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Conflict analysis: Somalia
Produced for the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) Nairobi Kenya February 2011 Updated December 2011
Ken Menkhaus Davidson College
Contents Forward Introduction Context I. Conflict Assessment Typology of Contemporary Armed Conflict Conflict Trend Analysis Actor and Interest Inventory Conflict Analysis – Underlying Causes Conflict Analysis – Precipitating Causes Capacities for Peace II. Armed Conflict and External Interventions III. Assessment
This conflict analysis was commissioned by the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) in December 2010. Fieldwork was conducted in Nairobi in January 2011 to supplement the desk study portion of the research, and a draft was completed in February. Revisions to the document were made in the summer of 2011 in response to very useful feedback from stakeholders in the UN, African Union, donor states, NGO community, and Somali community, and in Fall of 2011 the update was updated. Portions of the original February 2011 draft that were rendered out of date by these changes have been updated and revised, and a new concluding section has been added to better integrate the analysis with policy implications. The author is very grateful to all of the many Somalis and representatives of international actors engaged in Somalia who generously offered their time to meet and discuss these issues, and special thanks is offered to the staff at UNPOS who did so much to facilitate the fieldwork. The analysis solely reflects the conclusions of the author; any errors of fact or analysis are solely his responsibility.
Somalia has been in a state of armed conflict of one form or another since 1988, a condition that is largely responsible for the destruction of much of the capital, the flight of over 1.5 million Somali refugees, and the displacement of over a million other Somalis. The patterns and severity of this state of armed conflict have varied over time, ranging from intense civil war to intermittent communal clashes to chronic, low-level insecurity described locally as “not war not peace.” Armed conflict has affected almost every corner of the country at some point over the past twenty years, but most of the fighting has been concentrated in a few chronically contested locations, especially the greater Mogadishu area. Most of the fighting has been domestic, but external actors have frequently, and increasingly, been central protagonists in Somalia’s armed violence – in the form of international peace enforcement or protection forces, occupying armies, proxy wars, covert operations, or as the source of policies or development resources that have inadvertently fueled conflict locally. The main clashes today pit AMISOM forces from Uganda and Burundi against an Al-Shabaab militia that has received material support from sources in the Gulf, Eritrea, and the large Somali diaspora. In addition, a growing number of local Somali clan militias have emerged, taking control of neighborhoods of Mogadishu vacated by Shabaab in August 2011. Some of these militias clash with Shabaab, and are provided various types of support from the AMISOM forces. Both Kenyan and Ethiopian armed forces are presently inside Somali territory as well; both are backing local Somali proxies in an effort to roll Shabaab back from its strongholds in southern Somalia, and both have directly engaged Shabaab in short episodes of armed combat. Finally, international actors outside the region – the US, France, the many states involved in the naval task forces patrolling Somalia’s waters against piracy, and Al Qaeda – are involved in different ways in the country’s armed conflicts. Collectively, this qualifies Somalia’s primary contemporary wars – the battle in Mogadishu, and more recently in the Jubba regions of Somalia -- as an “internationalized intra-state conflict.”1 Over almost the same time period, Somalia’s central government has been in a state of complete collapse. This crisis of state collapse is often conflated with the country’s protracted armed conflicts, when it fact these are related but distinct crises. The absence of a functional central government providing public order, rule of law, and an arena for peaceful settlement of disputes has unquestionably been a central factor in the country’s chronic vulnerability to armed conflict. But parts of the country have enjoyed relative peace and security for extended periods of time without the benefits of a central state, thanks to resilient local governance practices. Indeed, in some instances efforts to revive the central state have actually triggered armed clashes. The relationship between state failure, state-building, and armed conflict is complex in Somalia.
Paul Williams, “War,” in Security Studies, ed. by Paul Williams (Routledge 2008).
neutralize. This paper offers what the 2 See USAID. including extensive previous research on this topic by the author. DFID. Competing narratives and interpretations abound. reflecting a commitment for UN strategy on Somalia to be conflict sensitive. The assessment considers evidence and trends across the entire duration of the long period of civil war since 1988.” (Washington 2005). the study draws on a desk review of existing literature on conflict in Somalia.5 Many external peace-building efforts in Somalia have failed to fully appreciate these two observations – that Somalia’s war is (1) internationalized and (2) not synonymous with state collapse. and hence apply prescriptions destined to fall short and potentially make things worse. and almost every claim made by observers comes under attack by others. peace. is “under what conditions” do certain factors fuel conflict or promote peace? Any analysis that attempts to identify the underlying and precipitating causes of armed conflict in Somalia wades into turbulent waters. then. World Bank. State-building. and DFID. “Conducting a Conflict Assessment: A Framework for Strategy and Program Development” (Washington DC. The result are external initiatives which either focus on peace negotiations exclusively involving Somali actors (when in fact external actors and their interests are increasingly central to the Somali drama) or which focus exclusively on state revival and state-building on the assumption that that will solve the broader problem of armed conflict. . this paper attempts to move discussion of conflict in Somalia into more nuanced consideration of the catalysts and inhibitors of conflict – the intervening variables and conditions that tend to amplify. Readers searching for a consensus on the topic will be left disappointed. In Somalia. or even transform the impact of conflict drivers. commerce. and cooperation. but places special emphasis on current conflict and its causes. and clan can all generate armed conflict but can also serve as a source of protection or a catalyst for cooperation. past policies on Somalia have trended to misdiagnose the crisis. Put another way.0 (2012).” (London 2002). The structure and logic of the analysis draws extensively on frameworks for conflict assessments developed in recent years by USAID. supplemented by interviews with Somali and international analysts and policy-makers conducted during a ten day trip to Nairobi Kenya in January 2011. Methodologically. “Conflict Analysis Framework. The analytically sound question to ask. the World Bank. UNDP. protection.2 Analytically. development resources. others reflect honest differences over interpretation of a long. as elsewhere. “Conducting Conflict Assessments: Guidance Notes. While some of these differing interpretations can be attributed to overt political agendas. It is intended as a baseline document in support of the formulation of a UN Integrated Strategic Framework for Somalia. among others. This paper provides an assessment of armed conflict trends and drivers in Somalia. 2005) and the forthcoming CAF 2. and contentious twenty-year conflict in Somalia. most drivers of armed conflict can also be a source of stability. Conflict Reconstruction Team. complex.
6 author has concluded constitute the most persuasive and empirically-grounded explanations of armed conflict in Somalia. and linkages that have general explanatory value. Readers with intimate knowledge of Somalia are reminded that the objective of policy-oriented research is to identify theories. clarity. whose inclination is to privilege complexity. frameworks. Generalist readers with little background on Somalia are warned that Somalia’s conflict dynamics are a great deal more complex than this paper can possibly capture. Finally. not the power to explain every single instance of armed conflict in granular detail. and particularities. policy-oriented analysis such as this must respect the need for brevity. None of these virtues comes naturally to academic regional specialists. and parsimony. . but attempts to recognize alternative interpretations and points of especially contentious debate. context.
and other international actors in Somalia. Finally. But it remains a potent insurgency. including naval blockades . the country is not a post-conflict setting but rather the site of an ongoing armed conflict. and more robust actions against shabaab. but as of December 2011 have not changed international policy. for several reasons. as they support the AMISOM force in military operations designed to push shabaab out of Mogadishu and create expanded space for the TFG to hold and govern. and has accelerated its use of roadside bombs and assassinations in southern Somalia. but Somalia is also ripe for major changes and new directions in the patterns and scope of armed conflict. The relative stasis and stalemate the country has endured since late 2008 may well continue into 2012. The droughtinduced famine that broke out in summer of 2011 has forced the international community to make difficult decisions about whether and how to respond with humanitarian assistance in zones where Shabaab. the African Union. and popular uprisings against governments in parts of the Arab world. First.7 Context This assessment is being conducted at a pivotal moment in Somalia. 4 AMISOM.4 Kenya’s decision to launch an armed offensive against shabaab in its border areas in 3 There are ample backchannel contacts with some elements of shabaab. is a designated terrorist group and at least for now formally considered off-limits for dialogue and negotiations. both important players in Somalia. is in control. including Egypt and Yemen. armed conflict is currently a critical part of the strategy embraced by the UN. All of these have the potential to produce “wildcard” events and trigger rapid changes in the Somali political landscape.000. greater UN support to AMISOM. shabaaab has fallen back from areas it controlled in Mogadishu. has lost control of some borders areas in southern Somalia. African Union peacekeeping forces (AMISOM) have been expanded in number and will be expanded further with the inclusion of Kenyan forces already in southern Somalia in an offensive launched against al shabaaab. the wider region of Northeast Africa and the Horn is experiencing major new developments with potential impact on Somalia. The Somali context is unusual for a conflict analysis designed to inform a UN integrated strategic framework. Kenyan political devolution. For its part. Shabaab. both by diplomatic and humanitarian players. Some calls to negotiate directly with shabaab have been raised. This is thus both a study of conflict vulnerability and an assessment of ongoing conflict. and appears weaker than at any time in the past five years. the African Union. The Transitional Federal Government’s (TFG) mandate ended in August 2011 with a one-year extension tied to a “transitional roadmap” and there is considerable uncertainty about what comes next.3 Third. Its gross mishandling of a sizable famine in its area of control in the summer and fall of 2011 further discredited the group. the regional organization IGAD have pressed the UN Security Council to pass a resolution authorizing expansion of AMISOM forces to 20. since the main armed insurgency. Second. including the secession in south Sudan. a standard element of conflict analysis – assessment of problems and prospects of negotiated settlements and power-sharing – is off the table in the Somali context. a designated terrorist group.
in response to a series of cross-border kidnappings it claimed were conducted by shabaab. the use of armed force is a significant and increasingly important tool on the part of external actors inside Somalia. “Communique of the 17th Extraordinary Session of the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government on Sudan. More broadly. That same literature also reminds us that spoilers come in many varieties. This is not merely an armed conflict. When considered in combination with the AMISOM forces and anti-piracy naval operations off the Somali coast. In the northeast. the secessionist state of Somaliland enjoys strong command over a security sector that. Armed conflict is in this case viewed by important external actors as a critical tool of multi-lateral statecraft in Somalia. but has nonetheless been the site of a variable levels of peace and security since it was established in 1999. The wider literature on protracted conflict suggests that over time interests develop in perpetuating conditions of war and lawlessness.5 The Somali case thus falls in a special category of countries in which the UN is simultaneously pursing peace while supporting a peace enforcement operation that is employing lethal force against one or more armed groups.pdf. these “spoilers” (both local and external) can become additional impediments to peace-building and state-building. For the purposes of this kind of analysis. in partnership with local community leaders.int/attachments/283_Communique%20of%20the%2017TH%20Summit. and the US has stepped up periodic “kinetic” operations against shabaab targets. keeps the peace in its territory except in contested portions of Sool and Sanaag region bordering Puntland. . including the capital Mogadishu. though not unique. Somalia. is another example. not exclusively as a problem to be solved. it is a protracted armed conflict. Hiib and Himaan – have very modest capacities to govern. See the most recent IGAD communiqué. Somalia is also unusual. including both situational as well as “total” spoilers. 5 Since this report was first drafted. and Kenya.600 in number.8 October 2011. this compels the UN to distinguish between armed conflict that is seen as useful and necessary in Somalia versus armed conflict that is seen as bad and to be avoided. AMISOM forces grew to 9. The factors that trigger armed conflict are often distinct from factors that help to perpetuate them. Other nascent regional administrations in central Somalia – Galmudug. this line of inquiry rightly emphasizes the fact that good conflict analysis must include an interest inventory of the key actors. The and no fly zones. Somalia is unusual in that it remains essentially a collapsed state across most of south-central Somalia.” In addition. To the northwest. the autonomous state of Puntland has much lower capacities to contain insecurity. the government of Kenya also engaged in an armed offensive in the Jubba regions of southern Somalia in pursuit of shabaab (since October 2011). recognizing that some may actually have an interest in perpetuating conditions of “durable disorder.” Addis Ababa (30 January 2011) http://igad. in that it is plagued by a state of armed conflict and state collapse that has endured in various forms for over 20 years. both Ethiopia and Kenya have trained and support Somali anti-shabaab militias. Update: as of October 2011.
On this count the Somali context is not at all unique. but also between underlying and precipitating causes of war. and where most of the population has been plagued by chronically high levels of insecurity in which acts of armed criminality. This is a critical issue when forging conflict-sensitive political strategies and development programming – it suggests that external actors may not have local partners who share an interest in conflict prevention. underlying or structural factors which render a country vulnerable to armed conflict are relatively easy to identify. This study considers the security of all of these actors in the conflict analysis. In most conflict analyses. and. is a reminder that we are far better at identifying conflict vulnerability than we are at predicting the actual outbreak of instability or armed conflict. and politically driven war are often indistinguishable. and the fact that one remained almost entirely peaceful while the other produced some armed clashes. where external actors view Somalia principally as a threat to their own security.9 Transitional Federal Government has continued to struggle to extent its influence outside portions of the capital under direct AMIOSOM protection. . a distinction is made not only between factors that cause wars versus those which perpetuate them. communal violence. Conflict analyses reflect a concern with security as both a goal and a pre-requisite for other goals. that the extremely weak TFG has been overshadowed by the rise of a number of cartels (informal political and economic networks) with far greater power in the capital. Some go so far as to claim that elements of the TFG actively stoke instability and armed conflict in pursuit of parochial interests tied to the cartels noted above. much of the capital is actually under the sway of clan militias and district commissioners who are autonomous from the TFG even if claiming to be part of it. The recent events in Tunisia and Egypt. This distinct political context means that most of the armed conflict in the country is beyond the control of the government. But identification of the specific precipitating causes (or combinations of causes) that can suddenly trigger armed violence on a large scale is far more difficult to achieve. the fact that those uprisings took virtually everyone by surprise. In Somalia as elsewhere. the degree of commitment to preventing or ending armed violence among some in the TFG leadership is low. who or what is threatened by the armed conflict under investigation – local populations? the government? external interests? This is especially relevant in Somalia. where most of the international support to the TFG to date has been focused on guaranteeing security for the government. But they do not always explicitly answer the question “whose security?” Put another way. most distressingly.
it has produced heavy property damage. contributed to the destruction and looting of much of the capital. When foreigners are the . 2. anti-piracy patrols and rescue operations (since 2007). Conflict Assessment Typology of contemporary armed conflict Somalia has been beset by a wide range of armed conflict since 1988. Some of the most destructive wars in Somalia have involved foreign troops. so some of Somalia’s episodes of armed conflict can fall into more than one grouping. 1993-94). While some of these interventions have contributed to short-term stabilization (UNITAF. and have distinct trajectories. Foreign forces have been injected into Somalia’s twenty year crisis as peacekeepers (UNOSOM I. 1992). possibly earlier). peace enforcement operations (UNITAF and UNOSOM II. halted the civil war and famine of 1992). These categories overlap somewhat. and the displacement of millions of Somalis. over a matter of national politics – has arguably occurred three times in Somalia since 1988. including the catastrophic period of fighting since 2007. transnational jihadi fighters and advisors (Al Qa’ida.10 I. since 2005.000 IDPs from Mogadishu. but has been the site of a surprising number of cases of foreign forces engaged in direct armed combat inside Somalia. There are many ways to break Somalia’s armed conflicts down. this typology organizes Somalia’s armed conflict by scale of fighting and actors involved. 1992-94. pitting numerous clan-based militias against one another (initially over control of Mogadishu and the government). protection missions (AMISOM. Foreign forces employ much heavier weaponry and. Different types of armed conflict have tended to be triggered by different factors.000 civilian deaths in northwest Somalia alone. Somalia has seen both. occupation forces (Ethiopia 2007-08). counter-terrorism operations (US. and Kenyan military forces (since October 2011). increasing in number since 2008). the casualties in the tens of thousands. and counts as one of the most destructive forms of warfare to beset the country. The most significant types of armed conflict in Somalia have included the following: 1. Civil war – extensive and damaging fighting involving significant armed groups. a famine that claimed 250. one million of whom became refugees. almost all of them have been drawn into often very heavy armed conflict with Somali armed groups. periodically since 1995). and resulted in over 50. The civil war since 2007 has been the most complex armed conflict.000 lives. 2003-). produce higher levels of civilian casualties. 2006). military advisors (Eritrea. Foreign forces at war. cross-border incursions against local threats (Ethiopia. for instance. private security forces (numerous. The civil war of 1991-92. 2007-). “Internationalized intra-state conflicts” can involve either direct or indirect roles of external actors. the flight of 700. because they are usually fighting “asymmetrical” urban guerilla wars against Somali insurgents. The Barre regime’s war against multiple liberation fronts in 1988-90 destroyed Hargeisa and much of the Shabelle valley. involving foreign as well as multiple Somali armed groups. Civil war.
this form of war has also reinforced local spoilers opposed to state-building. intermittently since 2004). and can more effectively negotiate an end to them once they begin. Sub-national polities at war. their extensive use of improvised explosive devices. and assassinations also result in high civilian casualties. and international humanitarian or development aid and contracts. Proxy wars. . supplies. injections of funding. and more recently Galmudug – are correctly viewed as zones of relative peace. The current drought is intensifying communal conflicts (discussed below). No region has been immune. seaports. the US and Al Qa’ida are another. 3. These armed conflicts have proven exceptionally difficult to mediate because the external actors can constitute silent and unaccountable spoilers. as they benefit from serving as an ally of an external force in the absence of a functional state. airstrips. 5. Communal clashes. markets. 4. Whether this relative peace is a function of having an effective government or not is a matter of debate – some residents of these administrations argue their peace is the result of a strong social compact. borders. In any event. Still others have been manipulated and manufactured by Somali political elites in Mogadishu or Nairobi – what Somalis call “remote control” wars. Some constitute spiraling violence originating in cycles of revenge killings for a crime. these sub-national polities have engaged their security forces in armed conflict. Because local proxies have also often been armed non-state actors or more or less autonomous security forces within national or local governments.11 insurgents (Al Qa’ida/shabaab). peace. Modest resources and a local desire to contain the fighting have kept these clashes relatively limited in scope and duration. and control over seaport customs and energy resources. Hundreds of communal (clan) clashes have occurred across Somalia over the past twenty years. and that the government is the result of. wells. and traditional (clan) leadership are better inoculated against spiraling clan clashes. Because funds for weaponry and ammunition are scarce in Somalia. Foreign interests have at times played out rivalries through Somali proxies. While communal clashes have many different triggers. against local rivals and rejectionists (Somaliland in 1994-95 and Puntland intermittently since 2003) and against one another (Somaliland vs. Puntland. where disputes are settled through politics. not armed conflict. The pervasiveness of inexpensive weaponry has sometimes resulted in these clashes produced shocking casualty levels more akin to those from a civil war. secessionist Somaliland. Eritrea and Ethiopia are the most notable example. though some have suffered much more than others. and advisors to Somali armed groups dramatically increases the damage and duration of battles. The unilateral creation of sub-national administrations raises conflict-producing issues such as rights and citizenship. Somalia’s regional administrations – most notably Puntland. not the cause of. suicide bombings. communities with relatively robust civic. Many of these clashes are triggered by struggles over valued resources – pasture. Others have been fueled by disputes over political control of towns and districts. religious.
ports. War economies. and today generates ransom exceeding $120 million per day – making it one of the top sources of hard currency in Somalia after remittances. arms and drug trafficking. This motive can animate the behavior of foot soldiers as well as top financial backers of wars. extort. who are often responsible for recruiting fighters into these militias. even as they themselves are manipulated by the militia leaders. As in other countries beset by protracted war. and airstrips.12 6. 9. Since 1995 the number and political prominence of these militias have declined. and (in good years) livestock exports.” Most of the fighting in 1991-92 involved clan-based factions. this political economy of war and instability implicates some foreign actors as well as Somalis. and have enjoyed a resurgence as partners and proxies of foreign actors since 2004. and so approach armed conflict as an opportunity to secure war booty. including other security forces nominally working for the same government. some of whom have earned the moniker of “warlord. resulting in 16 deaths and 56 injured. This political economy of armed conflict extends to economic interests in continued state failure as well. Importantly. armed clashes broke out between a TFG police unit and army forces. Many armed groups. . Somalia has been since 2005 the site of the worst piracy epidemic in the world. Security forces with formal standing in national or regional governments – police. army. and others – have tended to operate as autonomous units based largely on clan and answering to their commander. not to the government. Standing clan militias at war. Clan leaders. A raft of illicit activities – including lucrative charcoal exports. and remains a source of periodic armed clashes in Puntland and in the TFG. By consequence. and the $120 million or more in ransom earned by Somali piracy (discussed below) each year – all require an operating environment in which effective rule of law is not possible. foreign aid. including clan militia and government security sector units. This was a major problem in the TFG in 2007-08. Piracy is not an act of armed conflict per se. Their forces are typically poorlydisciplined. Piracy. Paramilitaries at war. and the targeting of civilians rather than combatants. These clashes tend to involve risk-aversion.6 8. opportunism. it is arguably the most lucrative livelihood earned by force of arms in Somalia – though shabaab’s financial empire of charcoal exports and forced 6 At the time this paper was drafted. some clan-based militias in Somalia are standing units. and secure and protect valuable sources of “rent” such as checkpoints. but they remain a powerful player in Somali armed conflict. are paid irregularly or not at all. Somalia has suffered from the rise of armed conflict driven primarily by parochial economic interests – to loot. presidential guards. 7. Whereas communal clashes involve clans mobilizing temporarily at protect their corporate interest. can and do exhibit some influence with these groups. They pursue their own interests. but relies on the threat of use of lethal weapons to capture and commandeer ships in the Gulf of Aqaba or Indian Ocean. initially sparked by a single killing. which sometimes results in their use of lethal force against other armed groups. paid (irregularly) by militia leaders.
Finally. sometimes at alarming speed. August 2011. rival Islamist groups.9 Foreign security firms underwritten by the US government and others are also are expanding their presence in Somalia. Second. and willing to die than fighters in Somali clan militias and government forces. Nairobi. has created an entire network of interests in Puntland and central Somalia who resist expansion of rule of law. A certain amount of armed conflict in Somalia has been waged with private militias. they have been able to attract a cadre of fighters transcending clan lines who are much more committed.pp. Armed conflict involving Islamist movements merit separate treatment here because they introduce new dimensions to warfare in Somalia. provides indirect livelihoods and investment capital for much wider group of Somalis. 12. Private militia and security forces. 10. Various Islamist militias and movements – most notably Al Ittihad al Islamiyya (AIAI). the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). First. 9 Interviews by the author. and is the most dramatic example of the political economies that can and do evolve. Foreign aid agencies responding to the humanitarian crisis are also having to employ private security. suicide bombing and extensive use of political assassination. But it does mean that shabaab possesses a group of core fighters genuinely committed to the movement and its vision. around illicit activities in Somalia involving use of threat of use of armed violence. regional governments. including some in the diaspora. disciplined. they inject a level of ideology and a “war of ideas” into the Somali civil war that had largely been absent since 1988. shabaab.13 taxation could top the list. and foreign forces over the past twenty years. transitional governments. “Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1916 (2010) SC/2011/433 (July 18 2011). estimating that it earns $70-100 million per year in charcoal exports out of Kismayo and taxes on local businesses and households in southern Somalia. and answer to the businessman who pays their salaries. and Shabaab – have clashed with clan militias. one Islamist militia. providing training and support to TFG and AMISOM forces. . 11. 8 This is not to imply that most of shabaab’s fighters are committed mujahedeen – evidence actually suggests that most have been conscripted under pressure or with economic incentives. See United Nations Security Council. Gangs of armed youth are often nominally affiliated with a larger security force in Somalia but act as autonomous violence entrepreneurs engaging in 7 Update: since the original draft of this study. Recently TFG MPs have recruited (from the TFG security sector) their own private protection forces which have been engaged in armed clashes. the UN Monitoring Group issued a report which documents shabaab’s financial portfolio. Armed criminality. Islamists at war.7 Piracy attracts thousands of armed youth seeking to make a fortune.8 Third. currently at a rate of $1500 per day. Hisbul Islamiyya. 27-31. the Islamists have demonstrated a superior ability to build networks of Somali financial backers across clan lines and in the diaspora. has introduced new tactics of war – improvised explosive devices. implicates powerful Somali financial backers of the pirates. These are mainly business security forces.
war-weariness on the part of the general population. From 1995 to 2005. clan militias. and a spike in kidnapping for ransom – are of particular concern. Armed factions splintered into dozens of sub-sub clan units or disappeared altogether. contained armed conflict looked to be an enduring trend. this is the greatest source of chronic insecurity. which provided salaries and respectable jobs as sharia police to young gunmen. and in some cases the Islamist militias. 12 International Crisis Group. When UNOSOM departed in March 1995. but more as a result of new forms of armed criminality (like kidnapping) than armed conflict. Somalia: State Collapse and the Threat of Terrorism (London. A small Islamist militia that came to be known as Shabaab emerged out of two local sharia courts. From 1988 to 1993.10 For many Somalis. it had leadership with ties to al Qa’ida. 2005) . but in parts of the country have been known to exploit their power by robbing and extorting local communities. This includes elements in government security forces in the TFG and Puntland. Instead.11 But a number of new developments combined to plunge the country back into a new round of civil war in 2006. armed conflict became much more localized and sporadic. and embraced a violent. the rise in power of civic groups. the expansion of local government authority and economic recovery in northern Somalia. IISS Adelphi Paper. as most expected. drawing them away from warlord militias and criminal gangs. 2004). Several factors accounted for this reduction in armed conflict. including the rise of a new network of businesspeople and their interests in improved law and order. the country was beset by very destructive civil war in which militias fought across a wised stretch of land in southern Somalia. and the expansion of local. the country did not fall into renewed civil war. 11 This trend is documented in close detail in Menkhaus.12 10 Shabaab militias are generally better-controlled and behaved. The UNOSOM intervention of 1993-94 put a temporary end to armed conflict between the Somali factions (though it got bogged down in a bloody four month counterinsurgency against the militia of General Mohamed Aideed). producing almost no new population displacement and far fewer casualties. extremist ideology that produced a “dirty war” of assassinations in Mogadishu in 2004. Southern Somalia remained a chronically insecure place. and most of the “warlords” of the early 1990s lost most of their militias and support from their clans and the diaspora. clan-based sharia courts. this shift toward more low-level. “Winning Hearts and Minds?” (Brussels/Nairobi. the reassertion of authority by clan elders. At present. sometimes involving armed clashes between rival militias. Conflict trend analysis Armed conflict has seen significant shifts in Somalia since 1988. two forms of armed criminality – systematic diversion of food aid.14 extortion and criminal violence against civilians.
the insurgency has kept the peace and maintained relative order. and the promise of an end to 16 years of war and state collapse. 14 HIsbul Islam was forcibly absorbed by Shabaab in 2010. This combination of new actors and interests transformed the political landscape of southern Somalia and set the table for the explosion of armed violence that has rocked the country since 2006 and reversed most of the incremental gains in containment of violence in the 1995-2005 period.15 US counter-terrorism concerns led it to provide backing to a collection of militia leaders who formed a counter-terrorism coalition to monitor and interdict East Africa al Qa’ida cell members believed to be moving through Mogadishu with protection from shabaab. But tensions between the ICU and neighboring Ethiopia quickly worsened. assassinations. and the TFG’s security forces were predatory against the local population. Ethiopian forces occupied Mogadishu and the TFG leadership was flown in from Nairobi Kenya to assume power under the protection of the Ethiopian forces. who were closely backed by Ethiopia. Mogadishu was wracked by some of the heaviest fighting of the entire twenty year crisis. and roadside bombs. the remnants of the ICU militia. Ras Kamboni Group) have on a few occasions led to clashes between them. Ethiopia’s counter-insurgency response was heavy-handed. “The Crisis in Somalia: Tragedy in Five Acts. or between shabaab and other armed Islamic groups (Hisbul Islam. After losing a battle with Shabaab over the port city of Kismayo.13 The period of renewed civil war began with heavy fighting between the Islamic Courts and the US-backed counter-terrorism alliance in Mogadishu in early 2006 – at the time. order. For the next two years. Shabaab led a “complex insurgency” opposed to the Ethiopian occupation and to TFG and mounted an increasingly lethal campaign involving mortar attacks. producing displacement of 700. prompting a mass exodus of leadership. A decisive victory by the ICU ushered in a brief lull –a six month period of ICU governance of the capital and most of southern Somalia that Somalis now recall with nostalgia as a time of peace. culminating in the December 2006 Ethiopian offensive that crushed the ICU. And an Islamist umbrella movement (eventually known as the Islamic Courts Union. Since late 2008. armed conflict remains principally a crisis in and around Mogadishu. The establishment of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in late 2004 heightened tensions between the government’s leaders. and a loose collection of opponents based in Mogadishu. political violence in the form of threats and assassinations made the city impossibly dangerous for most civic leaders and businesspeople. the heaviest fighting the capital had seen since 1993. Tensions within shabaab.” African Affairs (2007) pp. including shabaab. In shabaab-controlled areas of southern Somalia. The ICU leadership fled abroad to Eritrea. suicide bombings. via extremely harsh and unpopular measures. 357-90. melted into the interior. the Ras Kamboni group shifted positions and cooperates with .14 In central and northeast Somalia. new and 13 See Menkhaus. or ICU) organizing Mogadishu’s sixteen neighborhood sharia courts developed into a robust coalition with strong backing from key business figures. In addition to the fighting.000 residents of the city.
but even so civilian casualties remain high.15 This latest evolution in the Somali crisis has seen the resurgence of clan-based militia in Mogadishu. as allies in the fight against shabaab. . the most important but often overlooked conflict trend in Somalia has been spatial in nature.16 established regional authorities preside over unstable peace both within their areas of jurisdiction and between them. 15 ICRC. killing 79 people. with a secondary ring of crisis along the Shabelle river valley and Lower Jubba valley. tactics. clan. In the Mogadishu area. AMISOM forces are now the principal protagonists in battles with shabaab. Some of these clan militia commanders are also MPs in the TFG parliament. and objectives.000 war-wounded civilians – 40% of whom were women or children -. After a long period of fragmentation in 1992 through 2004. mainly involving brief but intense exchanges of gunfire and shelling.800 in 2008. Most of the rest of the country has been largely (though not entirely) spared of extensive armed conflict since 1993.16 Some observers have gone so far as to predict the rise of “Islamo-warlordism” if shabaab fragments as many expect. Many civilians have moved out of the main zones of combat into safer neighborhoods. Somali alliances saw a period of consolidation into a few larger movements – the ICU. “Somalia: Even Higher Numbers of War-Wounded in Mogadishu Hospitals” Reliefweb (27 January 2011). 16 International Crisis Group. If one were to eliminate Mogadishu from consideration. The pendulum is now swinging back toward fragmentation again. The “front” in the war – a loose green-line dividing Mogadishu – remained more or less static from 2008 until shabaab’s withdrawal in the summer of 2011. up from 5. the TFG. Somali security groupings and alliances have tended to ebb and flow in periods of consolidation and fragmentation. the port city of Kismayo. with ICRC reporting that 6. their growing presence in the city have prompted some to worry about a return of warlordism.” (Brussels/Nairobi. Brief but revealing clashes are occurring between rival security forces in the TFG and the clan militias nominally allied to the TFG. The fighting is sporadic. These coincide with the most valuable real estate in the country – the capital Mogadishu. “Somalia’s Divided Islamists.000 in 2009 and 2. May 2010). Finally. The Islamist insurgencies have also experienced brief armed clashes within their ranks – most notably in Kismayo in 2008 – and are now coping with significant political strains within the movement over leadership. supported in some instances by AMISOM.were treated in two Mogadishu hospitals it supports in 2010. and the fertile riverine valleys. over time the most damaging armed conflicts have been concentrated in and around Mogadishu. and Shabaab counting as the largest of these groupings. In 2010 it also expanded its campaign beyond Somali borders by launching two terrorist bombings in Kampala Uganda. which now number over a dozen in the city. That is. Shabaab has had success both with roadside bombs and with suicide bombings to hit sensitive TFG and AMISOM targets on several occasions. the rest of Somalia has been chronically neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia against Shabaab.
Actor and Interest Inventory Of the dozens of armed actors in the Somali crisis. They. Internal TFG politics are at present of little consequence to the most serious conflict dynamics in the country. and is worth carefully monitoring. Its poorly integrated security forces generally remain safely behind AMISOM posts in the protected area of Mogadishu. are in a position to mobilize substantial militia support from their own clans. and the extent to which armed conflict serves or harms their interests. The greatest conflict danger involving the TFG is the possibility that any attempt by its top leaders to manipulate the last year of the transitional period and the “roadmap” laid out for key transitional tasks. in order to claim power over a post-transitional government. The growing internationalization of the Somali crisis requires us to pay more attention to external actors and their interests and place them at the center of both analysis and strategy. for the most part. The TFG: The TFG is remarkable for its lack of capacity to play a decisive role in armed conflicts at this point in time. However. they nonetheless are powerful drivers of armed conflict and are able to block and undermine outcomes they do not like. or waging war. observers often conflate it with all of Somalia.17 unstable but not. Moreover. Ignoring or downplaying them is a recipe for misdiagnosis and policy frustration. at war. possess what amounts to “veto power” in Somalia. only a relatively small number have the potential to play a major role in provoking. and Speaker of the Parliament Sharif Hassan. while foreign interests have faced great frustration influencing their Somali allies or clients and securing outcomes they desire in Somalia. like a number of key Somali actors. It is worth stressing here that the influence and involvement of external actors in Somalia has grown significantly in recent years and. the various Prime Ministers who have held that position (most recently Abdiweli Mohamed Ali). The following short inventory constitutes some of the most important domestic and international actors. This is a very unusual and significant feature of the TFG. Puntland’s regional government has been estranged from and essentially independent of the TFG since the replacement of President Abdullahi Yusuf in early 2009. none of the top TFG leaders -. Puntland. That would be a worst case scenario for the roadmap.President Sheikh Sharif. which they exercise through threat or use of force. could prompt some of the armed groups nominally allied to it to defect and to oppose it militarily. the interests they are seeking to advance. Sheikh Sharif and Sharif Hassan are part of a set of overlapping cartels within the TFG that possesses substantial revenues and a capacity to indirectly engineer insecurity if they so choose. preventing. and have not yet demonstrated a will or capacity to project force into shabaab controlled areas or successfully hold areas captured by AMISOM. But because Mogadishu is the capital. in that its internal political disputes are not likely to spill over into armed clashes at this point in time. TFG members .
and considers them more reliable allies than the TFG security forces. but they are autonomous from it. and its security forces have been engaged in operations against suspected Shabaab cells in Puntland. the Puntland administration takes positions that seem to focus on advancing its core political goal of federalism in Somalia. Heeb and Himan administration. Clan militias. thanks to external support is in a position to pressure shabaab. They share with the TFG a common enemy in shabaab. The Puntland government is in a position to delay or block progress in the TFG merely by noncooperation – yet another example of “veto power” in Somalia. Puntland government and civic figures have also been the targets of a wave of political assassinations. these largely clan-based entities have maintained a fragile peace in their areas and enjoy an apparently good level of legitimacy with local communities. that position was modified. Emerging regional authorities in south-central Somalia – Galmudug administration. the Puntland government issued a press release stating that the TFG no longer represents Puntland. Puntland is also on Shabaab’s short list of targets. most of which implicate shabaab. ASWJ possesses the strongest militia and. and at other times Puntland’s policies reflect the personal ambitions of its head of state. or enjoy negotiated relations with it. The . but has not been reluctant to employ its security forces against domestic enemies and regional rival Somaliland. AMISOM forward positions rely on these militias as buffer forces protecting them from direct contact with shabaab. Other regional and local polities. Of the three. To date. and the Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamma (ASWJ) militia – have areas of influence stretching from northern Hiran region to the southern border of Puntland. however. including ammunition. In August. and firmly opposed any term extension for the TFG. Puntland’s government has helped to maintain peace in the large territory of northeast Somalia. but remain autonomous from the TFG. At the time. At times. with which it has a long-running territorial dispute. Puntland authorities claimed they would not cooperate with the TFG until a legitimate federal government was put in place.18 from the Puntland clan-family (the Darood/Harti) do not represent Puntland interests and are viewed as such by Puntland authorities. at other times its actions reflect its need to advance the interests of the Harti clan in national politics. On 16 January 2011. and the TFG and Puntland signed a Memorandum of Understanding. These forces are commanded by militia leaders who in some cases are viewed by Somalis as “warlords” from the pre-2006 period. AMISOM provides these forces with support. They do not openly oppose the TFG. Much of the Mogadishu zone of influence of the TFG is in fact patrolled by clanbased militias with no formal role within the TFG security structure.
and direct logistical support in operations against shabaab. Jubbaland clan militias. Bakool. Ethiopia. A series of events – an internal power struggle in which a younger generation of leaders attuned to the interests of the clan won out over the then leader Hassan Turki. Two Kenyan backed militia have a presence along the Kenyan border. Kenya. most of whom support the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) in its armed insurgency against the Ethiopian government. which some in the clan see as the clan’s territory. profiting from relations with AMISOM. support to the estimated one to two million Ogaden clan members in Eastern Ethiopia. Shabaab has generally controlled almost all of the Somali territory along these borders. though in late 2011 it reportedly expanded to include Marehan and other clan. ensuring a position of power in the event of the TFG collapse. equipping. Ethiopia and Kenya have entertained plans to support these militia for operations intended to clear shabaab of large areas of the regions of Gedo.19 interests of these militia leaders vary. The Ras Kamboni militia. they can count on rapid mobilization of resources and fighters. and positioning themselves as indispensable allies for either the TFG or a future political dispensation. which is a stronghold of shabaab and a critical source of its revenues. now headed by Ahmed Madobe. but generally reflect narrow concerns – holding valuable real estate in Mogadishu. This has an unfortunate tendency to encourage clan militia leaders to stoke tensions. including powerful stakes in cross-border commerce between southern Somalia and the trade town of Garissa. or – put another way – encourages “spoiler” tendencies in this group. Middle Jubb. and shabaab-controlled areas of southern Somalia are flashpoints of armed conflict and are populated by a number of militia with complex relations between them. Bay. rising tensions between Ras Kambo ni and shabaab over control of Kisamyo port The Kenya-backed militia is primarily composed of members of the large Darood/Ogaden clan which is a major presence in Kenya and Ethiopia as well as lower Jubba. This support can include training. All of the anti-Shabaab militia in this zone currently enjoy some degree of support from the governments of Kenya or Ethiopia. a committed radical Islamism. protection and expansion of the clan’s role in leadership positions in the Kenyan police and military. They enjoy one major advantage – in the event their clan feels threatened. was in past years a jihadi group allied with shabaab and composed mainly of fighters from the Ogaden clan of the Darood clan family. and Lower Jubba. but since 2010 several enclaves have been liberated by antiShabaab militia. and an end to the clan’s political . The Ogaden have a wide range of interests. The border areas of Kenya. They are in the process of resurrecting their once bleak fortunes. A high priority goal in this regard is the liberation of the seaport of Kismayo. They are not strong enough politically to translate their militia strength into leverage in the TFG but that could change. aspirations to control the port of Kismayo.
and AMISOM’s counter-insurgency attacks.20 marginalization in Somali national politics. Kismayo and its seaport revenues. hundreds of foreign fighters. including funding shortages. but has not been able to dislodge them from Mogadishu. sharp disagreement over tactics and tolerance of civilian casualties. . It enjoys all of the benefits that accrue in an asymmetrical war. and a large corps of “reservists” who can pick arms at short notice. and instead backs Darood/Marehan clan militias some of which also have aspirations to lay claim to Kismayo. namely global jihad in pursuit of defeat of the West and the creation of a global caliphate. Its ongoing insurgency against AMISOM. 18 “Supporting Act: Al Qaeda’s Mutually Beneficial Relationship with the Shabaab. including almost all of southern Somalia and more than half of Mogadishu. p. and has taken heavy losses in several failed offensives. though in the latter half of 2011 the theatre of war has increasingly shifted toward the EthiopiaKenya borders. In reality most Somali shabaab leaders appear focused on Somali agendas. Some in the movement have in the 17 Ken Menkhaus. assassinations.17 There is real potential for Kismayo to become the epicentre of clan clashes in the event shabaab is dislodged from the city.” in Relationships and Rivalries: Assessing Al Qaeda’s Affiliate Network HIS Jane’s Consulting (October 2010). Shabaab: Shabaab is the most powerful Somali military force in the country and exercises varying degrees of control over the most territory. including the ability to shell the fixed locations of AMISOM from densely populated civilian neighborhoods. Estimates of its militia size varies. 37. and employ terrorist tactics – IEDs. and the group appears to be divided on the issue. specifically defeat of the TFG and the ouster of “infidel” military forces (AMISOM) from Somali territory.18 Since 2007 foreign al Qa’ida operatives have assumed positions of leadership in shabaab’s Mogadishu Council.000 full-time Somali fighters. Shabaab is strong relative to other Somali armed groups but is plagued by serious weaknesses. Ethiopia is leery of any outcome in Jubbaland that would result in Ogaden control of Kismayo. and rivalries over leadership. thanks to its own missteps and in some cases appalling actions in areas it controls. clan tensions. The group has lost most of the public support (both in the country and in the diaspora) it once enjoyed. On paper the group subscribes to the same long-term goals as al Qa’ida. one of the reasons it opted to pull out of Mogadishu in August 2011. and suicide bombers – against the TFG and AMISOM. Shabaab’s interests are a matter of speculation. All the main clans in the region are focused on claiming some control over the prize. including its mishandling of the 202 famine. though the exact nature of their relationship to the Somali leaders is not well understood by outsiders. with most speculating that the movement is comprised of up to 2. Shabaab has inflicted losses on the TFG and AMISOM. make itself indistinguishable from civilians. have for several years been the main source of armed conflict. “After the Kenyan Intervention” Enoughproject (December 2011).
clan elders. such as ensuring the flow of humanitarian assistance to their constituencies. Godane. and others – grew steadily in importance and autonomy in the relatively stable years from 1995 to 2005. Somali civil society. evidence suggests that they have been the most hard-line element in the group. and that poseds the greatest security threat inside Kenya today. They demonstrated the potential . constituency-free shabaab leaders (mainly those from northern Somalia operating in the south) have tended to embrace policies exhibiting indifference or even hostility to local needs. Whether true or not. some of whom are recent converts to Islam. This is the group that was responsible for the Kampala bombing in 2010. Even less is known about the interests and motives of the foreign jihadists who have joined shabaab and assumed leadership roles in the movement. To date. and have signed off on terrorist attacks – the suicide bombings in Uganda (an attack which did not involve Somalis) and the suicide bombing of the medical school graduation ceremony in Mogadishu in December 2009 – that caused mass civilian casualties and reflected a powerful indifference to the impact of the attacks on Somali interests. At present the most dangerous foreign jihadi presence in Somalia consists of several hundred East African shabaaab members. By contrast. religious leaders. and has been slow to establish its own administrative capacities in areas it controls. Many observers believe that this is due to fear that shabaab’s many internal divisions will be exacerbated to the point of open conflict were the group forced to make fundamental decisions over political leadership and governance policies. Foreign shabaab leaders. and position that puts then in tension with al Qa’ida’s global vision. Some have suggested that shabaab’s interests may actually be served by the prolonged stalemate since 2008 – the standoff allows shabaab to mobilize for jihad indefinitely without the risks of actually governing. professional associations. It is known that some shabaab figures have made quiet overtures to explore possibilities for a negotiated end to the fighting or for their defection from the movement. Civic groups in Somalia – a loose collection of women’s groups. Yet the movement has opted not to declare a state despite controlling most of southern Somalia. but have been pulled back in line by the shabaab Mogadishu Council and have not received positive signs by the international community. The June 2011 death of top foreign shabaab leader Fazul Abdullah Mohammed at a TFG check-point is widely believed to have been a trap laid by his internal rival in shabaab. Shabaab leaders whose power base rests on their clan’s backing have tended to pursue more pragmatic policies designed to protect clan interests. it sparked an exodus of non-Somali jihadis who no longer had confidence that Somali shabaab members would protect them.21 past embraced the goal of an Islamic state in all Somali-inhabited portions of the Horn of Africa. it has prompted discussion among Somalis of a Somali version of a “sunni uprising” again foreign jihadis who are increasingly seen as attracting only more trouble to the country. This has the potential to drive a wedge between the foreigners and the Somalis in shabaab.
000. and more than any other external actor will take whatever steps are needed to assure that this core interest is met. Ethiopia is also leery of any political development that empowers the Ogaden clan in southern Somali and Kismayo port. due to the ongoing insurgency in eastern Ethiopia by the . Somalis accuse AMISOM of firing into densely populated civilian neighborhoods. AMISOM. a case can be made that AMISOM seeks a military victory but is constrained by mandate. AMISOM’s force is now slated to increase to 12. sovereignty. However.22 for mass mobilization against militia leaders in protests in 2005. against shabaab. Ugandan and Burundian political leaders have consistently expressed a strong interest in expanding both the size and mandate of AMISOM. Ethiopian leaders profess that they are ready to co-exist with any government – including an Islamist government -. Ethiopia has distrusted Mogadishu-based political movements while working more comfortably with clans and administrations based outside Mogadishu. Though it has a limited mandate focusing on protection of the TFG and humanitarian relief. In the past. specifically the military defeat of Shabaab by AMISOM and Somali allied militias. motivated to stay on by economic opportunities afforded them by the intervention. it has engaged in extensive counter-attacks in response to shabaab mortars and ambushes. making it the biggest and best armed military in Somalia. The popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia are being discussed and watched intently by Somalis. weak Somalia that amounts to a series of satellite states it can control. resources. AMISOM. Ethiopia has a powerful interest in ensuring that no Somali government emerges that is hostile to Ethiopia either as an irredentist or jihadi Islamist threat. AMISOM force commanders have expressed frustration with the TFG security forces and have sought to expand their military linkages with other Somali armed groups in the fight against shabaab. Some Somalis claim that the AMISOM forces and their governments have become just another set of players in Somalia’s war economy. and the TFG. They have recently requested a change of their mandate to allow them to go on the offensive. AMISOM has been at the center of the heaviest armed conflict in Somalia. and policy preferences of Western states. Still other Somalis embrace a conspiracy theory that Ethiopia (and other external actors) wants Somalia to remain indefinitely mired in a state of collapse and warfare. with attack helicopters.in Somalia as long it is respects Ethiopia’s borders. Some Somalis argue Ethiopia wants a highly decentralized. but the extreme violence in the wars since 2007 drove most civil leaders out of the country and silenced the rest. the “Somali street” is a wildcard that could play a role in protests against shabaab. Ethiopia. a claim that holds no water when judged against Ethiopia’s solid relations with Puntland and Somaliland. There is now some evidence that civic society is regrouping and could be poised to play a narrow but significant role in resisting and pressuring all Somali armed groups. Since 2008. and security. producing heavy casualties. AMISOM and its regional diplomatic support – the African Union and IGAD – are among the strongest advocates for a military solution to the Somali impasse. a charge AMISOM denies.
the continued presence of AMISOM. It has been pursuing policies in Somalia designed to forge alliances with clans. and more aggressive pursuit of security measures in its long border area with Jubbaland. and regional administrations in Somalia. Eritrea. advising. Kenya has committed itself to the success of the TFG. Ethiopian forces are well inside portions of its border in Gedo and Bakool regions. Eritrea provided substantial support to Islamists in Somalia in 2006-08. and financial support to the ICU and then to Islamist insurgents (mainly Hisbul Islamiyya. This was not a case of ideological affinity – Eritrea is a staunchly secular government dominated politically by Christians – but rather a proxy war policy designed to support Somali armed groups fighting occupying Ethiopian forces. Arab states have consistently supported a more central state vision for Somalia and will be resistant to policy that expands support to sub-national regional administrations. though its current political turmoil could temporarily distract it from the Horn in 2011. first channeling training. Arab and Islamic states. . The total number of Somalis now residing and investing (legally or illegally) in Kenya is believed to have jumped considerably in recent years. Its surprising military offensive against shabaab in the Lower Jubba region in fall 201 has dramatically increased its commitment to defeating shabaab. but has been distrustful of the current TFG leadership. other armed non-state actors. Egypt is likely to take the lead on this latter position. Ethiopia provided robust backing to the TFG under President Abdullahi Yusuf in 2007 and 2008. As of late 2011. transit. creating a unique and complicated political situation for Kenya in its Somalia policies. The fact that so many Somalis are so heavily invested in Kenya as a site of business. Kenya. and are supporting several clan militias poised to attack shabaab in southern Somalia. Some Arab states – Qatar and Kuwait – are reportedly providing direct financial support to Sheikh Sharif and may seek to promote an extension of the TFG with its current leadership come August 2011. Kenya is by far the most exposed neighboring country to a shabaab terrorist attack. Somalia has in some respects become a domestic as well as foreign policy challenge for Kenya. which since mid-2011 has assumed a lead role in famine relief and is attempting to play a diplomatic role as well. The most significant new player from the Islamic world is Turkey.23 Ogaden National Liberation Front. Arab and Islamic states have unfortunately remained largely outside the discussions and efforts to coordinate policy in Nairobi. It is unclear at this time how the rehatting of Kenyn forces into AMISOM forces will affect its operations in the Jubba regions. and yet remain active in Somali politics. and residence appears to have served as a constraint on shabaab. not Shabaab) in 2007-08.
“Somalia: Twenty Years of Anarchy. and others. Those which fall in the category of “external interventions” are treated in more detail in Section II of the paper.nsf/db900sid/ASAZ-8DMKCS/$File/full_report. militia roadblocks. “Somalia Humanitarian Overview 4. Poverty and scarcity do not cause war. 1 (Dec. Conflict drivers – Underlying causes Underlying causes of conflict – the factors that create conditions that make countries or communities vulnerable to armed conflict – are ubiquitous in contemporary Somalia. 2. Scarcity in urban areas has also produced clashes over resources – contracts. 2010-Jan 2011) p. or one third of the population. most of the population lives at or below the absolute poverty line.int/rw/rwb.4 million Somalis. jobs. but can make a society more susceptible to certain kinds of armed conflict. Readers will note that different underlying drivers of conflict are relevant for different types of armed conflict as listed in the first section of the paper. http://www. but did not do so. 19 UN OCHA.uk/news/world-africa-12285365 . a fact many attribute to the work of international aid agencies and the enormous flow of remittances into the country from the country’s one million or more diaspora members. .pdf 20 BBC. Somalia is one of the poorest places on earth. wells. restricted mobility due to armed conflict. 1. are in need of emergency assistance. and though this group has well-developed mechanisms for negotiating access to pasture. cited most often by close observers of the country’s politics. as noted earlier. political violence. And. An inventory of these factors is thus very sobering.20 About half of Somalia’s population is pastoral. At the time of this writing. or extremism. enclosures by private interests. It also generates large numbers of unemployed young men. especially communal clashes over resources. In the past two years Eritrea’s role has become less critical in Somalia. Any introduction of resources into the country has the potential to lead to disputes that can turn deadly and expand into wider communal wars.reliefweb. and have only grown in number and intensity since the 1980s. and one in four children in southern Somalia is acutely malnourished. and recurring drought – are pushing some pastoralists into destitution and generating conditions of desperation that can fuel fights over access to resources. but only a list of the most persistent and dangerous underlying causes of conflict in Somalia. making easy recruits for criminal gangs and militia. What follows is not an exhaustive inventory.bbc.24 The US government threatened to designate Eritrea a state sponsor of terrorism in 2007-08.co.” (26 January 2011) http://www. growing pressure – from rangeland degradation. In many respects it is a testimony to Somali society’s strong conflict management capacities that the country has not seen even more armed conflict than it has.19 The two decades of war and state collapse have not worsened this condition – available evidence suggests a slight improvement in income and basic human development indicators since 1990. Extreme resource scarcity and poverty. and markets. some of these factors can also be forces for peace. under the right conditions.
and dispenses compensational justice that most Somalis know and prefer to formal justice systems. work. It can be the only source of law and justice in stateless parts of the country – customary law. one of the reasons that clannism endures and has arguably become stronger in Somali identity politics is because it serves a useful role for Somalis in the current context of war and state collapse. Somalia does not offer such simple answers. And unresolved questions about the status of Mogadishu – as a capital where all enjoy full rights. most Somali communities invoke blood rights to determine who may reside. More than any other conflict driver. as well as more mundane . and misused by foreigners in divide and rule tactics. rights by birth (Somalis enjoy special rights to land and other resources in the area where they were born. Three discourses exist on this – rights by citizenship (all Somalis enjoy full rights everywhere in the country). mobilized by political and militia leaders to advance their own interests. is often able to maintain impressive levels of peace. and romanticizing it (and by extension clan elders) as the only viable source of representation. identity. Kismayo has been the site of two decades of warfare fueled by this dispute between the three main Darood clans. and makes it much more difficult to broker co-existence in “cosmopolitan” towns hosting multiple clans. The result is the rise of a whole category of Somalis living as second class citizens in cities where they are viewed as guests or even foreigners. Basic questions of citizenship. a vital safety net in an insecure and unpredictable environment. and rights by blood (one’s rights to land and resources depends on one’s clan and that clan’s claim on territory). As such. it must take a front row in any inventory of conflict drivers. or as a city dominated by the Hawiye clan – was a major dimension of tensions over the TFG in 2005-08.25 Land. legitimacy. For foreign actors. and make claims to political rights in a specific location. including claiming it is of no importance. This puts a premium on understanding under what conditions clannism is likely to take on its pathological rather than benign tendencies. There are many ways to misunderstand this complex identity issue in Somali politics. overstating it as the sole source of political organization. identity. Clannism is unquestionably a major source of division and one of the most easily manipulated fault-lines in Somalia. applied by clan elders. And lineage is a critical form of social security and mutual obligations to assist. clannism has the potential to play both a destructive and a constructive role in Somalia. Expulsions of southern Somalis from Puntland are also animated by this logic. others are “guests” or galti). and rights – especially with regard to land – have never been adequately addressed in Somalia and are often a powerful. and rights. silent sub-text for political and communal clashes. demonizing it as the source of all of Somalia’s problems. The problem is most severe where valuable real estate has come under the control of “new clans” via military conquest in 1991-92. In practice. At the same time. This in turn raises the stakes immeasurably over clan claims over towns and districts. clannism is especially challenging because it is at the center of debates over representation in governments and peace talks. Clannism. It is a principal source of physical protection – the threat of clan retaliation is a form of deterrence. and protection.
Somalis have good reason to embrace risk-averse.26 but consequential decisions regarding contracts and the composition of national staff. Risk aversion and the experience of the state. It also increases the number and capacity of spoilers seeking to undermine peace or state-building.” Instead. Somalis and others are increasingly critical of approaches that attempt to institutionalize proportional clan representation – such as the “4. one is either a part of a governing coalition or a rejectionist front. Many Somalis emphasize poor or venal leadership as a major underlying cause of conflict. The younger generation of Somalis has no living memory of a functional state at all. and has been politically socialized to navigate the much more complex (but for them. and can become situational spoilers – resorting to armed violence -. Older Somalis – those over the age of 35 – have a historical experience of the central government under Siyad Barre that predisposes many of them to fear and distrust the state. The weaponry is not such much a cause as an amplifier of armed conflict. Barre’s regime was very predatory and brutal to those its leaders viewed as rivals. cross-border transit trade. with the notable exception of Somaliland. The destruction of political trust. familiar) environment of state collapse. Somalia is believed to be one of the most heavily armed societies on earth. They crave law and order. That same degree of trust at the national (though not local) political level has been very scarce.when the state appears to be falling into the hands of individuals or groups they do not trust. and to a lesser extent Puntland. This has produced among that generation of Somalis a split personality regarding state-building. Poor leadership. inattentiveness to clan composition can produce serious conflict. and the flow of semi-automatic weapons into the country has meant that once manageable conflicts now have the potential to explode into much more lethal clashes. Control of the national government is seen as a strictly zero-sum game. but can be ambivalent about state-building. But peace-building and conflict prevention often require risk-taking.5 formula. survival strategies toward peacebuilding and state-building. arguing that a combination of a polarized and violent domestic environment and illinformed external policies have deterred better Somali leaders from emerging at the national .” At the same time. One of the many bitter ironies of the Somali crisis is that the explosion of economic entrepreneurism in stateless Somalia – the hawala and telecommunication companies. and other large and medium scale enterprises requiring cross-clan partnerships – has been built on the endurance and reliability to pragmatic trust relations. Whether of the younger or older generation. Somalia has not generated political leaders at the national level able to rise above the war and build a sense of public confidence in peacebuilding and statebuilding initiatives. and little political space has been accorded for a “loyal opposition. Small arms proliferation.
Ethiopian and Somali competing narratives tell a dramatically different story of who is to blame. Importantly. Domestic spoilers. The Somali crisis is deeply entangled in a wider regional conflict complex that includes the unresolved Ethiopia-Eritrea war and the ongoing insurgency and counter-insurgency pitting the Ethiopian military against the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). and especially intolerant strains of religious ideology. many Somali spoilers are interest-driven. division. jihadists who fear they will be arrested or killed by the US. Until those two crises are resolved. not “total spoilers. Somalia has all of these types of domestic spoilers. but even in its absence others would pose a potential problem. or regional administrations who fear a return to peace and central governance will marginalize them. Ethiopia has legitimate security concerns along its long border with Somalia. Others are political – warlords and other conflict entrepreneurs whose power base depends on heightened social fear and tensions.27 level. Close attention to the interests of key Somali spoilers is critical to successful peacebuilding strategies. Protracted civil wars often generate a host of interests which find ways to thrive and benefit from conditions of warfare. and in some cases Somali actors who at one point fomented armed conflict became a force for peace. Put another way. region. Examples in contemporary Somali range from illegal charcoal exports to lucrative militia roadblocks to piracy. Still others are war criminals who fear the prospect of revived systems of justice. stoke conflict. and sometimes fortunes. For their part. off of criminal activities that can best be pursued in a state of war and collapse. The regional conflict complex. and have been reluctant to take clear steps to reassure its neighbors it respects their borders and their need for security. Somalia remains very susceptible to spillover from those conflicts. Many of these are economic. and lawlessness. and contribute to the rise of war economies and spoilers who earn a livelihood. Underlying much of the insecurity in Somalia and the wider region of the Horn is the Somalia-Ethiopia security dilemma. Ethiopia has taken steps to improve its own security which have made large sections of the Somali population feel less secure.” Interests can and do change over time. tends to enflame . Radicalism and the globalization of the Somali conflict. armed opposition to the TFG cannot be reduced to Shabaab. made more acute by a past history of Somali irredentism directed at Somali-inhabited eastern Ethiopia. Shabaab is currently the largest and most effective spoiler. The literature on armed conflict posits that ideology. some Somali political and military figures have sought to mobilize domestic support with antiEthiopian rhetoric and campaigns. but the net effect is that Somalia is chronically vulnerable to conflicts partly rooted in the unresolved Ethiopia-Somali conflict. and has led instead to national level figures who foment divisions. Somalia-Ethiopia tensions. or seek short-term gains while in office rather than committing to long-term peace and reconstruction. cutting across every clan. and occupation. which is now netting over $80 million annually in ransoms.
and can often embrace more hard-line. al Ittihad al Islamiyya (AIAI). Somalia has developed some excellent news sources.21 For years. Unfortunately those have suffered greatly in the violence and polarization since 2007. The extent to which Somalia has now become an arena for a global contest pitting Al Qa’ida affiliates against the West raises the country’s vulnerability to armed conflict even more. One of the pathologies of protracted war is that conflict begets conflict. “This is a war of the diaspora” one local Somali observed. Diasporas can serve as important source of funding for armed groups.” in Managing Global Chaos. including radio and electronic media. Somalia’s civil war and state collapse was surprisingly devoid of radical ideologies – unless one counts the extreme clan chauvinism of some of the armed factions a form of radicalism. as this worldview generally views compromise and negotiation as a betrayal. all of which can make it much harder to broker and maintain a durable peace ( as opposed to the rival claim that a longer war produces “war weariness” and eventually a “hurting stalemate” conducive for a 21 David Little. dominated by diaspora leadership. . 22 Interview by the author. In two periods – the early 1990s and in 2007-08 – the diaspora were especially active in fund-raising in support of armed groups. Over the past decade. “and the rest of us are caught in the middle. Today. civil society groups – are. That was precisely the position taken by shabaab when it openly declared the ex-ICU leadership in Djibouti apostates for agreeing to form a common front with secular nationalists and moderate Muslims in the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) in 2007. One armed Islamist group. The general literature on civil wars links large diasporas to a greater propensity for armed conflict. The expansion of electronic media – news websites. grievances. Chauvinistic media. shabaab. Large diaspora.”22 “Spiraling” armed conflict. and email – means that rival Somali political and social groups are now increasingly holding conversations and hearing interpretation of news in isolation from one another. chat rooms. reinforcing negative stereotypes and hostilities. the most important observation is that all of Somalia’s politics and civic life – the TFG. “Religious Militancy. Nairobi. suffered constant setbacks in a Somali society that seemed uninterested in its vision of an Islamic state. extremist positions than their countrymen back home. This “diasporization” of Somali political life has meant that matters of war and peace are also increasingly an intra-diaspora matter. in varying degrees. the rise of jihadist Islamism in Somalia – a movement given a dramatic boost by the Ethiopian occupation of 2007-08 – has created conditions in which continued armed conflict is much more likely.28 conflict because these “wars of ideas” leave little room for compromise and co-existence. Protracted wars reinforce conflict dynamics. More parochial and inflammatory sources of news continue to thrive. the Somaliland and Puntland governments. Somalia’s large diaspora has played both a role in sustaining armed conflict and supporting peace. By Pamela Aall et al (Washington DC: USIP). 2009. ed. and business community. and distrust.
but the real estate dispute touched it off.24 The most infamous case of a crime leading to a war was the real estate dispute between two rival Mogadishu businessmen that led to a gunfire exchange in early 2006 but which quickly escalated into the war between the Islamic Courts union the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism. Whatever the factors that initially (in the early to mid-1990s) enabled Somaliland to limit and manage armed conflict while south-central Somalia fell into devastating civil war. An extraordinary number of communal clashes. This is a partial explanation for the dramatically different trajectories that south-central Somalia and Somaliland have taken in terms of armed conflict. once the south was subjected to serious levels of fatalities. While they are easy to identify in the abstract. but an Afro-barometer survey in Somali-inhabited areas of northeast Kenya found that Somalis listed revenge killings as the top cause of armed conflict. arms. some spiraling into prolonged local and regional armed conflicts. or a murder. in the form of contracts. it is exceptionally difficult to predict when these potential triggers will actually spark an armed conflict.29 negotiated peace). well-informed strategies for 23 Paul Collier et al. even very careful. development projects. Breaking the Conflict Trap (World Bank 2003). Introduction of new resources – disputes over allocation.but the task is clearly more difficult when protracted wars produce deep reservoirs of grievances. The war would have probably broken out anyway. Usually clan elders intercede and work out payment of compensation to the victim’s diya (blood payment) group. They include: Crimes and spiraling revenge killings. . A seminal World Bank study concludes succinctly that “the single greatest predictor of a civil war is a previous civil war. are triggered by a criminal incident – a stolen vehicle. International actors are usually though not always the bearers of new resources. 24 No survey research inside Somalia is available on this topic yet. revenge killings can quickly escalate into major armed clashes. and humanitarian aid. displacement. tensions between the two groups need to be high already. an assault. In most cases. and destruction and theft of property. as a result of feuds over political representation or resource access. employment. The tendency for war dynamics to produce mutually reinforcing conflict drivers is well known.”23 Somalia is no exception in this regard. but when talks are delayed or stall. This factor must not be interpreted in fatalistic or deterministic terms – countries can and do emerge from warfare and forge a durable peace -. As noted below. Somalia is replete with examples of armed clashes triggered by the introduction of new resources and a lack of agreement over how those resources are to be controlled and allocated. the pursuit of a negotiated end to the war became exponentially more difficult. Conflict drivers – precipitating causes A review of the long record of armed conflicts both large and small in Somalia reveals that a few triggers have been responsible for starting most of the clashes.
routinized resources. and the high rates of “leakage” of funds from organized political and military groups. contracts. the history of external sponsorship of national reconciliation conferences has typically been accompanied by an upsurge in political violence. Groups that have co-existed when allowed to retain informal governance structures can go to war when asked to quantify their relative importance to one another. Formation or revision of formal governance structures and representation at the national level. they often end up leaking to rival groups.5 formula) that are difficult to reverse. one off or short term infusions of resources are more likely to touch off armed violence than longterm. probably in the tens of millions annually).” extortion. Generally. Resources introduced into Somalia also have the potential to help finance and perpetuate war. Local administrations are sensitive in that their composition is viewed as a crystallization of the relative power and importance of clans and other groupings to one another. typically estimated about $200 million per year). while others have touched off clashes as groups and political elites vie to gain control of the administration. Not surprisingly. When outsiders are not wellinformed or rushed. Remittances constitute an estimated $1. The proceedings ultimately beg the fundamental question “who rules?” They also set the rules of the game for representation.30 negotiating resource allocation can easily set off communal clashes. as has periodically been the case with financial and military support to the TFG. and fundraising. Local and external efforts to create formal local administrations are risky. This is so because Somali armed groups derive most of their revenues from local “taxation. some have succeeded. The vast majority of funds flowing inside Somalia originate from outside the country. makes it difficult and perhaps pointless to try to distinguish which types of external resources are especially culpable in helping to underwrite armed conflict. . other major sources of capital flows into Somalia include piracy ransoms ($82 million in 2010). piracy ransom – is likely to be indirectly complicit in funding armed conflict. The stakes are exceptionally high in national reconciliation talks designed to produce revived central government.5 to $2 billion into Somalia annually. business investments. when district councils were hurriedly formed in districts that had been the site of heavy armed conflict only months before. and give the first incumbent a lengthy opportunity to consolidate his power and enrich himself if he so chooses. Even when resources are directly target at one armed group. The exceptional fungibility of money across social and political lines in Somalia. the odds on assistance in its wake armed clashes increases. virtually any introduction of resources into Somalia – humanitarian aid. and foreign aid ( variable. Somali business investments (unknown. set precedents (like the 4. diversion. remittances. even if that is not the intent of the provider. Indeed. Formation of or change in formal local political representation. legitimize and enshrine key decision-making over the creation of a political order to a group of unelected representatives. This was especially a problem in UNOSOM in 1993.
Kenya. most recently.31 External proxy wars. it is also expected to produce a wave of destitute pastoralists and agro-pastoralists into towns and cities across Somalia. especially when civilian casualties occur. accelerating an already worrisome level of “urban drift.” Most of these destitute migrants will remain unemployed in the cities. They will be easily recruited into criminal gangs.25 What follows below is a summary of the findings of that research: 25 Among the many studies. These are marriages of convenience. It is not only producing predictable intensification of communal clashes over the meager remnants of available pasture and water. see the series of studies of peace produced in 2009 by Interpeace. managed to prevent. Ethiopia. or resolve dangerous disputes.php/Somalia/Somalia.org/index. but in fact have been a bulwark for peace in Somalia. US and al Qa’ida) or as a tool to defeat or frustrate a Somali group it perceives as a threat. An extensive literature exists on local and informal sources of peace-building in Somalia. See also Joachim Gundel. And yet much of the country has. External military occupation. Foreign interests use local proxies in Somalia either in indirect struggles against other external actors (for example. at http://www. armed responses by foreign forces to attacks have had a marked tendency to mobilize more armed opposition. in which both the external state and its local proxy are using one another for mutual advantage but in pursuit of different goals. and possibly radical armed groups. for most of the past twenty years. Local communities have devoted most of their political energies to conflict management. and AMISOM’s current protection force is the main target of shabaab’s ongoing armed operations. UNOSOM’s humanitarian intervention in 1993 became embroiled in a four month war with General Aideed’s SNA militia. These conflict management practices tend to get attention when they fail and communal or political violence flares up. and Djibouti. 2006). Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2006-08. clan militias. The current drought gripping the eastern Horn of Africa —the worst in living memory – requires special consideration as a driver of conflict now and into the future. Capacities for peace The above inventory highlights the extraordinary vulnerability of contemporary Somalia to armed conflict. The current drought. No single act by an external player is more likely to produce substantial armed resistance in Somalia than a military intervention and occupation. . As noted below. allowing nine million Somalis to enjoy at least modest levels of basic security and order in a broader context of war and state collapse.html. contain. Ethiopia’s two year occupation of Mogadishu in 2007-08 triggered a major jihadi insurgency. “The Predicament of the Oday” (Oxfam-Novib.interpeace. creating an even larger pool of disaffected young men with few prospects for the future.
either in the form of customary clan law (xeer). It also can provide a vehicle for routinized communication and trust-building across conflict lines. The law and order they dispense is typically illiberal in nature and can fall well short of international standards of rule of law – in the case of shabaab-controlled areas of southern Somalia. but much less so at the level of national-level political conflict. sometimes shockingly so. and neighborhood watch groups can act as a disincentive to escalate armed violence – though they can just as easily serve as a source of armed conflict. communities have organized themselves into municipalities or even regional administrations. these practices are largely invisible to outsiders. Most local capacities for peace are the result of alliances and cooperation among some or role of these interests. In some cases. but occasionally assumes a preventive role as well. This role is usually assumed after a conflict has broken out. They are fragile and vulnerable to powerful spoilers. but in recent years formal civic organizations have played a more active mediating role. they are also susceptible to cooperation and . One role is as a source of local rule of law. Roles. To date they have been much more effective at the local and sometimes regional level. but also professional associations and local NGOs -. The most ubiquitous is customary law. Local protection units and neighborhood watch groups provide a degree of deterrence of armed criminality that can spiral into armed violence. Civil society groups – especially women’s groups. The ability of sub-national governance systems to provide a means of handling crimes is critical in reducing cases of revenge killings that spiral into communal war. Previously this was the domain of clan leaders and nabadoon. Because they often do not present themselves as a formal authority.32 Sources. or as third party mediators. religious leaders and sharia courts have played an important role in conflict prevention and management. Local capacities for peace in Somalia are impressive. Community protection forces.have emerged since the mid-1990s as important actors in conflict prevention and management. but their role can be overstated or romanticized. or civil law administered by regional polities such as Puntland. Local capacities for peace are housed in a wide variety of practices and organizations. clan militia. and the role of traditional elders and other peacemakers (nabadoon). Another role is diplomatic – as negotiators on behalf of communities in conflict. hybrid governance arrangements that vary from place to place. but less well-equipped to address wider political violence and internationalized conflict. Limits. sharia law. management and resolution. forming fluid. They are relatively effective at managing and ending communal conflict. And business figures have also been an important source of conflict management where war threatens commerce. Informal authorities play a range of distinct roles that can contribute to conflict prevention. A third role is as a form of deterrent to criminal or political violence. developing more formal roles in enforcing law and order and mediating disputes. In some locations. Finally. business security forces.
the most serious. as the above analysis underscores. prevailing insecurity in Somalia has severely restricted external presence in the country. an approach which privileges the “do no harm” principle is at once self-evidence and problematic. This includes external actions which seek to harness armed conflict to achieve a political end in Somalia. Second. such as AMISOM’s aspirations to drive shabaab out of Mogadishu. Third. since the fundamental question “who rules?” is at the heart of negotiations over state revival. including the inadvertent triggering of armed conflict. All were accompanied by armed conflict. yet is one of the most conflict-producing enterprises external actors have undertaken.33 venality.26 This is hardly surprising. Security. the international community’s engagement in Somalia typically involves the very actions – identifying or recognizing (and hence privileging) local authorities. “Disarming Somalia: Lessons in Stabilisation from a Collapsed State. First.” Conflict. yet current circumstances are so fraught with conflict tripwires that external actors have no choice but to accept a certain level of risk that their actions may produce new armed conflicts they did not want or intend. and so at times clan elders. clerics. . and businesspeople can be mobilizer or instigators of war rather than peace. which in turn has compromised the ability of external actors to possess accurate contextual knowledge. and the Kenyan peace talks which results in the Transitional Federal Government. Even when state revival is framed as a powersharing exercise. State revival has been the central goal of the 1993-94 UNOSOM intervention. External engagement in Somalia must clearly proceed with great care and sensitivity to the possibility of provoking conflict. Under these circumstances. Indeed. Section II: Armed Conflict and External Interventions All forms of external involvement in Somalia. destructive clashes in Somalia since 1990 – the war between rival 26 Matt Bryden and Jeremy Brickhill. regardless of intent. the exercise is viewed locally as a strictly zero-sum game. local civic actors. face a fairly high risk of producing unintended consequences. the “building block” approach of the late 1990s. thereby increasing still further the likelihood of errors which can produce unintended consequences. This is so for three reasons. Armed conflict and statebuilding. as has consistently been the case in Somalia. the Djibouti-sponsored Arte talks which produced the 2000-02 Transitional Federal Government. and Development 10. 2 (2010) pp. the country at present is very susceptible to outbreaks of armed conflict. 239-262. Revival of functional central government is a critical component of Somalia’s recovery. and allocating resources (from humanitarian aid to jobs and contracts to weapons and ammunition) – that touch on the most dangerous triggers of armed conflict.
This was a . displacement. Armed violence is used to intimidate and demoralize government officials and to deny the government control of physical space. Whether true or not. In the past. the kind of violence most often associated with preliminary phases of peace talks has been what Somalis call “remote control” clashes. In two instances in Somalia statebuilding initiatives have resulted in the declaration of a transitional authority that is nominally a government of national unity. but now with a level of armed violence. State-building in Somalia can trigger armed conflict in several ways and at several points in the process. but runs the risk of encouraging rivals to undermine one another’s local polities. The result is the use and threat of violence by rejectionists as a way of preventing the government from expanding its physical authority and gaining legitimacy. In the case of the TFG – the only state-building effort in Somalia that has become operational in the past twenty years -.34 factions of the United Somali Congress in Mogadishu in late 1991. marginalization of “warlords” in talks may result in more legitimate representation but increases the likelihood spoilers will use violence to undermine the resulting government. the UNOSOM clashes with General Aideed’s Somali National Alliance. Structuring representation based on local administration is an alternative. Their goal is to prevent the aspiring government from becoming operational. the very posing of the question is a reminder that state-building efforts have the potential to leave Somalia worse off than before – in the case of the TFG. not to defeat it outright. preying on what it viewed as a hostile local population.the security forces it stood up in 2007 and 2008 actually undermined rather than advanced state-building. clanbased para-militaries. The rejectionists have a considerable advantage – they need only play for a draw in order to win. This has been done with remarkable ease – both the TNG and TFG were unable to exert control over more than a portion of the capital thanks to armed rejectionists. Who is convened to speak on behalf of the Somali community. It is a matter of speculation whether Somalia might have been better off had the international community and regional states not pushed so hard for the accord that produced the TFG in 2004. But in both instances the government is perceived by many Somalis as being dominated by one faction and set of clans. and on the basis of what criteria? External actors who opt to privilege armed groups in negotiations reduce the risk of armed spoilers upending the process but at a cost of legitimacy. as that is the moment when critical decisions related to representation are made. The convening of national reconciliation talks (which have to date been conflated with state-building as the primary objective) is a particularly dangerous point. still without a functional state seven years later. The TFG’s security forces operated as autonomous. in which disgruntled elites – often at or near the talks – orchestrate communal clashes back in country to undermine a rival. and the war in Mogadishu since 2007 have all been animated in whole or in part by disputes over how a government is to be formed and who rules. and radicalization that would have been unthinkable in 2004.
when local armed groups have viewed an externally sponsored peace-building initiative (the Hawiye Peace Consultations of summer 2007. Likewise. this inevitably creates internal tensions. .35 disastrous episode. Paradoxically. only a cautionary note that external actors should view their peace initiatives through the eyes of all potential spoilers. in which the nascent state is a party to the conflict. for example) as an attempt at divide and rule. it has been given new prominence thanks to the call by the United States government for a “dual track” approach in Somalia. For external actors like the UN. compromising any other role – such as mediation and humanitarian relief – which requires neutrality. which wears multiple hats. It was also a reminder that external state-building in a context of ongoing armed hostilities. is understandable.” International Peacekeeping 3.” The impulse to build on what already works in the country.27 When peace-building efforts are piecemeal or less than comprehensive. it was a painful reminder that state building cannot be reduced to capacity-building -. pp. This has occurred at the national level.it must also be accompanied by accountability measures. informal sources of peace-building are fragile and can easily be overwhelmed by external 27 Ken Menkhaus. Armed conflict and peace-building. This is not a reason to avoid such strategies. in more recent time. Local. The quiet success of local-level authorities in managing conflict has led to questions about their possible utility in building peace at the national level. and drove some Mogadishu residents to support the armed insurgencies fighting the government. This same dynamic has occurred at the local level. For external donors providing support to the security sector. peace talks designed to bring together the TFG and other regional or armed groups in an alliance or powersharing accord will be seen by third parties – shabaab and potentially others – as a coalition at their expense. when external mediators and facilitators have innocently sought to broker a peace between two warring clans only to have a third clan view it as an emerging coalition at their expense. peace-building efforts in Somalia have occasionally been the source of armed conflict. The unsatisfying answer is “it depends. Can sub-state and non-state actors which help to provide peace at the local level be tapped as partners by external actors also seeking to promote peace? This has long been a pre-occupation of advocates of “grass-roots” peacebuilding. and a third party feels threatened or marginalized as a result. But it has risks as well. 1 (1996). 42-67. peace-building that seeks to reach out to “moderate elements” of the armed opposition will almost certainly elicit violent response from hardliners who understand that it is an attempt to divide and weaken them. especially in a context of prolonged frustration with efforts to build peace and a functional central government at the national level. in that it reinforced in many Somalis a fear of state revival. In the current situation. International Peacebuilding and the Dynamics of Local and National Reconciliation in Somalia. unavoidably involves donor states in the armed conflict. peacebuilding efforts are at greater risk of triggering armed conflict.
UNOSOM II. and play into the hands of insurgents for purposes of fund-raising and recruiting. Careful. an intervention intended to rid Somalia of what it concluded was a dangerous Islamist threat instead accelerated the rise of a far more radical. Attacks on Somali insurgents – even when fully justified or in self-defense – have triggered angry backlashes among Somalis. In three of these five interventions. use of armed force against Somali insurgents actually produced the opposite result intended. Not surprisingly. For Ethiopia. and aid to and recognition of sources of rule of law and security can inadvertently create a problem of “moral hazard. protection of humanitarian aid. . In addition. and the fact their armed response has not produced a quick victory despite their overwhelming military superiority is a reminder of the limits of power in a context like Somalia.” by rewarding groups whose primary raison d’etre is dependent on continued state collapse. the peace missions have meant to serve the Somali people as well as broader international interests. it will be the first to do so. and UN peace operations set back badly in Mogadishu. UNITAF. and AMISOM. but it is another cautionary note. international support and partnership from the UN and the West can place these local partners in harms’ way if seen by shabaab as tools of outside enemies. al-Qa’ida affiliated jihadi group. In all instances. In the other two cases. a favorite tactic of Somali insurgent fighting foreign forces has been to fire from densely populated neighborhoods. international forces have been drawn into heavy armed clashes with a local armed group. Civilian casualties resulting from peacekeepers’ armed responses to attack produce even greater outrage.36 resources and agendas. Armed conflict and peace operations. and promotion of broader stabilization and state-building initiatives. UN and African Union peace operations have been deployed to Somalia for a variety of reasons – for protection of a transitional government. That is not necessarily a reason to forego the use of war as a tool of statecraft in Somalia. International peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations have been deployed four times to Somalia since 1991 – UNOSOM I. If AMISOM succeeds in employing armed force against Somali insurgents to accomplish its mission. Perhaps no other external intervention in Somali is as prone to unintended consequences as the recourse to military hostilities. The fact that they have nonetheless consistently generated armed resistance from some Somali quarters is sobering. its aspirations of demonstrating the viability of a more “muscular” UN peace enforcement capacity was shattered. Recourse to military response in Somalia by international actors most often runs into problems because of the powerfully negative reaction Somalis have to seeing foreigners attack fellow Somalis on their soil. For UNOSOM II. Ethiopian forces intervened in Somalia in 2007 and 2008 and sought to stabilize the capital and protect the TFG. surgical support to local groups through international partner with deep knowledge of local context is essential.
this often means an implicit apportioning of resources – including contracts and jobs -. and that only outside forces can achieve it. but has tended to be drawn into the very armed hostilities it is meant to prevent. international peacekeeping has not kept the peace in Somalia. UNITAF and much of UNOSOM II.37 Peacekeeping forces brought in to Somalia as a neutral or impartial force – such as UNITAF and UNOSOM II – have found it very difficult to maintain neutrality in a context where every decision they make benefits some and harms the interests and power base of others. the peacekeepers are in no way able to maintain neutrality. based on careful calculations to ensure all local parties are satisfied with the allocation of resources. and in the process helps to build peace constituencies. contractors. as well as significant flows of development assistance (since 1990.along clan lines to keep the peace. not war. It promotes development. creates jobs. amounting to thousands of “transactions” between any one of hundreds of international aid agencies and thousands of local NGOs. provides new opportunities for functional cooperation across old conflict lines. This is a controversial “conflict prevention” practice. The vast majority of these aid flows are routinized transactions between international and local actors with established relations. which is seen as focusing exclusively on life-saving . Somalia has been the recipient of enormous quantities of humanitarian aid since the late 1970s. some Somalis find it offensive and claim it reinforces clan divisions that need to be transcended. were very effective in halting a devastating civil war and bringing stability to most of the Somali countryside. for all of the reasons that are well-known to us. and local or national administrations. The general consensus in the development community is that development aid should be and usually is a contributor to peace. international peacekeeping forces have some record of success in maintaining peace and order in areas they patrol. These accomplishments are often forgotten because of the armed clashes peace operations have been bogged down in in the capital Mogadishu. for instance. Where peacekeepers are brought in to protect a transitional government that is at war with rejectionists. armed conflict is not understood as a problem to avoid but as part of the solution. In practice. In general. This is justifiable if the international community concurs that a military solution to the Somali crisis is required. These aid flows are highly compartmentalized. mainly to more stable region of the northeast and northwest). It can also build up the capacity of local and national governments to maintain rule of law (This logic is less embraced with regard to humanitarian aid. In that instance. however. and are seen locally as active parties to the war. Despite these problems. Armed conflict and development/humanitarian aid.
28 One of the clear lessons of development and humanitarian aid in Somalia over the past twenty years is that regardless of whether the provider of the assistance is exceptionally careful or exceptionally careless in aid allocation – and the country has had ample experience with both – delivery of aid is always a potential flashpoint for armed conflict. clans in the southern Somali town of Saakow went to war.” Disasters vol. employment. 34. can trigger armed clashes. but it is also the case that under some conditions development and humanitarian aid have inadvertently served as triggers of armed conflict. implemented in close partnership with local authorities and with close knowledge of local context. This claim is difficult to prove. remittances. and destroyed much of the town. It is worth adding that those same Somali circles understand that this analysis also extends to international actors benefiting from ongoing humanitarian operations in Somalia. or rent. 3 (October 2010). supplement no. ransoms -has the potential to help finance and perpetuate war. . routinized humanitarian and development projects. This line of 28 Ken Menkhaus. 320-41. In many locations in Somalia. and many instances of communal violence over the years can be traced back to a dispute over allocation of projects. even if that is not the intent of the provider. international aid agencies have constituted the largest employer in the town or village. contracts. of humanitarian crisis. In some parts of Somalia. A second link between armed conflict and development and humanitarian aid is the possibility that aid resources help to underwrite belligerent groups. local contractors have been accused of doubling as some of the most powerful militia backers.38 measures). But even well-established. and in a context of great poverty every dollar spent is a matter of contestation that can easily turn violent. who divert aid resources in order to purchase weapons and ammunition and pay fighters. In one instance in 1999. As discussed in an earlier section of this paper. “Stabilisation and Humanitarian Access in a Collapsed State: The Somali Case. Finally. especially if a local spoiler is actively looking to exploit tensions. over a dispute over who secured the contract to change money for the international NGO that had successfully and carefully operated there for decades. but is widely believed in Somali circles. Short-term or one-off humanitarian aid is more likely to set off armed conflict because it typically lacks a routinized history of allocation that reassures local populations they will get “their turn. any introduction of resources into Somalia – food relief. It is by no means an exclusive problem for development and humanitarian agencies. not the resolution. that food aid ended up attracting armed militia from across the region and produced violence which worsened displacement and famine. pp. salaries. the rise of what “routinized humanitarian emergencies” in Somalia has in some locations created a political economy of aid delivery in which powerful local players – mainly contractors – come to have a vested interest in the perpetuation. This claim is generally true. and of instigating local conflicts to produce displacement and hence the need for more aid flows.” Perhaps the single most vivid example of this was the dumping of food aid at Bardhere in September and October 1992 during the US “Operation Provide Relief” airlift.
All of these dynamics can contribute to the perpetuation of armed conflict and insurgency rather than resolving it. These local allies have been indispensable in the absence of an effective and coherent central government security sector. Those actors develop a vested interest in undermining state-building. that threatens the security of neighboring states and the wider international community. counter-terrorism partnerships with armed non-state actors comes at a cost. terrorism. Armed conflict and international private sector activities and investment. the home-grown jihadist group Shabaab. the results have been a major trigger of. but not resolving. and a third category – Somali diaspora members who have been recruited into or who support financially Shabaab. And. It is intended to ultimately reduce the threat of a particular type of armed violence. Armed conflict and counter-terrorism. but in the few instances it has. Puntland. Somalia has not been a major site of foreign investment and activities. they can at times engage in predatory behavior against local populations that drives them to support the insurgents. Illegal international fishing off of the coast of Somalia was initially responsible for the rise of piracy which has since taken on a life of its own.39 reasoning can quickly degenerate into a conspiracy theory. and the TFG (with further disputes within these governments) – over who has the right to extend concessions to foreign . focusing on al Qa’ida operatives in Somalia. armed violence. but the general premise – that external flows of development and humanitarian resources into Somalia can quickly create interest groups with incentives to perpetuate the conditions prompting the assistance – is unassailable. This same logic can extend to counter-terrorism and anti-piracy assistance. para-military groups loosely affiliated with existing state authorities in Somalia. wherein local leaders have a strong vested interest in addressing. This problem of “blowback” in counter-terrorism operations in Somalia was most in evidence during 2007-08. or source of financial backing for. but remains a concern today. Somalia has since 2005 been a major site of US-led counter-terrorism efforts. As in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Counter-terrorism has involved a wide range of policies. a crisis which attracts foreign assistance. since their value to the external actor hinges on the continued ineffectiveness of government security forces. International energy companies have sought to secure concessions to explore and exploit oil and natural gas in contested areas of the country. This particular form of external intervention in Somalia has involved significant flows of support to armed non-state actors and to autonomous. in the process creating tensions between competing government authorities – Somaliland. including waging war against local rivals or engaging in war economy profiteering. International fishing interests have also been a lucrative source of funds for militia leaders demanding “licenses” for the right to fish off the Somali coast. These local partners can and do appropriate the war on terror to secure aid which they use for more parochial agendas. from “hearts and minds” campaigns to financial sanctions to use of lethal force. because these local partners answer to no one.
This is likely to grow as a source of conflict because the financial stakes are potentially so high and the issues at stake – control over local energy resources – so unresolved in Somalia.40 companies. .
will exact tribute. “moral hazard” – acts which are intended to address a problem but which inadvertently reinforce and reward the very behavior which caused the problem – is real in Somalia and can perpetuate conflict. Naturally. requires a degree of care and surgical support that some external aid agencies have difficulty achieving. development aid.41 Section III. especially when in involves powerful elites and cartels with a vested interest in perpetuating armed conflict and instability. and humanitarian assistance be effectively conflict sensitive? This is an especially thorny question in a location as high risk as Somalia. “conflict sensitivity” as an objective will come across as disingenuous to Somali observers. Taken collectively (direct military presence. where failure rates of external interventions and aid of all sorts have been high. they must clearly assent to taking on the risk. support to other armed groups). be it shabaab or a clan militia. How then can diplomacy. were it not for the determined efforts of local community leaders to manage disputes and devise informal systems of governance and security. to non-violent strategies to stabilize Somalia. The international community today embraces a policy in Somalia in which use of lethal force is a central pillar in combatting shabaab. Diplomatic. one way or • • • . external actors are attracted to support this local resiliency and peace-building capacity. Quests to completely eliminate the diversion of development and humanitarian aid to local armed groups are laudable but untenable and unrealistic at this time. development. Put another way. for as bad as the situation has been in Somalia. support to TFG security sectors. not the exception. it could have been much worse. The political economy of aid diversion is entrenched in southern Somalia. however. and humanitarian support must assess critically the possibility it is rewarding bad behavior. International diplomats need to clearly articulate to the Somali people the justification of this policy and the vision for transitioning. Otherwise. Doing so. Assessment and Policy Implications Though Somalia has been and remains the site of chronic and varied levels of armed conflict for twenty years. especially when forced to operate from remote in Nairobi Kenya. stabilization. but this places a powerful burden on external actors to maximize the extent to which their intervention is not likely to enflame conflicts. If local partners are at risk. Somalia is not an environment where a “do no harm” approach is feasible. and where the law of unintended consequences is the norm. as rapidly as possible. What follows are a few suggestions based on the above analysis: • High risk external interventions (of any sort) in Somalia must clearly lay out in advance who shoulders the costs of failure. this constitutes one of the more militarized international policies of any country in Africa. Whatever armed group controls a piece of territory. it also hosts a remarkable proliferation of informal systems of conflict management and mitigation.
42 • • • another. especially where extensive levels of foreign aid can be captured by the victor. It has been crafted via partnerships between coalitions of civic and social authorities (clan elders. Once public trust grows that funds are not systematically diverted. In both of those areas. State-building at any level – from the TFG to local administrations – runs a high risk of triggering conflict. . women’s market groups. This is a terrible calculation that relief and development agencies are often loathe to consider. fewer conflicts over the state are likely to occur. not as edicts. nongovernmental organizations. and produces an organic and effective set of systems of community policing that are unquestionable the most powerful source of peace and security in the Eastern Horn of Africa. religious leaders. and which views civic engagement in conflict mitigation and governance as an opportunity. That is a recipe for armed conflict and spoilers. The more useful question is to determine at what point this diversion becomes unjustifiable – at what point it underwrites an armed group that is the source of insecurity in an area. Instead. The single most important conflict-sensitivity lesson from Somali-inhabited regions of the Horn of Africa actually emanate from Somaliland and northeastern Kenya. This can include desirable regulation. despite daunting obstacles. State-building should under no circumstances encourage governments to lay claim to resources or activities which threaten powerful local actors. local and national governments should be strongly encouraged to conceive of their job as that of an enabler or the private sector. but which is essential in today’s Somalia. a high and durable level of peace has been forged. are essential components of conflict sensitive state-building in Somalia. over aid and other external activities in its areas of control. and others. business leaders) and a local government authority that is “willing but not able” to govern. Modest and carefully targeted aid to local or national authorities. That in turn makes local communities active stakeholders in their own governance and security. not a threat. with a high emphasis on accountability and transparency. but in full consultation with affected parties.
October 2011 In the seven months since this paper was drafted in February 2011. . The tactic was born of weakness – shabaab was losing battles with AMISOM forces – but sought to expose the TFG’s inability to hold the newly liberated territory and to overstretch AMISOM forces. Some. others feared it was a trap. and the international community by surprise. pushing the group back in parts of the capita. As part of the deal. Among the most important events in Somalia from March-October 2011 that have an impact on conflict trends include the following: • Increase in AMISOM deployment. were anticipated in the initial analysis. Many reflect mounting use of or preparation for armed conflict. and a portion of the cabinet is replaced. • Death of **** Fazul. Some in the international community viewed the withdrawal as a victory over shabaab. reflecting a power struggle between Somali and non-Somali shabaab leaders and possibly even a power struggle within al Qaeda itself. imposing significant losses on the insurgency. constitute “wild cards” that were not foreseen. died in May *** in a firefight when he mistakenly drove into a TFG checkpoint. Prime Minister Formaggio sets down and is replaced by *** Abdiweli. • Shabaab withdrawal from most of Mogadishu. Neighborhoods vacated by shabaab mainly fell under the control of local clan militias as the TFG struggled to extend direct authority there. planned withdrawal from most of the areas of Mogadishu under its control. A top foreign al Qaeda advisor in shabaab. and prompting a shift in tactics by shabaab. while others. shabaab embarked on an orderly. like the worsening drought. • Resurgence of clan militias. raising concerns about a revival of warlordism. dramatic changes have occurred in the Somali political landscape. their impact on Somali conflict dynamics. the TFG. • Kampala Accord. their implications for conflict sensitive programming in the country. Shabaab leaders vowed to move into a new phase of insurgency emphasizing urban ambushes and terrorist attacks against the TFG and AMISOM. ***** Fazul. A power struggle between TFG President Sheikh Sharif and Speaker of Parliament Sharif Hassan over the dispensation of the transitional government after the August end of the transitional mandate is averted when Uganda brokers an accord that results in a one year extension of the mandate and the formation of a new government. The move took AMISOM. successes against shabaab. Reinforced AMISOM forces enjoyed growing success in battles with shabaab in the spring of 2011.43 Appendix: Conflict assessment update. In June. Rumors circulated that he was set up by Somali shabaab leader Godane. This appendix provides a brief update of the main events that have transpired since February. like shabaab’s withdrawal from Mogadishu.
blocking famine victims from fleeing to Mogadishu or Kenya. Shabaab’s gross mishandling of the famine further alienated most Somalis. Famine relief flowing into Mogadishu. Shabaab forced recruitment and other policies. mainly from disease spread by the dheere season rains among badly malnourished populations. is drawn uop and agreed upon by the UN donors. reached a tipping point in summer 2011.000. A plan to complete the transition in one year. chronic insecurity. where 200.000 of the famine victims were located. producing famine conditions in which 750. a truck bomb that exploded in front of a TFG building that killed *** people. By September 2011. Its mishandling of the famine and refugee crisis was by far its worst error.500 Somalis per day into the overcrowded refugee camps at Dadaab. Shabaab launched its most deadly terrorist attack to date. late July. Even so. TFG and militia clashes over famine relief in Mogadishu. mainly students lining up for information on scholarships to Turkey.2 million Somalis under an agreement with shabaab. Five hundred thousand of the 750. and forcibly disbursing families back to their farms to prepare the land for planting in October. became the target of intense and occasionally lethal armed struggles between rival politicians. alienating it still further from the Somali public. the total number of Somali refugees in neighboring countries exceeded 770. and the TFG. high numbers of famine-related deaths were predicted for the last months of 2011. Shabaab famine policy. TFG security forces. difficulties of “scaling up” relief operations at short notice. Road map. The worsening humanitarian crisis forecast in late 2010. mainly Islamic NGOs -. The flow of refugees from famine zones into Kenya and Ethiopia jumps dramatically in 2011. at one point reaching 1. It also embarked on heavy taxation of farmers and forced conscription in parts of southern Somalia.000 famine victims live in areas controlled by shabaab. Challenges of humanitarian response – problems of access. Kenya. insisting on control over distribution of aid in cases where food relief was permitted. but shabaab leadership made a series of other missteps in 2011. The suicide . while about 1. exacerbated by the worst drought in decades. hoping to reach 1. denying the scope of the crisis. Shabaab leaders took extremist and seemingly counterproductive positions on the famine. inability to monitor distribution. and caused serious rifts within the movement.000 Somalis were at immediate risk of famine and 4 million in need of emergency relief. and inexperience of the wave of new. with specific benchmarks for the TFG to meet. blocking food aid from most international relief agencies.000 new refugees – mainly badly malnourished women and children – continued to arrive in Kenya each day. ICRC shouldered most of the burden of large scale food aid distribution. but – as of mid-October – no defections. Shabaab terrorist bombing.44 • • • • • • • Declaration of famine. Aid agencies expressed deep frustration that access and monitoring of food relief remained so difficult even in areas of TFG control.became a major international pre-occupation. and autonomous clan militia all vying to control and divert the food aid. restrictions imposed by counter-terrorism laws. Refugee crisis. On October **.
combined with changes in shabaab behavior – most notably a growing preoccupation with predatory taxation of locals and the use of kidnapping (discussed below) raised concerns about the possibility of “Islamo-warlordism” emerging in Somalia. At the same time it serves as a reminder that shabaab is still able to operate easily behind TFG and AMISOM security perimeters. Increased drone strikes. The attack prompts outrage from Somalis. This reinforces concerns over command and control in these groups and their viability as anti-shabaab militaries in the event of an offensive. Tensions within shabaab that could produce splinter groups.45 • • • • • bomber’s video-taped message specifically refers to targeting of the students. Kidnappings across Kenya border Kenya military offensive Assessment: fragmentation Possibility of Islamo-warlordism. Brief clashes break out between and within the Kenyan-backed Somali militias of Ras Kamboni and the Isiolo militia (see above for description of the armed groups). and represents what appears to be yet another serious miscalculation by shabaab. An increase in drone strikes against shabaab targets in the Kismayo and the Jubba areas is reported in September and October. condemning them for seeking education that will distract them from their religion. Tensions and clashes between militias backed by Kenya. Build up and advance of Ethiopian backed militias in Gedo region. • • .