republic (from 2004 to 2008). The so-called ‘4.5’ rule was used to redistribute electoral weights on a clan basis within the new institutions, where the ‘4’ represents the four most important clans of Somalia (Hawiiye, Rahanweyn, Daarood and Dir), while the ‘0,5’ should represent the minor clans.

The efforts of the new institutions to regain control of Mogadishu and Somalia were concentrated in 2006 in the south-west of the country and in particular in the city of Baidoa, which has become the operational base of the TFG. Meanwhile, the capital and the rest of southern Somalia had passed from the control of the warlords to that of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which launched an attempt at authoritarian government, based on Islam and Sharia law.

The attempt to pacify Somalia under the banner of Islam ran aground in a few months and completely failed following the advance of Ethiopian troops, who entered Somalia in December 2006 to protect their country and in support of the TFG. Following the settlement of the TFG in Mogadishu, most of the ICU leadership team fled to Yemen and then to Asmara (Eritrea), where the Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (Ars) was organized. Without the Amisom forces being able to intervene effectively, the Ethiopian troops became involved in a war that involved different fronts and forces, united by resistance to the historical enemy. The surviving troops of the ICU in Somalia fought in connection with the Asmara Ars, thanks also to the financial and logistical support of the Eritrean government and other Arab countries. This provoked a radicalization process. The Djibouti Accords of June 2008 favored a compromise, involving the moderate faction of the Ars in the enlarged re-edition of the federal institutions. The former leader of the ICU, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, assumed the presidency of the TFG, while the most extremist faction of the Ars continued from Asmara the fight against the federal institutions, allying itself with the radical Salafist Islamist front of al-Shabaab.

The transitional federal institutions ended their mandate on 1 August 2012. The approval of a new Constitution, which was followed by the appointment of a new parliament of 275 members and the election of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as president by the federal parliament, marked the start of a new political phase. In December 2013, President Mohamud appointed Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, an economist with dual Somali and Canadian citizenship, as Prime Minister. The first elections involving the population, presidential and parliamentary, are scheduled for 2016.

The installation of the president and the new parliament was also possible thanks to a notable international effort from a military point of view to regain control of the territory. The Amisom mission, together with the Ethiopian troops (initially withdrawn in January 2010 and returned to Somalia in November 2011) and the Kenyan ones (who joined in October 2011), managed to steal large parts of territory from al-Shabaab’s troops, already weakened by the effects of the famine that hit the Horn of Africa in July 2011 and by the attacks of American drones against their military leaders. However, despite having lost control of the strategic port of Chisimaio, the al-Shabaab militias have not yet surrendered and continue to pose a threat to the country’s transition, aided by neighboring Eritrea.

Somalia formally remains a member of the IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), the Arab League (since 1974) and the African Union. The civil war and the collapse of the state have produced destabilizing effects in all neighboring countries, which have intervened in various ways in the Somali crisis, individually or in concert with the Igad. An important mediating role was played in the various rounds of international negotiations by Sudan, Libya (through its presidency of the African Union) and Egypt. In particular, the Cairo government has maintained close relations with Somalia since the days of independence. Recently the Gulf countries, starting with Qatar, and Turkey also played important roles in the management of the Somali crisis.

In the logic of the so-called global war on terrorism, the Somali crisis has followed a parable of progressive Middle Easternization, which has led the United States to engage directly or indirectly against radical Islamic movements in the south of the country. This happened after the failure of the international mission, which began in 1992 under a direct American impulse and ended in 1995 under a mandate from the United Nations. In January 2013, with a historic declaration, the US recognized the Somali government after more than twenty years. Subsequently, international donors allocated $ 2.4 billion for reconstruction. Italy, a former colonial power and main bilateral donor throughout the 1960s and 1970s, also played a leading role in the negotiations on the status of transitional institutions.

Freedom and rights

The civil war made clan membership the main area of ​​reference for Somalis, to the detriment of citizenship and subjective rights. Human rights are constantly threatened by continuing fighting, chronic food shortages, disease, exacerbated by the lack of a health system and the impunity enjoyed by criminals in the absence of a formal justice system. The country therefore regularly lies in the last positions of the main rankings that track respect for rights. In such an institutional vacuum, NGOs, local and international, understandably have.

In areas controlled by radical Islamist groups, human rights are denied, in favor of an extremely strict application of the Sharia law, especially to the detriment of women. In cities like Chisimaio and Merca, during the period in which the Islamic Courts ruled, television and radio broadcasts were banned, as were football matches and traditional Somali music and dances.

Defense and security

The Somali army was formed with the progressive reintegration of fighters belonging to different factions, for this reason it still appears to be a fragile and poorly organized entity. Currently the number of troops is estimated at 20,000 soldiers and about 6,000 policemen. In 2013, the government, supported by international donors, among which the European Union and the United Kingdom, approved a plan for the reform of the armed forces, which should lead to a doubling of the number of active military personnel. In August 2014, the Somali and US governments signed a military cooperation agreement, with which the US undertakes to provide Mogadishu 1.9 million dollars in military aid. For Somalia defense and foreign policy, please check

The risk of infiltration of the army by al-Shabaab militias and related desertions is high, also because the wages of the fighters are totally inadequate. The support of the Amisom troops partly compensates for the shortcomings of the national army, through the training and placement of Somali battalions. The arms embargo imposed by the United Nations in 1992 was circumvented several times, until its partial lifting in December 2006, coinciding with the Ethiopian intervention.

Somalia Defense