Stability and Somalia are words not often found in close proximity. Somalia ranked first on the list of the most failed states from 2008–2013 and currently ranks second. 1 Due to the volatility from two decades of civil war, any semblance of stability Somalia is emergent rather than established. The political, military and the physical environments are the emergent drivers of stability in Somalia. The political environment stabilizes Somalia by providing a unified and internationally recognized government. The military stabilizes Somalia by providing consistent security under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and by slowly defeating the corrupting influence of the terrorist group al-Shabaab. The physical environment stabilizes Somalia by attracting foreign investment in return for access to abundant natural resources and because of its strategic location along a major oil maritime transit route.
Politics2 Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index 2013 3 Adan, One year on: Is Somalia smiling or crawling?, New African, (2013)
Political stability was achieved after two decades of continuous conflict and political change. Though the newly established Federal Republic of Somalia leads the world in corporate and political corruption, the acceptance of the new government onto the world stage indicates that political stability will endure. 2 With the ratification of the constitution in 2012, key international organizations, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank recognized Somalia’s nascent government. Additionally, several countries formally reopened diplomatic channels with Somalia, to include the United States. 34 Heaton, Somalia's Fresh Start?, Newsweek (Atlantic Edition), (2012) 5 The most infamous floor brawl in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives
Despite recent gains, there are substantial barriers to a unified Somalia. Political stability is still developing and is and not yet assured. Somalia, the nation-state, is a loose concept that varies by region throughout the country. Somaliland and Puntland are semi-autonomous regions that govern their own affairs. Additionally, the political process has not yet reached the level of decorum expected in a modern state. Fistfights frequently occur in the parliament, occasionally escalating to full brawls. In the last brawl, four representatives were admitted to the hospital with head injuries. 4 The US House of Representatives demonstrated similar behavior in 1858, igniting a melee in which over 30 representatives engaged in close quarters battle. 5 As with the US House of Representatives in 1858, the Somali political process is rebuilding after a devastating civil war.6 Fergusson, The World's Most Dangerous Place: Inside the Outlaw State of Somalia, Da Capo Press (2013)., Location 114 7 Kagame, Hassan Sheik Mohamud - The 2013 Time 100, Time, (2013) 8 Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen 9 Fergusson, The World's Most Dangerous Place: Inside the Outlaw State of Somalia, Da Capo Press (2013)., Location 1537
The recent presidential election highlights the advances of the political processes. A university professor, Hassan Sheik Mohamud, ousted the incumbent Sheikh Sharif, despite the fact that Sharif spent a reported $7 million in bribes to rig the election. 6 Shortly after securing the presidency, Mohamud was named to the Time 100: Most Influential People in the World 2013 for his contributions against corruption and his role in stabilizing the war torn Somalia. 7 President Mohamud’s success was greatly eased by al-Shabaab publicity missteps. Al-Shabaab is a destabilizing influence focused on creating an “Islamist state in Somalia, administered according to its radical interpretation of sharia (Islamic law).” 8 Instead of communicating their message to an international audience, al-Shabaab refused to talk to all journalists, assuming that all journalists were spies. 9 Al-Shabaab’s inability to overcome their rigid ideology and spread their message undermines their support amongst the populace and creates space for the growth of the government. The continued, stable progression of the Somali political process depends heavily on al-Shabaab publicity missteps and on the security afforded by the military. The current relative peace afforded by the situation offers Somalia the best chance for a stable, lasting government since its descent into civil war in 1991.
Military10 AMISOM Mandate
The Somali military by itself is not a driver of stability due to clan infighting and low levels of readiness. However, the recent transnational operations under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) markedly increased the internal security of Somalia, subsequently increasing stability. AMISOM is mandated by the African Union to “conduct Peace Support Operations in Somalia to stabilize the situation in the country in order to create conditions for the conduct of Humanitarian activities and an immediate take over by the United Nations.” 10 AMISOM consists of military personnel and police forces from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Sierra Leone, and Kenya. AMISOM, with a 22,000 strong force, drove al-Shabaab from Mogadishu and out of the Kismayo Port, simultaneously eliminating a valuable source of income for al-Shabaab and providing legitimacy to the government.11 Fergusson, The World's Most Dangerous Place: Inside the Outlaw State of Somalia, Da Capo Press (2013)., Location 230 12 World Armies: Somalia 13 World Armies: Somalia
As with the government, the newly formed Somali Army is not yet a driver of stability. Rather, the Army provides a path to stability by learning from its partner nation’s forces under AMISOM. The external nations in AMISOM bear the brunt of battle, due to the infighting in the Somali Army. According to Fergusson, the Somalia Army is rife with desertion, fratricide and treason. 11 The Somali Army infighting is compounded by pay problems. In one case the military went without pay for six months. 12 The Somali government’s consistent inability to fund their military degrades the readiness of their force to the point of incompetence. Subsequently, trust in the Somalia Army is nonexistent, perhaps best underscored by precautions taken at a recent presidential review. Before the ceremony, all soldiers were disarmed and conducted the parade without weapons, highlighting the President’s complete lack of confidence in the Army. 1314 Heaton, Somalia's Fresh Start?, Newsweek (Atlantic Edition), (2012) 15 Fergusson, The World's Most Dangerous Place: Inside the Outlaw State of Somalia, Da Capo Press (2013)., Location 630
Despite the difference in proficiency between members of AMISOM, other African Union countries have a vested interest in the stability of Somalia. The rise of terrorist organizations in Africa continues at a rapid rate. Both al-Queda In the Maghreb and Boko Haram both operate on the continent and are allied with al-Shabaab. Part of the AMISOM mission is an attempt to stem the flow of extreme Islamist ideology into Africa. As a survival mechanism, Somali’s often ally with terrorist groups choosing to side with the most powerful local force. The Somalia people are ruthlessly pragmatic after 20 years of war, eschewing dogma for survival. A civilian adviser working with AMISOM noted, “a lot of people […] are pretending to be part of [al-Shabaab’s] religious lifestyle so they can be accepted.” 14 As al-Shabaab yields space to the AMISOM offensive, the people have slowly pledged support for Somalia. In addition to military support, AMISOM provided health-care services quickly curried favor amongst locals. Despite notices from al-Shabaab threatening the removal of participant’s tongues for utilizing the health-care services, Somalis continued to visit the clinics, often traveling distances in excess of 20 kilometers. 15
AMISOM has proven capable of defeating al-Shabaab and regaining lost territory. As AMISOM advances, the legitimacy of the Somali government grows, and with it, the support of the populace. As long as the AMISOM charter is renewed every six months, Somali’s partner forces will continue to drive stability.
Physical Environment16 Central Intelligence Agency, Somalia
Somalia’s physical environment stabilizes the region by attracting foreign investment for access to abundant natural resources and oil deposits. Foreign investment spurs economic growth and increases stability. Additionally, Somalia’s strategic location along approaches to Bab el Mandeb and routes through the Red Sea and Suez Canal are vital to world shipping. 1617 Central Intelligence Agency, Somalia 18 The World Bank, Arable Land 19 Fergusson, Somalia: A failed state is back from the dead 20 Energy Information Administration, World Oil Transit Chokepoints
The economic future of Somalia is speculative, but hopeful. Somalia is still an agricultural society. Agriculture contributes 59% of the GDP and employs 71% of the workforce. 17 However, Somalia ranks in the bottom 15% of countries for arable land; only 1.7% of total land was surveyed as arable. 18 The future of Somalia lies not in agriculture, but in oil. Fergusson notes that “Somalia possesses important [oil] reserves, both in the north of the country and to the south off the shore of Kismayo. With al-Shabaab in retreat, the more adventurous prospecting companies are already circling, bringing the promise of massive foreign investment and, eventually, Gulf-style oil wealth to this impoverished nation.” 19 Additionally, Somalia lies along the Bab el-Mandeb strait, a strategic location that offer a maritime route between Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean. In 2011, 3.4 million barrels of oil per day traveled through Bab el-Mandeb, representing approximately 10% of all oil transported through oil transit chokepoints. 20 The strategic importance of the maritime route ensures the key international actors are invested in the stability of Somalia.
Somalia’s political, military, and physical environments are interdependent. An increase in one factor will drive an increase in another. As AMISOM maintains security and defeats al-Shabaab, the political legitimacy of Somalia increases. As the political environment stabilizes, foreign investment in the physical environment spurs economic growth. Conversely, Somalia could easily slide back into to civil war if al-Shabaab launches a successful counter-offensive, or if the government collapses due to clan political maneuvering. The delicate balance between the political environment, the military and the physical environment offers Somalia the opportunity to rise from civil war into a major power on the African continent.
Adan, One year on: Is Somalia smiling or crawling?, New African, (2013)
Central Intelligence Agency, Somalia
Energy Information Administration, World Oil Transit Chokepoints
Fund for Peace, The Fragile States Index 2014
Fergusson, The World's Most Dangerous Place: Inside the Outlaw State of Somalia, Da Capo Press (2013).
Heaton, Somalia's Fresh Start?, Newsweek (Atlantic Edition), (2012)
Kagame, Hassan Sheik Mohamud - The 2013 Time 100, Time, (2013)
Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index 2013
The World Bank, Arable Land