Anatomy of a State Collapse. Somalia, the Cold War and the era of Siyad Barré

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2011

19 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

"Self-Government now" had been the outspoken declaration of many African leaders in the af-
termath of second world war. The broader historical context opened a window for
African countries to achieve stateness and new self-determination independ-
ent from war ridden European colonial powers. At the Horn of Africa and
the neighbouring regions, similarly to the overall trend on the continent,
countries became independent. Ethiopia gained first home rule in 1941,
Somalia 1960 during the so called year of Africa, Sudan 1956 and Kenya in
1963. Yet, the new right of self-governance jointly with the difficult colonial heritage
brought numerous new problems to African societies. Leaders faced new challenges to transform
their territories to progressive and prosperous nation states bringing African countries modernity.
However, many of the territories given independence found their way into state failure. As Collier
(2007) points out in his book ,,the bottom billion" global poverty is actually falling quite rapidly
for about 80% of the world. The real crisis is to be found in a group of about 50 failing states,
whose problems challenge traditional approaches to reduce poverty. He argues that 50 failed states
pose the central challenge of the developing world in the twenty-first century. On that account the
phenomenon of failed states needs considerable investigation effort by scholars. One especially
extreme case of state failure is Somalia. It is this African country, that had become the epitome of
a failed state, such frequently quoted, mentioned and discussed in literature like hardly any other.
Somalia attained an unknown level of media coverage when the US-led mission UNOSOM in 1992
delivered food and aid to Somalia culminating in the shot down of US Helicopters over Mogadishu
by troops of General Mohamed Farrah Aideed, which led to an immediate withdrawal of US troops
in October 1993 .
At this point in history Somalia´s state failure became apparent to the world. The humanitarian
of the US and UN aimed at stabilizing the country and as the UN Charter expresses
"to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights"
instead it publicly displayed the chaos and weak-
nesses of Somalia's state institutions. However, given the hopelessness and the lack of stateness at
The nature of the intervention is contested in literature
Charter of the United Nations: Preamble.
I. Introduction
e and Somalia against the world, Me and my clan against Somalia, Me and my Family
against the clan, and Me against the family.
Traditional Somali saying cited in NUPI, Fighting for Hope in Somalia,
Peacekeeping and multinational Operations No. 6, Oslo1995 p .20

Accordingly, the case selection and the concepts will be described and explained in order to estab-
lish criteria, a methodological framework and a sound basis, in which this paper is grounded in (See
for section II). In a next step two concepts that try to explain failed and failing states will be present-
ed, each concept reflects one of two different camps of literature on the topic (See for section III).
In a next step, the case will be examined despite starting with Somali independence the main
focus will be the crucial time period of Siyad Barre´s government. In this part an examination of
causal configurations and critical junctures is undertaken (Section IV). In the last chapter (Section
V) analytical conclusions are drawn from the examination of the case and the presented concepts
in order to find an answer to the question how Somalia failed and what concept is able to explain
the failure.
Case selection in a qualitative setting is far from being inconsequential. Sound selection methods
need to guide scientific work. When the Fund for peace published the first time its failed states in-
dex Somalia ever then ranked last. Somalia seems to be the epitome of a failed state and somehow
typical. However, in literature Somalia's state failure is described in a way that one could speak in
the words of Rotberg (2003) of a collapsed state. A case study as a typical case would not be appro-
priate and according to the case study recommendations of Gerring´s (2007) influential book "Case
Study Research" would not be recommendable. Therefore an extreme case study technique is to be
applied here. Gerring (2007: p. 104) states that "The extreme-case method refers back to a larger
sample of cases that lie in the background of the analysis and provide a full range of variation as well
as a more representative picture of the population. [...] If this population of cases is well understood
[...] then a researcher may justify the selection of a single case exemplifying an extreme value for
within-case analysis."
II. Case Selection and Method
this point of Somalia's history, we touch the core of a fundamental problem and might wonder what
caused the break-down of Somali state structures.
Whereas we might find remarkably little literature that provides sound theory, numerous concepts
are proposed in order to explain state failure. However, little investigation is done in order to exam-
ine the validity of existing concepts. For this reason, this paper examines by applying congruence
analysis (Blatter & Blume 2008) two different well established concepts of state failure with the case
of Somalia in order to understand better the explanatory power of existing theoretical attempts.

Accordingly, I will select Somalia as the case under investigation. However, in order to select a case
or set of cases I need to establish criteria. Rotberg (2003) provides an order of positive state func-
tions to identify failed states: (1) security, (2) institutions, which mediate conflicts, secure property
rights and guarantee rule of law, (3) political participation and (4) output of social services, infra-
structure and economic policy.
Considering these four criteria on a thought continuum of state failure, I assume a certain number
of failed states,
from this basic population I will select on the dependent variable "stateness or fail-
ure" the case of Somalia. This case is not typical, rather extreme, on this account it is justifiable to
take Somalia as an extreme case in a cross-case relationship with other cases.
In a second step, this extreme case will be used in order to test existing concepts of causal explana-
tion in literature. Methodologically speaking, this qualitative analysis is close to what Blatter and
Blume (2008) call a "Congruence Analysis", which aims at discerning the validity of existing theo-
ries, concepts or heuristics. This kind of qualitative approach tries to level the explanatory power of
concepts in search for causes of social phenomena while applying an empirical case.
The selection of concepts is portrayed in more detail in section III. A crude distinction in literature
distinguishes traditional concepts of state failure and authors, who critiques the traditional notions
and provide alternative concepts about stateness in sub-saharan Africa. For the purpose of the
study one concept seeking to explain state failure out of each camp is drawn and juxtaposed with
the case of Somalia in order to gain conclusions over their validity.
Furthermore, I will assume that the concept of failed states is valid. A critique is not subject of this
paper. Moreover, I will take for granted that the established research method in form of extreme
cases and congruence analysis contributes to determine causal configurations within cases and ac-
cordingly results make contributions to scientific theories.
Whether they are weak, failing or collapsed.

III. Concepts of State Failure
In the post Barre period Somalia developed a kind of Hobbesian `war of all against all'
, and thus
it is not surprising that scholars like Zartman (1995) construct concepts of state failure in line with
Hobbes´philosophy. Zartman uses social contract theory and the importance of central authority
in order to establish his argument. Nevertheless we might wonder what does state failure in es-
sence mean? In an early analysis Helman and Ratner (1993) conceive failed states as incapable of
sustaining itself as a member of the international community. They draw this conclusion out of the
fact that the newly born post second world war nation states were given a primacy of sovereignty
and independence, whereas sustainability of this new nation states had been of far less importance.
Certainly, there are several dimensions of state failure, which demonstrates the abundant literature
upon the topic. Nonetheless it is absolutely crucial to examine this abundance of literature in order
to be able to understand state failure.
Rotberg (2003) introduces several new indicators to grasp state failure. Among them: (1) the persis-
tence of political violence whereby the intensity is not as important as its enduring character, (2) the
direction of violence e.g. against the regime or government, or (3) persistent demands for shared
power or autonomy. Furthermore, the growth of criminal violence and the inability to control bor-
ders or sufficient parts of the territory represents a second and third set of indicators to measure
failing states. Apart from the question of the essence of failed states and how to pour this into valid
indicators we might ask for the causes and conditions of state failure.
In general, it is possible to make a broad distinction and to subdivide two broad camps of literature
being occupied with causal explanations of state failure. One that works with traditional concep-
tions and notions about the state and a second which seeks to explain state failure in a different way
and criticises classical notions about stateness in the state failure debate. These authors challenge
the very idea that there exists something as an continuum or a degree of stateness of successful and
failing states. For example, Chabal and Daloz (1999), Bayart (1993), Lewis (2004) and Reno (1995,
1998) conceive African states in the context of their post-colonial developmental situation and
therefore investigate the political logic of these states in a different framework rather than classify-
ing failed and successful states along a thought continuum in the sense of European nation states.
Nonetheless, the state of literature is still kaleidoscopic and many concepts try to provide insight but
are not very helpful for any case. Concepts like the resources trap explanation of Collier (2007) pro-
vides little explanatory power for the case of Somalia as natural resources did not play a crucial role
1 The state of nature as "bellum omnium contra omnes" as described by Thomas Hobbes in his
famous "Leviathan" of 1651.
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Anatomy of a State Collapse. Somalia, the Cold War and the era of Siyad Barré
University of Constance  (Department: Politics)
Failed States in Sub-Saharan Africa
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Somalia, Africa, cold war, failed state, siyad barre, collapse
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Christian Rabe (Author), 2011, Anatomy of a State Collapse. Somalia, the Cold War and the era of Siyad Barré, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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