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History of Somalia: Pre-colonial, Colonial and Post Colonial


Chapter 1


The work pertains to the pre-colonial colonial and post colonial history of Somalia and the factors it does contain leading to the collapse of the state of Somalia. Furthermore research will demonstrate the fall out of the failure on the international and regional politics. It should be bear in mind that the Somali issue is complex in nature and hence at the end of the paper, the reader should understand the nature of Somalia’s tribulations. Note that one of the features of African politics is that it comprises what can be considered as the worst political weakness, that is: political disequilibrium, and state failure and Somalia are a case among others.
Somalia is situated on the so-called Horn of Africa, with a total population of 15 to 17 million people and extending into the Indian Ocean, Somalia’s harbors are natural ports of call for traders sailing to and from India. So the coast of the region is much visited by foreigners, in particular Arabs and Persians. But in the interior the Somali are left to their own arrangements. It is bordered in the north by Djibouti, in the west by Ethiopia and in the south by Kenya.

Chapter 1.1

Pre-colonial and colonial Somalia

By the early 1800th European interests begins to crop up in Somalia, the coasts were used as a coaling station for ships to India. Somalia was an important port of call on the Indian trade route, but its aridity and hostility fueled hesitation on the colonization issue. In the 1880’s, France, Britain, Italy and Ethiopia competed for the Somali territory, the four competitors agreed among them and shared the land, the northern part were shared among French and British(now Djibouti and Eritrea) and the coastal regions were annexed by Italian protectorate and Ethiopian. But their interests grew when the Suez Canal opened creating tension between Italy and Ethiopia, the repercussion of this tension were felt in the Ogaden region found between Ethiopia and the coastal part of Somalia; an active Italian region, which was finally granted tot eh Ethiopians. By 1920 the colonial compromises in Somalia began to weaken through upheavals in the British Somaliland, and in the Ogaden region by Fascist Italy. The World War II complicated the situation; as Italy violently acquired Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, then known as the Italian East Africa, which surrounded British and French Somaliland. Somalia got into a situation of constant colonial change until its independence in 1960.

Chapter 1.2

Post-Independence Somalia and conflicts

After independence, Somalia looked forward to reunite with three large Somali groups trapped in other states – in French Somaliland, in Ethiopia and in northern Kenya. As Kenya and Ethiopia were in under the protection of the Western powers, Somalia turned towards the Soviet for help.
But still Somalia kept a neutral stance in international affairs, but this soon changed when newly elected President M. Egal was assassinated (1969) and the accession to power by Siad Barre who sided on the Soviet side, he devoted himself to a brutal Marxist dictatorship and hence opposing clan ideology and the clan system; which was an inherent part of the Somali culture. In 1977 Somalia attacked Ethiopian garrisons in the Ogaden but his ally; that is the USSR soon turned on the Ethiopian side and Ethiopia used Soviet support to take back the Ogaden in 1978. Having lost its ally and with thousands of refugee coming back, Somalia headed towards a deep abyss where it still lies.
To understand the collapse of the Somali state is a complex issue, but as a sum up of the issue it can be said that it was due to both, historical and cultural legacy. From a political point of view it can be said that during the 19th century, Somalia has been divided into five regions, namely: French Somaliland (Djibouti), British Somaliland, Italian Somaliland, Ethiopia (Ogaden) and the Kenyan Northern Frontier District. But since its independence in July 1960, the main objective of the nationalist was to reunite the whole territory, thing which was difficult as it implied conflicts with its neighborhood. Such ideology represents also a constant threat to all the countries concerned, that is: Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya. As a result, it weakened Somalia’s regional economic development and its diplomatic relations.
Culturally speaking, it can be seen that Somalia is a complex body made up of several clan and sub-clans of nomads and pastorals. However the Somali believe that the clan system is their safeguard and protects them against foreigners, nevertheless, this belief is more complicated than it can appear. Moreover, above all they attach a deep affiliation to kinship and hence, for the Somali it can be sum up like the following:

  • Families against families in a clan.
  • Clan against clan in Somalia
  • And Somalia against the World.

The conflicts among clan is due spilling hereditary lineage and Siad Barre’ regime could maintain itself due to that Barre was able to play the game of rivalries between clans, furthermore, it is to be noted that major armed political groups are clan based. In the after effects of this disaster guerrilla groups, clan-based are formed in and around Somalia with the intention of bringing down Siad’s repressive and centralizing regime. By 1988 the result was a full-scale civil war, resulting in the overthrow of Barre in 1991. He joined his own clan, becoming one warlord among many in this increasingly chaotic nation. In 1991 the faction controlling the former British Somaliland confuses matters by declaring its independence as the republic of Somaliland. Unlike Somaliland, the south and central Somalia is under constant conflict and conquest by rival clans and establishment of de facto government(Ali Mahdi) but the question was not about how to rule but who rules as the tension revolved around clan supremacy .
Humanitarian turmoil reaches its peak and armed conflict generated food and health crisis but the situation is such that foreign intervention is difficult due to violent respons towards foreign aids.
There is often a danger that fundamentalist peep into conflicts and tries to take advantage of the situation, the Islamic Courts Union confirmed the fundamentalists’ habit in Somalia extending its ideology. This Islamic fundamentalist group briefly tried to conquer Somalia.

Chapter 1.3

Somalia economic overview

“The economy has long been heavily dependent on livestock and agriculture. Stock rearing is practised throughout the country and accounted for about 40% of GDP [Gross Domestic Product] and 65% of export earnings in 2000, according to World Food Programme (WFP) estimates. Most of the farmland lies between the Jubba and Shabeelle rivers in the south of the country. The small manufacturing sector is based on the processing of agricultural products. In the south, the absence of a central government has meant that no economic data have been produced by national sources since 1990. In Somaliland, by contrast, the government collects tax and duties levied on trade.[1]”
This can give an overview of Somali economy, hence its vulnerability and dependency on foreign economic aid especially in Puntland region where the data concerning the economic activity are almost absent. And this also brings in the ecological factor which is not in favor of the Somalis a clear example is the great droughts of 2006 which has caused a major humanitarian in Somalia, which touched nearly 1.5 million people, displacing 400,000 people due to a fall in crop production in practically all regions under cultivation[2]. But still, the Somalis economy is said to have flourished after the collapse; because the absence of a state and its institutions, has given birth to a laissez faire economy controlled by private sector. Private newspapers and enterprises mushroomed creating one of the best telecommunication systems in Africa, with an approximate GDP of $5.524 billion, and Somalia natural resources are: Largely unexploited reserves of iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, uranium, copper, salt, petroleum and natural gas. It produce also agricultural product such as banana, livestock, fish, corn, and has established markets(United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Oman) to export its product and imports petroleum products, food grain, construction material, etc… from countries like Brazil, India, Kenya, Djibouti, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Oman. Furthermore, Somalia also benefit from foreign economic aid especially from the United States of America, the European Union etc.[3]
Its impact on the regional and international politics is more disastrous: it can be said in one paragraph which will clarify the rest; Somalia has been noted as a failed state in the international sphere, arms embargo imposed by the UN security council since 1992 till now, removal of humanitarian aid due to violence against the humanitarian aid volunteers, (particularly in Puntland state), and reinforcement of security in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean due to high piracy level in the zone, there is also the problem of mass migration of Somalis to Yemen.

Chapter 2

State and State failure


A state is a set of components and institution that enable it to survive. The main pillars of the state are: the Government, territory and population. While population and territory are physical in nature government is institutional and most important, failing to establish one of the basic institutions, a country can be said to have failed. State’s function can be classified as ideal state functions and real state functions. Ideal state functions are divided into social functions and economic functions; social functions being: controlling the peoples’ fundamental rights and liberty and economic functions being provision of goods and services and income redistribution. But the real state functions are different, they are divided into state natural functions: that is power and coercion, social functions: for example protection of rights and liberty and economic functions that is limited to provision of goods and services. The state is presented as a tangible political entity; and the state has different characteristics: that is: Sovereignty; each state is sovereign and that is what creates the contract between the states prevents the interference of one state into another state’s matter. Territory: land and sea defined by a boundary. Nation: the concept of nation is very important, sometimes a nation leads to the creation of a state and sometimes a state leads to the creation of a nation. Somalia is a state with one nation but divided through cans. The Somali society’s features match with the features of a nation that is same language, same culture, same religion, but different clans. Characteristics of a state are that it has also diplomatic recognition, internal organization and internal loyalty from the part of its population. [4]

Chapter 2.1

Why a state?

State has two sets of definition, the organizational definitions; that define the state as a set of governmental institutions making rules, controlling and supervising different element of the country. The functional definition depicts the state according to its social, economic, political and legal functions. The origins of the state dates back to the ancient civilization and the most antique form of state known is the Greek city state which evolved through time to give way to the modern nation state. State is a common word nowadays, members from each governing institutions claim that they can serve it and manipulate it, for instance, judges claim that they can discern its interests and politicians claim that they know how to run it. Liberals believed that the state should be a referee, Marxist sinister perception see the state as an “instrument” and relist perceive the state as a elitist organization of manipulators. A broader definition would be that the state is mainly regrouping of all powers relations in society which acts as an automatic machine supervising the legal, economic, political and social elements of a country. Diverse thinkers view the state differently and below are the principal thinkers’ view of the state. Therefore, all the definitions show that a state is important and needed. 2
Locke rejects any notion of subordination and with it the relationship that it maintains in relations between men and relationships between men and inferior creatures. There is no difference between them inherent among men, there is no hierarchy: they are all free and equal in the eyes of God. The natural liberty requires both independence and equality; it makes the political authority to consent. Locke argues that men are originally free and equal and that the origin of Governments is a free association. It therefore opposes the theory of divine right monarchy and absolutism.
Montesquieu developed in the spirit of laws theory of forms of government (monarchy, despotism, aristocratic republic, democratic republic). Its doctrine is based on separation of powers (legislative, executive, judicial) and opposes the speculative theory of natural law. There is no “noble savage”, but various companies where several elements govern men: climate, religion, morals.
Thomas Hobbes sees the state as an institution whose individuals are self-centered in nature. Left on their own, they can create a state of war, as he called it. Hence, Hobbes upholds an absolute ruler to control the state. The will of the sovereign is the will of god and law of the state is the will of the sovereign, thus the sovereign or Leviathan, as he called it establishes the contract between various institutions and among individuals so as not to create chaos. The ruler is above law, the Leviathan is the state. So what can be deduced is that Hobbes defined the state as a primitive, individualist and anarchical institution where conflict of interest among individuals prevails and leads to collapse of the state, hence state must be a harsh institution which looks towards its survival, otherwise it would be the state of nature?
But Jean Jacque Rousseau does not see the state as such. For him, the state and power is the evil that corrupts the good man. Rousseau corrects Hobbes by saying that it is state of nature is not just the removal of the governing body it is also the removal of all societal features; that is culture, belief, religion and even understanding of one’s own self. Therefore it can be deduced that according to Rousseau, the state is a set of societal features, that is culture, religion belief, rational view of others and one’s own self and governing institution.
Marxist, view the state as something totally different: “(The state) is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it is cleft into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel. But in order that these antagonisms, classes with conflicting economic interests, might not consume themselves and society in sterile struggle, a power seemingly standing above society became necessary for the purpose of moderating the conflict, of keeping it within the bounds of “order”; and this power, arisen out of society but placing itself above it, and increasingly alienating itself from it, is the state.”[5]
What Engels wants to explains is that the state is controlled by the economically dominant class, enabling it to maintain its control over the exploited classes. Although the state is usually the instrument of the economically dominant class, sometimes conflicting classes balance each other such that the state becomes somewhat independent.
The state is part of the “superstructure” of society. Marx and Engels analyzed human society as divided into a material base and a superstructure that rests on it. The base is made up of the devices of production (machines, tools, and raw materials), the social classes, chiefly the exploiting and laboring classes, of the particular society, and the relations between these classes. The superstructure consists of political and cultural institutions, including the state, churches, schools, etc., as well as corresponding intellectual spheres: politics, religion, science, art, etc. The state is a major, if not the major, element of this superstructure as per the Marxists.
As per principles of International Law, a state is a recognized and subject to international law only if it comprises of certain qualifications, that is: a permanent population, a defined territory, government, and capacity to enter into relations with other states.[6] Comparing these features to Somalia, it can be deduced that Somalia lacks two of these qualifications, that is; capacity to enter in relations with other states and it has a weak government controlling limited territory. Therefore, Somalia is a state without its full managerial capacity, but still it is a sovereign state and is recognize as such by the international community, as defined by the Declaration on principles of international law Elements: b).: Each state enjoys the right inherent in full sovereignty and element c).: Each state has the duty to respect the personality of other states[7]

Chapter 2.2

State failure

A state does not collapse one day or another, a state weakens fails and then collapse. A weak state still have control on the majority of the country but cannot solve major issue or is illegitimate in the eyes of some portion of the population. In fact the strength of a state is judge on the level of obedience and legitimacy accorded to it by the nation. State failure is an instable state experiencing civil war or invasion, then, the state collapse; this situation is the total paralysis of all institution of the state that is; legal, economic, military and political. State failure is a sensible but tangible issue in Africa, moreover, before defining state failure and its implication in Africa, first of all there must be a kind and close comprehension of the subject and its various facets. State failure is two words with various definitions, because circumstances and factors leading to state failure vary from one country to another. Before looking into the core subject, definitions of the word state is important, moreover, the definitions of state also vary. State failure concerns essentially the interrelationship between models of authority, political control and institution building in a country. What makes Africa the appropriate model to examine state failure, is that it has experienced shifts of government, that is, from colonial to post colonial or from democracy to autocracy. The shift of power, from colonial to independent has created political instability in most country and in some state failure. In the case of Africa and particularly, Somalia, when the term state failure is coined, it, means the there is a failure to control and to promote human prospering.
Government is normally formed of various institution to promote Culture, economic stability, security, rights, liberty, justice and what is more important is to respect the concept of rule of law on the territory by all civilians. Hence these values are under the responsibility of a governing body which delegates the particular responsibilities to institutions like; the Army, Supreme Court, ministries, police force etc… in respect of a Constitution[8]. There are some fixed and variable symptoms indicating a state collapse; fixed symptoms being common symptoms present in all cases and variable symptoms being particular to the specific Country. Examples of fixed symptoms are failure in the provision of national and international security and the preservation of order, failure in the implementation of the rule of law, no existence of; institutions of political freedom, channels of commerce and communication, lack of provision of an economic institution to promote growth and prosperity, and no presence of basic services such as medical services, power, running water, and control of the environmental commons, and civil war. Variable symptoms, here in the case of Somalia, would be piracy, but the issue of piracy is subject to debate because the state failure is not the only causes of piracy in Somalia, ecological factors are responsible too.
Therefore, a state is weakens when it loses control one of these institutions or all, in other words the state failed to provide basic functions for its citizen. But state failure or collapse, is not an instant event, it is rather an event of long lasting decay of the state due to internal or external factors, which will be explained later. Hence, the fall out of state failure is that the economy becomes weak, provision of education and heath care disappear, proliferation of crime and violence and it also generates opposing groups often engaged in armed conflict, creating humanitarian crisis and often genocide, population shift, refugee crises and food shortage.

Chapter 3

Causes of the collapse

Causes of the collapse can be divided and hence would be better understood, there are the founding causes and the contributing causes. Founding causes are those causes which are at the origin of the collapse of the state and contributing causes are as important as founding causes but have contributed to the collapse not originate it.
The conflicts are to be divided into three categories; it must be beard in mind that all these factors have contributed to the collapse of the Somali state, but at different stages and different way. This chapter is an attempt to demonstrate how each causes has its importance throughout the failing process.
The causes or factors of collapse are classified as such:

  • Original cause(initiation of collapse) instable
  • Contributing causes (declining factors) weak
  • Final blow collapse

Original causes: these factors can also be referred to as the initiation to the state collapse: that is the factors which rendered the state instable, but did not knock out the state. What is meant by instable is that; those factors created a state of tension in the country that gave little chance for Somalia to progress, socially, economically, politically.
Original causes are; colonial division of Somalia into five parts and offering Ethiopia in particular a great portion of the territory[9]; and social division of the Somali society into small clan-based mini-states that lacked an organizational skill to regroup themselves into a state. These two factors could be considered as the core factors of the collapse of the state by causing the formation of a weak and deformed state. But another core factor can be added to this that is: wrong management of the national resources and the fact that Somalia lack effectively trained human resources to substitute colonial administration in running state institutions. The historical period for this condition is preceding the independence of Somalia in 1960.
There are also the transitional causes which caused the state to collapse. Transit causes are mid causes; these are for example the Barre Socialist regime, and the final blow which lead to the downfall of Somalia.

Chapter 3.1

Clan system

It should be bearded in mind the cultural traditions of Somalia do not allow the country to be accustomed to building a modern state. The clan system in Somalia is both unite and divide, as explained above, the characteristic that unites, that it is a common form of social organization in Somalia. But the sharing feature is that: there is hostility between clans and sub-clans. The clans are divided into two categories: there are pastoral nomads and livestock mainly southern clans. But the conflict is mainly between pastoral nomadic clans and clans farmed.
There are four major clans of “noble” families; the Darood, Hawiye, Isaaq and Dir,. Minority groups and low-caste clans included the Bantu of Somalia (being the largest minority group), the Benadiri, Rer Hamar Brawanese, swahili, Fumal, Yibir, Yaxar, Madhiban, Hawrarsame, Muse Dheryo and Faqayaqub. One third of the population, approximately two million people are from minority groups. Intermarriage between these groups and noble clans is limited. Some of these groups have limited access to all social services that are available, including health and education. Minority groups had no armed militias and continue to be victims of murders, tortures, rapes, abductions and looting of land and property. These groups have continued to live in conditions of great poverty and suffer numerous forms of discrimination and exclusion.[10]
As indicated in the JFFMR[11] March 2004, the delegation met Omar Abdiaziz Daad:
“Daad Omar, former Minister of the reconciliation of President Siad Barre from 1986 to 1990, said he is a Marehan himself and the nephew of Siad Barre and next to Siad Barre, the son closest. Daad Omar left Mogadishu in 1991 and returned several times since. Daad Omar said he works as a mediator in central Somalia and has been accredited for the peace process in Kenya to the Darood clan. Daad Omar explained it is too difficult for Marehan to live in Mogadishu, they are designed to be high because many of them used to work for the regime of Siad Barre. He stated that all members of the clan would Marehan to blame for the suffering caused by the SiadBarre regime and they risk being killed. Omada Daad estimated 200 people Marehan clan live in Mogadishu today that are able to stay there only because they were married with members of stronger clans. Marehan An independent could not live safely in Mogadishu and manage a business. Daad Omar said that Marehan who had worked for the regime of Siad Barre could not return to Mogadishu. Even members of the family of a Marehan who had worked for Siad Barre would have had problems today. Any other clan member (eg a Hawiye and Habr Gedir) who had worked in the administration (including police) Siad Barre have no problems returning to Mogadishu today. But members of the Darood clan and Majerteen will not be able to live safely in Mogadishu, the Hawiye clans regard them as a challenge to their power “
The complexity of the Somali clan system, it is difficult to identify the clan, but it is easier to identify them when they fall into political factions. This complex political structure, where there is only way to rivalry and competition for resources and territorial control, can not make a good organization policy. Good organization policy refers here to standard policies every country, that is, establishment of a modern state through democratic principles. But what was so undemocratic about the clan system? The answer is simple; the clan system that has long existed in Somalia, as well as conflicts between clans, but these conflicts has been an obstacle to the unification of Somalia under a local body[12] (after independence). An obstacle to the unification of Somalia that the issue of creating a modern state was another thing, it was more difficult with increasing conflict between the clan, where the modern nation-state was not the priority, the unification of the clans is paramount. But the intellectual elite choose the wrong option, they created the modern state in Somalia first and then tried to accommodate the clan, what followed was chaos!
We can not find details of Somalia without being troubled by the importance of clan in the Somali culture, and it is so omnipresent that it is causing the conflict in Somalia. What brings the clan system as a basic factor for the collapse of the state is that, as mentioned above, it is an integral part of Somali culture, and furthermore, it has generated the de facto ‘ state by clan rivalries on then basis of clan identity. Siad Barre could remain so long at the head of Somalia because he used a policy of divide and rule and created rivalries between clans, favorising his own clan the main armed political groups as well that is;USC, SSDF, SNM, SPF, SDA, SDM.

  1. United Somali Congress (USC). The USC was created by the Hawiye clan in central Somalia around Mogadishu.
  2. Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF). The SSDF was created by the sub-clan of Darood Majerteen, who live in north-eastern Somalia.
  3. Somali National Movement (SNM). The SNM was created by the Issaq clan of north-west Somalia, it proclaimed the independence of Somaliland.
  4. Somali Patriotic Front (SPF). The SPF was established by the Ogaden sub-clan of Darood who live partly in the south and partly in central Somalia.
  5. Somali Democratic Movement (SDM). The SDM is the movement Rahanwein clan; they live in the south and west.
  6. Somali Democratic Association (SDA). The SDA is the advantage of living Dir clan in Somalia’s north-west.

The question of invasion is also very important for the inter-clan conflicts. Unlike northern Somalia, also known as Somaliland, which consists of five districts, but primarily inhabited by people fro the Issaq clan, southern Somalia is not homogeneous. The regions south and central Somalia is under conquest and occupation of the armed forces different clan, who have no legitimacy on the cities and agricultural lands for which they fought and.

Chapter 3.2

Colonial division of Somali territory

The colonial history of Somalia do not let anyone believe that this nation can easily form an effective state, the question that comes to mind all the readers is that the colonial history of Somalia, how can be linked to the collapse of the state.
The countries sharing the same culture with the various rival clans, and the problem does not stop there, the colonial powers divided the land into portions thereby creating a situation of standstill, paralyzing the nation. As mentioned at the beginning, Somalia was formed by the union of two former colonial territories, British Somaliland in the north and Italian Somaliland, which was more populous. But the colonial division affects the breakdown as follows: Somali irredentism and conflict with Ethiopia and Kenya.
When Somalia was unified in 1959, before independence in 1960, only the British and Italian Somaliland, which has created the new Somalia, there were still some Somalis living in Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. In fact, this could be unified has been unified and the rest was considered that there was a Somali nation in these countries, Somalia and the whole is not united. And that’s where the problem laid, Somali irredentism was much more important than solving the rivalries of clans that has brought the country to failure and collapse.
The colonial history of Somalia do not let anyone believe that this nation can easily form an effective state, the question that comes to mind all the readers is that how can the colonial history of Somalia, be linked to the collapse of the state.
The countries sharing the same culture with the various rival clans, and the problem does not stop there, the colonial powers divided the land into portions thus creating a situation of standstill, paralyzing the nation. As mentioned at the beginning, Somalia was formed by the union of two former colonial territories, British Somaliland in the north and Italian Somaliland, which were more populous neglecting portions of Somali in Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti. Therefore, the colonial division affects the collapse as follows: Somali irredentism leading to conflict with Ethiopia and Kenya.
When Somalia was unified in 1959, before independence in 1960, only the British and Italian Somaliland had created the new Somalia, there were still some Somalis living in Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. In fact, what could be unified has been unified and the rest was unconsidered, there was a Somali nation in these countries, Somalia as a whole was not united. And that’s where the problem laid, Somali irredentism was much more important than s

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