Current political overview
The localisation of Somali politics
The distinctive feature of post-intervention Somalia is the dissolution of the state into a number of disparate regional components. Rather than a descent into the violence of the 1991-2 period, there was a gradual stabilisation of social forces after 1995 as new political parameters began to emerge. A renewal in economic activity from remittances, telecommunications, and livestock export encouraged the formation of regional administrations, particularly in the north-west. Somali warlords who had depended upon the spoils of foreign aid now looked to business enterprises to secure power and influence. With the weakening of the position of the warlords, new forms of 'pirate entrepreneurs' or local clan-based 'Mafiosi' emerged, spawned by the growth in trade and the lack of incentive to re-form a centralised state. As a result, the different regions within Somalia vary in relation to their political and economic stability and their potential for producing forced migration streams. Further fighting is inevitable but is unlikely to occur on the same scale and intensity as in the 1991-2 period. Southern Benadir, Gedo, and Kismayo appear particularly unstable and are likely to produce medium-scale refugee flows into the near future.
- Menkhaus, K., and Prenderhast, J. 'Political Economy of Post-Intervention Somalia' http://asylumlaw.org/countries/index.cfm?fuseaction=showDocuments&countryID=207&offset=21
The region of the former British colony of Somaliland proclaimed independence in May 1991. Predominantly Isaq, the region has a distinctive history and ethnic coherence, which eased its separation from what remained of the Somali state. The early years of independence were plagued by internal conflicts. These were offset by improved livestock exports from 1993 onwards. Renewed fighting occurred in October 1994 between President Egal of Somaliland and Eidagalley militia who were occupying the Hargeisa airport. This sparked off a full-scale war, and the flight of thousands of refugees from the city, until December of that year. By March the war had spread to Burao. More than a year of fighting had pushed 90,000 refugees into camps in neighbouring Ethiopia and uprooted 200,000 within Somaliland. By the middle of 1995 refugees were gradually beginning to return to Hargeisa, and economic activity had also approached near-normal levels. Throughout 1996-7 peace was again gradually restored to Somaliland. A referendum held in 2001 overwhelmingly voted for the continued secession of Somaliland and for a new constitution.
Somaliland's estimated population of 3.5 million is formally independent from the conflict that continues to plague the central and southern regions of the country. The lack of international recognition prevents Somaliland from receiving multilateral financial assistance and entering into bilateral trade agreements with foreign governments. As a result Somaliland is currently unable to repatriate refugees successfully. The Saudi ban on livestock exports from Somaliland in September 2000 (allegedly due to the spread of 'Rift Valley fever') has also had a serious impact upon the economy.
Another example of state-building 'from below' can be found in the case of Puntland in the north-east. Following the name given to the Somali coast by sailors from ancient Egypt, the land of 'punt' consists of the former provinces of Mudug, Nugaal, and Bari. It is ethnically homogenous and is nearly totally populated by the Majerteen, the dominant Darod sub-clan. Since 1991 it has largely been at peace under the control of the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF). Livestock is the main economic asset in the region. Garowe is the capital, and it has thrived economically since the fall of Barre.
In July 1998 a community conference of the three regions of north-east Somalia declared the formation of a Puntland state as a sub-unit of a future federated Somalia. Unlike Somaliland, it is not a fully independent state. It is also based upon clan boundaries rather than the former colonial boundary, which has been adopted by Somaliland. A form of democratic authority based upon the SSDF and 'traditional administration' has evolved in Puntland. Local committees of elders have been able to maintain and exercise control. Until recently Puntland has avoided the type of clan conflict which has affected all the other regions of former Somalia. Hostilities broke out in 2001 between the SSDF leader Abdillahi Yusuf and his presidential rival, Jama Ali Jama, disturbing what had been a peaceful transition to state-building in Puntland. Peace talks between the different factions were being held in Nairobi in May 2003.
- All Puntland (Somali-language site) http://allpuntland.com
The central and southern regions
In contrast to the relative stability and coherence of Somaliland and Puntland, the central and southern regions of Somalia present a highly fluid and unstable mixture of elements. Mogadishu is divided between different clan factions of the Hawiye United Somali Congress (USC), notably Hussein Aideed's Somali National Alliance (SNA) and Ali Mahdi's Somali Salvation Alliance (SSA). In the wake of Barre's departure in 1991, General Mohamed Farah Aideed (Hussein Aideed's father) took control of the south of the city, Ali Mahdi the north. Fighting between these rival factions has been a consistent factor from that time onwards. Ali Mahdi introduced Islamic courts in northern Mogadishu in 1994, a practice which later spread to southern Mogadishu. A Joint Peace Committee has developed to oversee the administration of business in the city (particularly relating to control of the airport and seaport). It later expanded to form the Benadir Authority. This is part of the broader process of establishing formal structures for evolving commercial and militia interests in Mogadishu.
From the advent of the TNG in 2000, a complex series of alliances have emerged between the Islamic courts, merchants, and the TNG administration, which are opposed to the warlord factions dominating Mogadishu. The security situation in Mogadishu, with its high levels of banditry and extortion, is continuing to pose difficulties for the delivery of humanitarian aid.
The inter-riverine region is one of the most unstable areas in Somalia. The area is populated by the Digil and Rahanweyn clans, who were worst affected by the conflicts in the 1991-2 period. Following the examples of Somaliland and Puntland, in March 2002 the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA) formed a new administration. Known as the State of Southwestern Somalia, this regional authority is located in the Bay and Bakool regions of the country. During 2002, fighting between different factions of the RRA engulfed Baidoa, the capital of the Bay region.
The far south covers all of Gedo and most of the Lower Juba region and is largely under the control of the Marehan Somali National Front (SNF). The south remains one of the least developed areas and the one most prone to clan and inter-clan conflict.
The Transitional National Government (TNG)
Following a number of failed peace conferences, in 1998-9 the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and Djibouti proposed a Somali National Peace Committee (SNPC) to be based on representatives from Somali civil society. The SNPC opened at Arta, Djibouti in May 2000. In the event, the key Mogadishu warlords and the Puntland and Somaliland administrations were excluded from the proceedings. The Transitional National Government (TNG) that came out of the Arta conference was formed in October 2000 with a three-year mandate. A 245-member Transitional National Assembly was elected, which included representatives of minority and women's groups. Abdiqassim Salad Hassan was appointed as interim president. An ex-Barre minister and a member of the Habr Gedir, on the surface he was well placed to mediate the Habr Gedir-dominated politics of Mogadishu ( see Section 5.1.2 ). The presence of ex-Barre ministers in the TNG provoked opposition from a variety of groups. The main factions ranged against the TNG include Hussein Aideed's Somali National Alliance (SNA) and the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA). This coalition of interests is loosely organised (with Ethiopian backing) as the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC). The lack of legitimacy of the TGN is evident in its weak territorial control of Mogadishu and the southern and inter-riverine areas. According to Le Sage ( 2002 ), a tight-knit nexus of clan-based, business, and clerical interests forms the core of support for the TGN.
In October 2002 the Somali national reconciliation process began with the convening of the Eldoret Conference in Kenya. The TNG, 350 Somali leaders, and representatives of civil society were invited to attend. The first phase of the conference on 27 October 2002 concluded with the signing of the Eldoret Declaration. This endorsed the principle of decentralisation for Somalia, a cease-fire, and guarantees for the security of humanitarian and development personnel. Since that time ceasefire violations have been commonplace. The second phase of the conference has been completed with the drafting of papers on different aspects of reconciliation and state-building. The third and final phase, the formation of a new Somali government, was due to occur some time after May 2003.
- Menkhaus, K. 'Somalia: a situation analysis', Writenet Paper No. 07/2000 http://wwww.reliefweb.int/w/rwb.nsf/s/B320C6BD7FADA7DE852569FA00515929
- Lewis, I. M., 'Mohamad Siad Barre's Ghost in Somalia', April 2002 http://www.waltainfo.com/conflict/articles/2002/april/article8.htm
- International Crisis Group, 'Negotiating a Blueprint for Peace in Somalia,' African Report No. 59 http://www.crisisweb.org/projects/africa/somalia/reports/A400911_06032003.pdf
Somalia and the international community
The degree of internal support for the TNG is clearly limited. Yet the international community remains committed to the resurrection of a centralised, unitary state in Somalia. The history of UN interventions suggests that they have added to existing tensions as clan groupings have competed for aid and revenue from international organisations. After over a decade of 'statelessness' in Somalia, the TNG now occupies seats at the UN, the Organisation of African Unity, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the League of Arab states ( Le Sage 2002 ). Material support from the international community for the TNG has been less extensive. The TNG has not benefited from bilateral recognition or from the receipt of substantial amounts of international assistance. Ethiopian backing for the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC) also continues to destabilise the TNG. On the geopolitical level, the US 'war against terrorism' has fuelled suspicion of Somalia's links to international Islamic organisations.
In Somalia, the restoration of a centralised state based upon 'top-down' political structures is the preferred option for the international community. In terms of alternative scenarios for reconstruction in Somalia, a 'building-block' approach has already developed in particular regions. Puntland, for example, represents a federalist option, and Somaliland a separatist path, for future Somali development ( Spears 2003 ). Both regional administrations share a democratic, 'grass-roots' approach to the devolution of power, combining traditional shir (customary law based upon meetings of the clan elders) with contemporary constitutional models ( Bryden 1999 ). In practice, the UN has cautiously welcomed many of these local, 'bottom-up' developments. Which model will prevail in Somalia, centralised state or a diversity of federal administrations, is as yet uncertain.
In the absence of a centralised state in Somalia there is no functioning national constitution. The self-declared Republic of Somaliland adopted its own constitution in 1997. This was ratified by the constitutional referendum, which was held in May 2001. Somaliland's government includes a parliament, a functioning civil court system, executive departments organised as ministries, six regional governors, and municipal authorities in major towns. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, although there are indications that this does not apply in practice.
Puntland and the TNG both have working 'charters'. The charter of the TNG allows for freedom of expression and association, and for the separation of executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of government. The TNG charter prohibits torture and the Puntland charter prohibits torture except in those cases that are overridden by Islamic law. The TNG charter allows for freedom of speech and the press, rights that are also acknowledged in the case of Puntland and Somaliland. Again, the practical application falls far short, with several cases of the arrest of journalists by the TNG, and other violations of human rights.
As there is no national judicial system, many regions rely either on local clan-based courts, Islamic Shari'a courts, or the Penal Code of the pre-1991 Barre Government.
- US Department of State Bureau of Democracy, 'Somalia: Country Report on Human Rights Practices', March 2002 http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/af/8403.htm
- Amnesty International, Somalia Report 2003 http://web.amnesty.org/report2003/som-summary-eng
- Human Rights Internet, international treaties Somalia has signed http://www.hri.ca/fortherecord2002/vol2/somalia.htm