In recent years, Somalia has been linked to war, misery, drought, famine, pirates and the violent Islamist group al-Shabaab. The country has been in civil war for over 20 years, with much use of violence. Large flows of refugees have therefore left the country in the hope of a safer and better life. It has long looked dark for Somalia, but lately we have seen a development that points in a more positive direction.
- How involved are the different parts of Somalia in the civil war?
- Who are the parties in the Somali civil war?
- What is it now that gives greater reason to hope for peace in Somalia?
- What challenges do Somalis face when building the future?
In 2012, Somalia held its first presidential election since dictator Siad Barre was “overthrown” in 1991. Al-Shabaab met with strong opposition when Kenyan troops marched into the country in 2011 and are now significantly weakened. The piracy business also seems to be returning. Many therefore envision a more peaceful Somali society heading towards brighter times. Nevertheless, Somalia faces enormous political, economic and social challenges , and the situation in the region remains very fragile.
2: Briefly about the background
Somalia is located in the Horn of Africa along with Eritrea and Djibouti. The country borders Ethiopia to the west and Kenya to the south. We say today that Somalia is roughly divided into three regions : Somaliland, Puntland and Southern and Central Somalia. Somaliland seceded from the rest of Somalia, built up its own state apparatus and declared itself independent as early as 1991. In 1998, Puntland also established its own administration but as part of Somalia, a country located in Africa according to holidaysort.com.
The situation in both Puntland and Somaliland has since been relatively peaceful and stable compared to southern and central Somalia, including the capital Mogadishu. There, the armed conflict has taken place in full force.
The parties to the conflict have mainly been various clans (see facts), the Transitional Government (TFG) and al-Shabaab . The absence of a strong state power also facilitated the piracy that flourished in Somalia in 2008. In addition, the UN and many international, non-governmental organizations have long been involved in Somalia with both emergency aid and various forms of long-term assistance – with varying results.
In the 1990s intervened UN with two military actions in South – and Central Somalia, UMOSOM In and II . Both of these are considered to have failed as they failed to reach a lasting peace agreement nor to strengthen the government to any particular degree. After this, there has been little focus on the conflict in Somalia from the international community, which has shown little willingness to take responsibility for further developments.
Interestingly, Turkey in particular has in the last couple of years excelled in building infrastructure in Somalia. This has led to a positive attitude towards Turkey both in the local population and in the government of Somalia and strengthened the relationship between the two countries.
3: New government
An election in 2012 became a historic event in Somalia. For the first time in over 20 years, a presidential election took place in Somalia. The new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud , was elected by the Somali National Assembly in September 2012, where he received a large majority of votes in the second round of elections. Then there was the choice between him and the then president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed from the transitional government (TFG). One of the first things the newly elected president did was to appoint a new prime minister, Abdi Farah Shridon Saaid , who is a political newcomer.
Although President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected by the National Assembly and not by a democratic election of the people, many still believe that Somalia took an important step towards political stabilization and peace when he became the country’s new president. A new parliamentary leader in Somalia has also been appointed – Mohamed Osman Jawari , a man who has lived in Trondheim for many years .
The new government became even more historic when the post of foreign minister, a very important ministerial post, went to a woman – Fowsiyo Yusuf Haji Adan. With a new president and a new parliament, for the first time in a long time, national institutions have been established in Somalia that can provide a basis for creating a more peaceful and well-functioning society.
The President of Somalia has asked the Norwegian government to lead the work of building up internal control in the Ministry of Finance, where a number of international donors will sit on the board. In this way, the new governing powers hope to be able to assure donor countries that they place great emphasis on avoiding corruption . Norway, together with the United Kingdom, the United States, Turkey and Qatar, has also agreed to quickly raise money to build government institutions, health centers and schools.
Only by getting the wheels rolling again can the Somali government gain the credibility and results needed to win the trust of the people. “If we are to be able to have a stable development in Somalia, then we must have a central government that succeeds. We intend to contribute to this “, confirmed Norway’s Minister for Development Aid Heikki Holmås in March this year (vg.no).
4: Al-Shabaab on retreat
The radical Islamist group al-Shabaab has in recent years been behind widespread violence and spread much fear in Somalia. Al-Shabaab has mainly operated in southern and central Somalia and has previously controlled large parts of the capital Mogadishu, where the government is headquartered. Al-Shabaab is closely linked to al-Qaeda and describes himself as a jihadist who fights against enemies of Islam. By the United States and others, the group is on the list of terrorist organizations.
The transitional government and forces from the African Union (AMISOM) have been two main targets of al-Shabaab, but it is the local people who have experienced the hardest al-Shabaab violence and the implementation of sharia law (see facts).
In October 2011, Kenya sent military troops into southern Somalia to fight al-Shabaab, which they largely succeeded in doing. Prior to the Kenyan operation, al-Shabaab had operated with weapons in hand in both Kenya and Uganda. The Kenyan forces drove al-Shabaab out of Mogadishu and Kismayo – two strategically important areas for the group that are now significantly weakened . However, this does not mean that al-Shabaab is gone for good. They continue to pose a major threat to stability in Somalia, and local media are constantly reporting on violent acts apparently carried out by al-Shabaab both inside and outside Mogadishu.
Many have left al-Shabaab, and there is reason to believe that only the most radical members continue to use violence and operate from rural rural Somalia. As unemployment is high and education levels low in Somalia, there is still good ground for recruiting young people into the movement – people who feel they have few or no other options when jobs and income are lacking. In addition, the government and other actors in Somalia face the challenge of dealing with and reintegrating those who have chosen to break out of al-Shabaab. There is a great danger that these, as has been seen with similar extreme groups in other countries, form new violent and criminal groups.