Somalia is a country that has been facing internal conflict since the ouster of President Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991. Different forces have waged war over the established regimes that followed the removal of Barre from power. Efforts have been made within the international community, including that by the United Nations, to bring sanity in the country. However, the forces and factors that interact to perpetuate the civil war in Somalia are simply multifaceted ranging from political interest within Somalia to culture and tradition that requires an elusive common ground to bring peace in the country. Several attempts have failed, with insurgent organizations such as the Al Shabaab claiming the establishment of Sharia law in a country that is entirely Muslim. The lack of common ground and the conflict in cultural and political interests thus continues to fuel the conflict in Somalia. This paper explores Somalia in detail with the objective of identifying the key factors contributing to its current state of crisis.
Many countries around the world faced crisis soon after they became independent from their colonial masters. It was an inevitable stage of nationalization as political leaders in those countries fought to control the public resources that colonial masters had left. Democracy was a new concept to many of the people in those countries and majority believed that iron fist could be used to bring the opponent to submission. Nevertheless, as democracy took roots, a number of them have embraced public participation in the election of their leaders. However, Movement for an Independent Somaliland report (2010) indicates that Somalia has remained in a state of crisis for more than two decades now, and things are not looking better even after the numerous international interventions to bring back the Somalia nationhood after the ouster of her president in 1991. This paper explores the current crisis in Somalia and uses the social and cultural responses to problems in this address.
The Status of Somalia
Somalia lacks several industries that can boost its economy. Most parts of Somalia are arid and semi arid lands that cannot sustain agriculture. Thus, many people in the country survive on fishing on its vast coastal line. However, fishing as an economic activity was greatly affected by the pirates who operated on the Somali coasts and hijacked the ships from Europe and other parts of the world. Characteristically, the Somalia economy was greatly boosted by money from the pirates, which they got as ransoms from ship owners. Concerted efforts from the European countries and the intervention of Kenya Army under the Amison umbrella has managed to cut down on the pirate’s money that was being injected into Somalia economy through the capture of the Kismayu areas (United Nation Statistics Division report, 2012).
For two decades, Somalia has been an embodiment of a neglected nation. It has moved from tragedy to tragedy during the last 21 years, since clan militias in a bloody coup overthrew the central government and afterwards turned on one another in the scramble for control of the country’s resources. According to United Nation Statistics Division report (2012), Somalia is considered to be among the top most violent, filled with fighting militias, warlords, pirates and bandits,. The situation was made worse in 2006 when the country was faced with an insurgent conflicts led by Al Shabaab. They are among the most terrifying militant Islamist groups along the UNITA group in Angola. As such, parts of southern Somalia are under the control of Al Shabaab, who recently announced their affiliation to the international terror group Al Qaeda.
Somalia’s status is, thus, a result of a long civil war that has been ongoing since 1991. United Nation Statistics Division report (2012) further indicates that the countries social and cultural development remains behind when compared to other countries that were at par in 1991. The report indicates that population growth rate has remained at 2.7% on average annually. Thus, even as the country remains in limbo over its statehood, the rate of growth in population is steady. This is the fact despite the lack of proper and defined health system in place. Most of the health services are provided by the international humanitarian organizations working under the United Nations even though they are subjected to regular attacks from the insurgents within Somalia.
The social and cultural factors play a significant role in the perpetuation of the crisis in Somalia. Religiously, Somalia is mostly a Muslim country with over 90% of its citizens professing the Muslim faith. The diehard Muslims such as the Al Shabaab who are fighting to establish the Sharia law as the supreme law in Somalia has used this factor. As such, the Somalia as a nation is a crossroad to choose between the Muslim fundamentalists who claim to be fighting a Jihad war for the protection of the interests of the Muslim brothers or Christianity which is professed by a few. Ironically, these insurgents have been fighting and killing their fellow Muslims in the name of protecting the rights of the Muslim nation.
Somalia is arguably a country deprived of human resource, as most of its people have been rendered refugees and they are scattered across the world. Somalis who have run away from their country because of the war under all inhabit the international refugee camps maintained by the United Nations. Similarly, women representation in parliaments and other leadership roles remains low, especially with the Muslim practices that do not recognize the capability of women to lead. Education wise, the primary-secondary gross enrolment ratio (f/m per 100) in 2005-2010 15.0/28.0 according to UNESCO estimates, indicate a big disparity on how boy-girl preference plays a crucial role in education availability in Somalia.
History of Somalia’s Contact with Europeans: Colonialism and Independence
According to Schoiswohl (2004), Somalia’s dynasty regimes created a complex form of leadership that plays out in the modern crisis. Under the protection of Italy and later Britain, Somalia became a battleground for various dynasties that were in existence before colonialism. For instance, on the military front, on 26 December 1925 Italian troops defeated the El Buur dynasty compelling the Omar Samatar forces to retreat to Western Somaliland. One major aim of these attacks by the British and Italian forces was to concentrate on more stablished dynasties such as Majeerteen.
Somalia interacted with the European nations on another scale during the World War II where Italy under Mussolini controlled a larger part of what is now Somalia. Schoiswohl (2004) observes that the number of Italians that were living in Somalia around 1940 were far much more than any other country in the region. This large number of the Europeans made the country to be among the most developed in terms of infrastructure. Most colonists and Somalis were living mainly in urban areas, with more than 10,000 Italians living in Mogadishu. During this period, the country flourished in agriculture and manufacturing with industries like sugar mills operating in many parts of Villagio.
Movement for an Independent Somaliland report (2010) indicates that the political interplay of Somalia, as British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland, necessitated the creation of different classes among the Somalis themselves as Italian Somaliland provided opportunities for its people to access education and governance skills; an advantage that the British Somaliland did not have. Unification of British Somaliland with Trust Territory of Somalia, under the control of Italy created what came to be known as the Somali Republic. However, the British continued to control Somalia towards independence in 1960, creating a crisis since one section of the country was educated, while the other one was not. The assassination of the first president gave an opportunity to Somali army under the command of Mohammed Said Bare to capture power through a bloodless coup. Nevertheless, this was the beginning of Somalia’s woes as war after war followed as tribal militias fought to control the country.
Globalization and Sustainability Issues in Somalia
Sparre (2011) argues that Somalia is under pressure to implement peace strategies by the international community. With increasing globalization, the international community feels that Somalia poses a threat to the international peace that the world so much needs. The situation was exacerbated by the announcement of the insurgent group about their affiliation to the international terror group Al Qaeda. This led to the deployment of the international forces led by the African Union to drive the insurgents from the Somalia capital Mogadishu.
Sparre (2011) further notes that Somalia is also a country that is entangled in cultural practices that are drawn alongside the teachings of Islam. For instance, he observes that women are looked down upon as inferior in the society and this has affected the level of education in the country. As such, the international community endeavors to change the perception of women and tries to agitate for equal opportunities in education, leadership, and family issues. Nevertheless, the insurgents, who are fundamental Muslims, consider this as an external intrusion that is meant at curtailing their stronghold on traditions. In this regard, they perpetuate terrorism activities in the name of protecting the rights of all Somalis even though not all subscribe to their views.
Similarly, the global wave of democracy is mostly seen as a Western way of enforcing neocolonialism on the Somali people. The insurgents and tribal militias think that democracy can only be brought about through what they term as holy war. They thus maim and kill in trying to instill fear amongst the people who want to embrace democracy. Through this tactics, the crisis continues without abate as each tribe claims a legitimate position as those who should govern the country
Somalia’s Situation Compared to Sierra Leone and Kiribati
Somalia’s crisis compares with Sierra Leone in many aspects. For instance, the war is between the tribes that were once living together peacefully before interacting with the European world who subsequently introduced new forms of leadership. Similarly, social and cultural perceptions continue to shape the civil crisis in Somalia just like in Sierra Leone where each tribe considers themselves superior to all others and therefore they should fight until they win over their neighbors. Similarly, the Somali crisis has continues to attract the attention of international community because of the security risks that the situation poses to the countries around the region and the world over. As such, it is agreed that Somalia’s situation could easily become more volatile with the emergence of groups such as the Al Shabaab that openly agitate the Islamization of Somalia through Sharia law and a continued oppression of women and girls. Additionally, the international community is very much concerned with the rising of new terror forms like pirates which interrupt international business through hijacking of ships that are en route to other countries while carrying goods to those places.
Somalia faces a delicate situation that runs between religious interests and political control. In the event that the country finds a common ground on issues that cause its conflicts, the country will be able to rise above its challenges and establish a strong nation. When the situation becomes worse, women and children suffer because they cannot access proper medical care, since there are no hospitals. Nevertheless, this is a long order especially as Somalis continue to scatter around the world as they establish businesses with pirate money. The information presented in this paper is applicable to my future career, as it will provide an understanding on how humanity around the world disintegrated because of the social and cultural forces. The information is, thus, crucial in conflict resolving and would be used to address issues that can cause collapse of a nation. In general, the information is useful in the understanding of the political and cultural factors that can cause a well founded nation to collapse and how such situations can be controlled to avoid the kind of nations that Somalia finds itself in.