The risk of reversion of conflict in Somalia

Somalia is one of the African countries that are emerging from more than two decades of internal conflict and civil unrest. Many Somali intellectuals, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), African Union and International Community led successful reconciliation initiatives and helped Somalis establish a Federal Government with a provisional constitution.

Now the country is in a post-conflict situation where there are promising indicators for recovery and development but also a high risk of reversion to conflict which puts the peace-building process under threat.

Factors motivating conflicts

Risk contributing factors include the current power-sharing and governance structure, meager economic resources, widespread corruption which is rooted deeply in the system and weak public institutions that can’t deliver social services properly. The federal government and federal member states can develop concurrent policies not only to reduce the risk of conflict renewal but also promote economic growth and development.
Widespread corruption exacerbates the situation since Somalia leads the list of most corrupted nations in the world.

Competition for power and resources among various clans and sub-clans and power strife between federal member states and the federal government of Somalia impede the political progress and sometimes imperil the rebuilding efforts of the nation. Every clan tussles and fights to rule the country because of those who are in charge tend to control and exploit the public resources at the expense of the rest of the clans.

For instance, during the military regime, certain clans dominated the political system and took over the rule. Therefore, they enjoyed preferential treatment and maximized their clan interests. Those clans were termed as clan “A”-meaning that high government positions, key ministries and the military sector was predominantly occupied by members of clan “A” leaving out the rest with literally nothing. The internal conflict of the late 1980s and the collapse of the state in the early 1990s is attributed to injustice and nepotism exercised by the president’s sub-clan. Similarly, the authoritarian regime and exclusive institutions that oppressed the majority of the people incited hatred and division among clans and sub-clans and ultimately led to a civil war that destroyed the physical and human capital of the country. Any attempt by clans or entities to seclude sections of the Somali society can easily accelerate and catalyse conflicts that would at the become a setback to the recovery process.

A meager economic and financial resource is another factor that significantly poses a high risk of new conflict because the civil war and climate change negatively affected the economic performance of Somalia. The economy of Somalia mainly depends on the agriculture sector that often suffers from droughts and the lack of infrastructure resulting into acute a water crisis which translates into poor economic performance and extreme poverty. Before the independence, most Somalis were pastoralists who were very mobile and regularly fought over pasture and water. It turns out that the pastoralist society still has the affinity to scramble over public resources after getting independence.

The public institutions in both federal and state-level are very weak and the government can’t provide to the people basic services such as security, education and health services. Despite the African peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) in collaboration with Somali National Forces trying to restore peace and stability but there is still a serious security challenge in the country.

Way forward

In order to lower the risk of conflict reversion in Somalia:

First, the federal government of Somalia and the donor community should ensure the inclusiveness of political and economic institutions in Somalia since the major problem of Somalia is a competition of resources and power between regions clans. The current federal system can be the best form of governance if properly and stipulated in the constitution in an elaborate manner. Furthermore, the revenue sharing agreement should harmonize the taxation system across the member states and mobilize the domestic revenue.
Second, the political stakeholders should replace the existing election process that is purely clan-based with direct elections through political parties as the constitution commands. Free and fair elections will reduce the risk of conflict renewal by enhancing the legitimacy and the representativeness of the government.

Third, establishing strong public institutions is necessary for reducing the risk of a new conflict. The institutions should adopt the principles of transparency and accountability to minimise corruption level and increase citizens’ trust in the government. The institution also must be effective and efficient to amplify service delivery such as restoring peace and stability and providing judicial services that ensure justice to all Somali nationals.

Fourth, the civil society groups, traditional elders, business community, religious leaders and youth groups should play their civic roles. They should work hand in hand with the government in building grassroots awareness and implementation of national agendas. They should also provide an alternative voice devoid of politics and self-interest.

Finally, the government has to develop policies to revive the economy and create job opportunities, especially for the youth. The private sector should be promoted if the country aims inclusive economic growth and development. For instance, creating a business-friendly environment will surely attract foreign direct investment and ignite domestic investment which in turn reduces the shocking unemployment rate.

Sadaam Abdi
SIMAD university graduate
Twitter: @SadaamAbdi