Conflict Analysis of Somalia

Term Paper, 2013

30 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Findings
Chapter 1: Geographical aspect
Chapter 2: Historical aspect
Chapter 3: Ethnic aspect
Chapter 4: Political aspect
Chapter 5: Social aspect
Chapter 6: Economic aspect
Chapter 7: Future prospects

3. Summary: the main issues of the conflict

4. References

1. Introduction

,,l and Somalia against the world.

I and my clan against Somalia.

I and my family against the clan.

I and my brother against the family.
I against my brother."

- Somali Proverb[55]*

The American business magazine ,,Forbes" regularly publishes among various rankings ,,The world's most dangerous countries" based on crime rates, police protection, civil unrest, terrorism risk, kidnapping threat and geopolitical stability. In 2012, the top three were: Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. The third most dangerous country, Somalia, is also on the top of many other rankings; for instance it holds the first place of Forbes ,,Most Corrupt

Countries" ahead of North Korea since 2008.[56]) For 22 years, there hasn't been any established government and even international interventions by the UNO and the USA in order to stop the civil war and restore peace failed; but what are the conflicts in Somalia actually about?

This paper is going to explain the Somali civil war, it's roots and future prospects. Therefore, it is divided in seven main chapters: geographical aspect, historical aspect, ethnic aspect, political aspect, social aspect, economic aspect and future prospects. Each aspect illustrates the particular part of the conflict and after the future prospects based on a personal assessment there will be a summary of the conflict's main issues.

Since there is neither an established government nor any other official registration it is hard to find reliable data and statistics. Most of them are based on estimates and cannot keep up with the fast changes. That is why the figures in this paper may not be absolutely correct but nevertheless they can give a general idea of Somalia's situation.

2. Findings

Chapter 1: Geographical aspect

As you can see on the map Somalia, having an area of about 637.657 km[2], is situated at the Horn of Africa. According to estimates, it has between 7,5[67]) and 12,9[68]) million inhabitants.

In the northern part there are the mountainous Somali highlands, whereas there is a lowland in the south as well as the Shabelle and the Jubba river which originate in Ethiopia and then flow through Somalia into the Indian ocean.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

In all over Somalia temperatures are very high while the precipitation is extremely low which causes the typical desert surface, dry seasons and even regular droughts leading to famines.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The Somali climate and the consequential living situation lead to several conflicts in the Somali population, which will be discussed in the following chapters.

Furthermore, the civil war also has negative effects on the geography, which in turn reinforce the conflicts:

Firstly, the overgrazing and especially the mainly illegal deforestation intensify the erosion and increase the desertification.

Secondly, the Somali territorial waters are overfished by illegal foreign companies, in particular from the Arabian Peninsula, since there is no established government and hence a lack of an official coast guard.

Thirdly, the coral reefs at the gulf of Aden as well as the ocean floor in general are largely damaged due to the use of arms and backward fishing and sailing methods.

Fourthly, other countries especially of the Arabian Peninsula illegally dispose of their atomic and toxic garbage at the coasts of Somalia. During the rare rainy periods floods then transport this material into the country contaminating the soil.[1]*[2]) [7])

Chapter 2: Historical aspect

"The security institution is the only guarantee to prevent sedition and civil war. Civil war began in Somalia after the collapse of the army and security institutions."

- Ala Hosni[46])

The earliest evidence of human life are the famous Somali cave drawings dating back to 9000 BC. The nomadic living Somalis used to have trade relationships in particular with the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, China, India and Europe. They were largely known for exporting gold, aromatic resins, African Blackwood, ebony, ivory, slaves and wild animals[3]*.

From the 11th to the 12th century, an islamization took place attributed to an agreement between Arabic and Somali merchants to limit the Indian commerce with Europe in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Ever since Somalia was governed by several Muslim Sultans and the economy flourished until it became a colony.

British Somaliland

The British Empire had several protection treaties with Somali clans and Sultans. After several military conflicts with European conquerors the north of Somalia was turned into a British protectorate and later in 1920 into a colony. It was used as a British military base in order to expand the colonial territory and to secure the colony's trade and food supply.[5]*

Italian Somaliland

Although the German East African Company raised a territorial claim of Somalia's coasts this area officially became an Italian colony in 1936 after several decades of protection treaties. Especially under Mussolini there was a harsh colonial policy which decayed the Somali culture. The population was exploited and served as slaves in agriculture.[6]*

French Somaliland

Between 1883 and 1887 the Somali Sultans signed various protection treaties with the French government until this area became a French overseas territory in 1946.

All Somali colonies served as intermediate stations for trade and their colonial rulers benefited from agricultural yields and so did the Somali population as well by gaining knowledge in terms of agricultural methods. However, many areas were harshly governed and so there always used to be anticolonial movements.[59]*

After the Second World War Italian Somaliland was taken over by Britain and merged with British Somaliland. Over the next years the idea of ,,Great Somalia" came up for the first time, which was supposed to include all areas where ethnic Somalis live. When Somalia achieved independence in 1960 the merger with these regions was established in the constitution which led to several wars, namely the so called ,,Shifta War" against Kenya from 1963 to 1967 and the war against Ethiopia in 1964.

What is more, the young state faced several problems:

Firstly, the two former colonies were in different stages of development and hard to integrate. Secondly, there has always been rivalry among the clans about several issues, which will be explained in chapter 3.

Thirdly, the political system was defined by corruption and nepotism due to it's cultural roots in the Somali society.

Fourthly, there were political conflicts between two wings: the pro-Soviet wing and the wing refusing any involvement in the East-West Conflict.

Finally in 1969, the pro-Soviets successfully undertook a coup and Siad Barre became the new head of government intending to implement a scientific socialism. Barre governed the country like a dictator and went to war against Ethiopia from 1976 to 1978 and again in 1982 in order to pursue the idea of,,Great Somalia". As the USA was allowed to use airfields and port facilities in the north of Somalia it conversely supported Barre's military with weapons. In 1981, the clan Jsaaq" failed to undertake a coup but initiated a rebel movement with this action. Since the USA refused to support Barre any more, because of the abuse of human rights, the government was overthrown in 1991.

Although, the clans worked together for ten years so far they could not reach a consensus regarding the formation of the government for several reasons:

The alliances and agreements between the rebels were based on short-term and only included the coup d'etat itself. Moreover, there was still rivalry among the clans and also international intervention was too late.

In the end, every clan and party claimed the power for itself without the recognition of each other.

This was the beginning of the Somali civil war and from 1991 to 2000 Somalia was the only country in the world without any government until the Transitional National Government (TNG) was founded which will be explained in the following chapters.[1]*[60])

By contrast, Djibouti, the former French Somalia, gaining independence in 1977, was not involved in all the conflicts but has often been threatened by Somali groups pursuing ,,Great Somalia" although Djibouti refuses this idea.[2])

Chapter 3: Ethnic aspect

To begin, it is necessary to outline the ethnic Somalis:

Ethnic Somalis have a nomadic origin, an own writing system as well as an own language, which was suppressed by the colonial powers but later revived by Siad Barre.

What is more, the Somali population is divided in clans attributed to the influence of the Arabic tribal society due to their trade relationships. According to the CIA, 94% of the Somali population is associated with a clan[7]).

The Somali clans

A Somali is born into a clan and can strictly speaking never switch or leave it. Nevertheless, the clans accept non-Somali members and even Somalis from another clans since the beginning of the civil war as they need soldiers.

The clans are the centre of the Somali life and so they represent a governance for it's members and have been acting like political parties.

Their organizational structure is relatively simple and their hierarchy flatter. They are few organized and so most members act independently but always having the interests of the clan in their mind. The few headmen are normally the oldest ones in the clan and hold the power.

Throughout history, there have always been conflicts about water, grazing rights, territories and blood money which still continue to exist. Moreover, there is not only rivalry between clan families but also inside the families between the subclans and even inside the subclans. Nonetheless, there are alliances for strategic and ideological reasons between clans, which normally do not last long, and also with the Transitional Government, Breaking States, religious groups and even foreign countries.[4]*

The following map gives an overview of the major clan families and their subclans. Note that it is not supposed to show the clan's territories as the fast political changes make that impossible. Rather it shall only provide a general idea of the Somali clan system.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

This map shows the approximate territories of the most important Somali clans.

Samaal" and „Sab"

There have always been conflicts between the ,,real Somali clans" called ,,Samaal" who live nomadically like Dir, Darod, Isaaq and Hawiye and the settled clans called ,,Sab" like

Rahanweyn and Digil.


The non-ethnic-Somalis called ,,Somali Bantu" represent about 15% of the population and are mainly black Africans because of Somalia's former slave traffic. Besides there are some Arabs, Indians and Pakistanis probably due to the trade relationships Somalia had with these peoples. These groups are in fact not accepted by the Somalis and suppressed. Nevertheless, they are largely incorporated in clans as soldiers.


Nearly 100% of the Somalis are Sunnites divided in 80% of Shafiits and 20% of Hanafits. There is a wide range from radical conservatives to modern democrats who have ideological and political conflicts. In the past, these religious groups and wings have been indivisibly mixed with the clans but since the beginning of the civil war they have become more and more independent.

Furthermore, religion itself as well as religious groups have been growing in importance since 1991 probably due to the orientation, hope and stability they can offer.

That and their long tradition are the reasons why the Islam officially became the state religion of the Transitional Government, the clans and Breaking States like Somaliland.

The exercise of other religions is punished by any institution, often with draconian measures, whereas the biggest group of different believers are about 100 Christians mainly from Ethiopia.

Chapter 4: Political aspect

General facts

Since there is no established government, juridical system and police crimes and human rights violations cannot officially be avenged. Therefore, the population takes action on it's own even by creating further crimes.

The political protagonists are mainly clans, religious groups, Breaking States, the Transitional Federal Government TFG, supranational organizations like the African Union and foreign countries, in particular Ethiopia and Kenya.

Between these protagonists there are alliances and consensuses but also hostility. A general statement about their relation cannot be made because there are too different wings and views. For example some clans oppose the TFG for ideological, territorial or religious reasons and others work together with it. This makes the whole political situation relatively untransparent and moreover it changes so fast that information from three months ago are not reliable any more. That is why, this chapter is supposed to provide a general idea of the most important political views, developments and the main events, which are relevant for

Somalia's history and future.

To begin, some institutions managed to gather enough information about Somalia's political situation in order to give some concrete numbers and rankings:

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In 2007, Somalia broke the threshold of 1 million intern refugees[10]*, probably due to the fights between the TFG and the Union of Islamic courts which will be explained later. That is why Somalia was declared to be the most dangerous country in the world one year later by Forbes. The major countries of asylum for Somali refugees are:

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Excerpt out of 30 pages


Conflict Analysis of Somalia
University of Applied Sciences Dresden
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Al-Shabaab, Somalia, Konfliktanalyse, Horn von Afrika, Conflict Analysis, Horn of Africa, Somaliland, Samaal, Sab, Puntland, Maakhir, Mogadishu, Union of Islamic courts, Union islamischer Gerichte, Piraterie
Quote paper
Paula Müller (Author), 2013, Conflict Analysis of Somalia, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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