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Somalia a failed state.

by Abdulcadir S. Hussein
Thursday, August 23, 2007


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Some people would argue that Somalia is a failed nation; others would say it’s a failed nation-state. In any case there is no doubt Somalia as a State, a country or as a nation has failed. Somalia no longer exists. Social scientists of the future will study how this happened. As we all know, the Somali State was instituted on the 1st July 1960 when the Italian Somaliland (gained its independence from Italian colonists) and the British Somaliland (won its independence four days earlier from British colonists) voluntarily  joined together to form the Somali Republic. However, after thirty one short years the Somali State has vanished from the face of the planet. In this short writing, I will speculate how this situation came about.


Somalia’s statehood can be divided in two periods. The first period (1960-1969) was semi-democratic/tribal statehood. It had elections and other signs of democratic state, but the tribal institution was the cornerstone of that period. The second period (1969-1991) started when the Somali state was hijacked by the military, which brought the dictator Mohamed Siyad to power on 21st October 1696. He devastated the country with his economic and social backward ideas compounded with his militaristic misadventures. However, the Somali State did not survive in the chaotic and the total destruction of the law and order as a result of Siyad’s long dictatorial rule and the civil war which followed his downfall. Thus, the important question is:  has the Somali State failed the people or the Somali people have failed the state? One could always argue the state has failed the people, but the people have constituted the state in the first place.  In other words, the state is an instrument formed by the people for their own common good and for the benefit of all. Therefore, the people have failed the State not the other way.


One could say the institutions of the State benefited only few and therefore it was a State of the few since its inception. This could not justify the destruction of the State. There is no resolution of an injustice with a greater one. The confusion between the State and the Government abounds in our society.  The State, according to Webber’s dictionary, is that institution which has the right to manage the armed forces, the civil servants, the courts of law and the Police etc. The government, on the other hand, is merely an instrument used by the State to manage the public affairs.  In participatory democracies the government could be dissolved and a new one could be set up, but not the State.


Is there a Somali State functioning in the country at the moment? The answer of this question is debatable. There are the armed forces of foreign powers operating in the country. As we all know, these foreign forces were brought in the country by the current regime known as the Federal Transitional Government (FTG). Are these forces friendly to the government, the current administration? Are they there to prop up the FTG and this administration has the good of the Somali people at heart? Are these foreign forces in Somalia to stabilize the country or to stop the tribal based civil war which destroyed much of the country? Or are they there for their own good?


Somalia’s similar historical parallel can be found in Middle East. Remember Syria went into Lebanon to stabilize and stop the Lebanese civil war, which destroyed that country in the 1970’s. Remember also Syria stayed in Lebanon, until it was blamed for the assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005, and only then Syria had to leave Lebanon under massive international pressure. In our case, will Ethiopia ever leave Somalia? What will be the circumstances that would lead Ethiopia to leave Somalia? I am putting forward these questions because I don’t have satisfactory answers for them.


Some would argue that the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) caused the main trigger of bringing Ethiopian forces into the country, when they boasted they will liberate the Somali people in the Eastern region of Ethiopia. That itself can be valid idea, but the ICU should have tried to bring peace and stability first to the internationally recognized parts of Somalia. The ICU once ruled much of the country from Galguduud to Lower Jubba regions. Even though peace and tranquillity returned to these parts of the country, the ICU failed to harness the will of the people for the benefit of the whole country. Instead of initiating renewed violence and attacking the besieged TFG in Baidoa, they should have engaged in continuing peace negotiations with the TFG. They should have joined forces with them to change them from the inside. Instead they opted to fight the TFG out of the country.


There are other factors that contributed the destruction of the Somali State. Somali people are known all around the world for their bravery, they are proud and fiercely independent. Perhaps Somalis are too proud and too fierce for their own good, and too independent from one another. Somali people are too proud to follow anyone person as a leader, that is the way they were for millennia, and they will remain that way. Of course this is based on tribal or clan lineages. No self-respecting Somali as a person or as a clan believes there is anyone worthy of his/her reverence who deserves to lead him/her. We are a country of leaders with no followers.


Why is it we cannot tolerate each other’s opinion? Why we cannot accept our differences? What is it that makes other peoples abide by the rule of their laws but not us? To be proud and fierce are attributes of primitive societies. We are either with you or against you; there is no middle ground for us. In other cultures politeness, respect and moderation are signs of civility. In our culture a polite and respectful person is seen as a week person. We lack civilized self interest. We don’t know the negotiating skills of ‘give and take’. We never give and we fight to take it all. We conform to the wishes of the clan or the sub-clan or the sub-sub-clan or the sub (to the infinity) clan. Everyone expects you to correspond to the wishes of your sub (to the infinity) clan, you cannot have a difference of opinion.


If one proposes the “strange” idea which says let’s start talking let’s calmly negotiate peacefully, let’s stop shooting and killing each other. It has been seventeen years since we started killing each other for no reason. You are immediately labelled a coward, and the only reply you receive will be ‘never’ or ‘we will fight to the last man/woman standing’, and for what? Until the sub-sub-clan or the sub (to the infinity)clan rules the country. My way or no way is our answer. 


Are we genetically predisposed to seek solutions in violence, with innately warped view of the world? Are we ignorant of any other peaceful solutions? Are we so backward looking and blinded by clan loyalties that we unable to see we are blood brothers/sisters? Is there any hope that one day we can see we are all compatriots worthy of respect from each other? Is there any hope for peace in our beloved Somalia? Is there any hope to see one day a peaceful and prosperous Somalia?   These questions are intended for no other purposes except to create constructive debate within the Somali people.


Abdulcadir S. Hussein
E-mail: [email protected]

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