This chapter will focuson Somalia’s troubled history prior to the rise of militant groupAl-Shabaab in 2006.
By exploring Somalia’s history after itsindependence in 1960 and the subsequent succession and demise ofSiaad Barre’s brutal regime, one can gauge an understanding into howthe historical conflict as well as the impacts of climate change havecontributed to the insurgency groups success.In 1960, Somaliadeclared independence from its British and Italian colonial powersand opted for a multi party democracy with a Presidentialconstitution. The new National Assembly combined the Islamic Shariarule of law with that of the old colonial powers legalsystem(Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1991, p. 14).
This new form ofgovernance boasted 123 members with over 60 clans enjoyingrepresentation which was pivotal in promoting inclusiveness in thepolitical process and recognising that clan loyalties remainedintegral in Somali society. It was these clan loyalties however andcompetition between the North and South of the country that ensuredthat democracy in Somalia was somewhat short-lived. Not only did theSouth already enjoy advantages over the North in regards to naturalresources with easy access to the Juba and Shabelle rivers as well asextensive economic trading hubs, but very early on politicians fromclans in the South were enjoying top jobs in government whichexacerbated clan tensions. An early example of this is when the firstPresident after independence, Aden Abdulla Osman , who happened tobelong to the Hawiye clan in the South, appointed a cabinet that wasentirely Southern clan based(p.14).
Despite good intentions, theadoption of clan identification and clan loyalty into the politicalsystem was proving to be problematic. Politics in Somalia had becomeentirely clan focused and politicians struggled in balancing theirresponsibilities to their voters as well as their responsibilities totheir clans. In what happened to be Somalia’s final democraticelection in 1969, the majority of those elected rejoined the mainpolitical party in the Somali Youth League in an attempt to securetop governmental jobs which left many with no representation nor theopportunity to participate in the political process(p.15).
Asdiscontent grew, this resulted in the assassination of Somalia’ssecond President, Abdirashid Ali Shermarke by his own bodyguard andthe subsequent bloodless coup d’etat led by Somalia’s head of thearmed forces Siad Barre a mere day later. The majority ofSomalians were not experiencing the riches that many were benefitingfrom under the democratic government in 1960-1969 thus the armed coupwas welcomed. The Barre regime offered an alternative to the warringtribalism that was plaguing the country and with the regime’s newprogramme under the banner of ‘Scientific Socialism’ where clanismand subsequent loyalties were eliminated, it was initially met withwidespread approval. Instead of kneeling to competing factions, Barrebrought a focus to improving education and social welfare for all.
Anexample of early success was the Somalization of education with theadoption of the Somali language in schools. The Roman alphabetreplaced the traditional Arabic version and helped contribute toliteracy rates rocketing to 60 percent(p.18). Society in Somalia wasto change however as the government was relentless in its attempts tocentralize government operations and to exercise full control overthe local population whilst eradicating traditional clan methods inlaw and order. Barre quickly established the brutal National SecurityService who suppressed public opinion and freedom of speech withdissenters being jailed. In addition, the government implementedmedia censorship with only government propaganda being printed in thepress and only one television station in operation which was ofcourse state led(p.
16). In an effort to to crush the all powerfulSomali clans and consolidate power, Barre ruthlessly targeted thosewho did not tow the line in the regime’s modernisation efforts. TheAfrican Watch Committee reports – ‘Both the urban population andnomads living in the countryside are subjected to summary killings,arbitrary arrest, detention in squalid conditions, torture, rape,crippling constraints on freedom of movement and expression and apattern of psychological intimidation'(Leeson, 2007, p.
692). TheMajerteen clan in particular were specifically marginalised due tobeing openly opposed to the ‘regime’s elaborate system of patronageand state socialism as a formula for downplaying the clansystem'(Mustapha and Tar, 2017, p.282). This was deeply unpopular andsocial unrest was to continue in the 1970’s with the declaration thatboth men and women would enjoy equal rights. The traditionalistsincluding clan leaders dismissed this modern day phenomenon andtensions between a centralised and modernised socialist state andSomalia’s Islamic teachings intensified. Barre’s policies provedto be a controversial shift socially in Somalia but despite thegrowing unrest the nation gained, somewhat unsurprisngly, theattention of the Soviet Union due to its socialist programme.
TheSoviets invested heavily in military aid which created an influx ofmass weaponry and expertise into the country. This move also placedSomalia at the centre of Cold War politics as neighbouring Ethiopiawas already an ally of the United States. The level of investmentfrom the Soviet Union allowed the government to build up its militarywhich enhanced its control over the population. Scholar Peter Leesonstates – ‘The state was notoriously corrupt and violent.
Politicalactors and bureaucrats embezzled state funds, extorted and murderedweak portions of the population, and engaged in aggressive assetstripping of state-owned firms(2007, p. 693). Not only was the Barreregime increasingly predatory towards its own citizens and at oddswith traditional Somali culture in regards to clanship, but thecountry was to face one of its first documented grapples with MotherNature in the Long-tailed Drought lasting from April 1973 to June1975 which exacerbated the political situation and resulted in thedisplacement of thousands.
As this chapter focuses on a brief historyof Somalia up until 2006, the causes and effects of this drought willbe analysed later. The external competingpower dynamics in the region were once again going to take a dramaticturn in 1974 when neighbouring emperor Haile Selassie was ousted inEthiopia which weakened the states grip on the contested Ogadenregion that was largely populated by Somalians. In a quest to finallyfulfil the dream of a ‘Greater Somalia’ Barre saw the opportunity topounce much to the disapproval of the Soviet Union and a full scalewar erupted between Somalia and its long term rival Ethiopia in 1977.Cold War politics was to play its part with author Jeffrey Clarkstating – ‘Ethiopia’s long-standing relationship with the UnitedStates was ruptured as the new government of Lt.
Col. MengistuHaile-Mariam embraced Marxism, the Soviets in turn abandoned SiadBarre and rushed military advisers and equipment to Ethiopia instead.The Soviet exit set the stage for the first significant Americaninvestment in Somalia'(1992, p. 111). This was a US a power check onboth Ethiopia and the Soviet Union with Somali economic assistancetotalling over $500 million. The level of investment would continueinto the 1980’s and would contribute to the economic demise of thecountry and this will be discussed in greater detail later.Meanwhile, and unfortunately for Siad Barre and Somalia, the OgadenWar would result in a humiliating defeat in 1978 with Soviet supportof Ethiopia ensuring that 500,000 refugees and guerrillas were sentpacking back across the Somali border(Clark, 1992, p.
111). A crushingdefeat to their most bitter of rivals weighed heavy in the minds ofmany Somalians and crucially, it was after this period that openopposition to the Barre regime would intensify. It was of no surprisethat the regime’s first opposition came in the form of the previouslymaligned Majertan clan who created the Somali Salvation DemocraticFront(SSDF). Scholars Mustapha and Tar detail the tensions arising –’With the support of Ethiopia, the SSDF carried out insurgencyoperations in Mogadishu. In response, the Barre regime carried outreprisal attacks on the Majerteen clansmen within Somalia. Thesereprisals were aimed at stemming the ethnic support base of therebels and deterring other clans from staging similarrebellion'(2017, p.282). Ultimately, Barre’s supression proved to beunsuccesful as another opposition group was formed via London in theSomali National Movement(SNM) in 1981.
However this time it was thebrain child of the powerful Isaaq clan including a notable Hawiyefaction who were and still are the dominant clan in Southern Somalia.Similar to the influence felt by clan politics under the democraticgovernment from 1960-1969, clans were now at the forefront of theopposition movement and it was growing rapidly. Tensions remainedhigh however due to perceived clan dominance within opposition groupsand this influenced the Hawiye clan’s decision in splitting from theSNM in 1987(Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1991, p. 22). Despite havingthe same goal in ousting the Barre regime, clan competition remainedstrife and after the split, the Hawiye clan formed their own group in1989, the United Somali Congress.
The SNM remained strong however andcontinue to govern exclusively in northern Somalia’s autonomousregion of Somalialand today. Disenfranchised clansdid indeed find themselves at the forefront of the oppositionmovement but as previously discussed, local Somalians were alsosceptical of what they perceived to be a supression of Islamicteachings by the government. The tension between traditionalists anda socialist programme gave rise to a political Islam in Somalia underthe name of The Al-Ittihad Al-Islami(AIAI) who were founded in 1983by Sheikh Ali Warsame. Scholar Annette Weber details the group’sorigins – ‘Like Hasan at Turabi’s National Islamic Front in Sudan,the AIAI’s leaders were also influenced by the Egyptian MuslimBrotherhood.
The organisation’s goals were to restore GreaterSomalia and introduce Sharia(2015, p. 3).The formation of suchIslamist groups was also heavily influenced by the Soviet Union’sinvasion of Afghanistan in 1979 to 1989 in what was an effort toprotect Muslim brothers and exercise a defensive jihad. The returningAfghanistan veterans from this conflict were to dominate a sub-groupwithin the AIAI and were to be influential in fighting a futuredefensive jihad against the West. It was from the AIAI whereAl-Shabaab would gain its most influential leader in the notoriousAbdi Godane and fellow militants such as Aden Ayro and AbuMansoor(Hansen, 2013, p.
2&3). Ultimately, the AIAI was to beunsuccessful in offering an alternative to the status quo of the allpowerful clans after the fall of the Barre regime, but it was fromthe off shoots of the AIAI that jihad in the Horn of Africa was togain prominence. Furthermore, the government was fully aware of clantensions and rivalries and exploited them to the fullest whichexacerbated the rise of such Islamic groups. Scholar Peter Leesondescribes Barre’s actions as ‘ethnic favouritism’ and details hismisgivings – ‘The Barre regime awarded certain client groupspreferrential access to arable land and water…
.Indeed, the Somalicase is a good example of ethnic favouritism where privateland-grabbing in the Jubba and Shebelle Valleys favoured the latepresident’s clan, the Marehan while alienating other groups'(2007, p.694).
Social unrestthroughout Somalia in the late 1980’s was to continue to grow as thepublic grew tired of an increasingly exploitive government and acorrupt and heavy handed police force. In an effort to control opendissenters, Barre intensified his efforts in crushing both theMajeertan and Isaaq clans but he was unable to stem the tide. It wasduring this period that the weakening regime struck a deal withsimilarly distressed Ethiopia with both agreeing to no longer supportcompeting factions to the respective governments(NordiskaAfrikainstitutet, 1991, p.22). This weakened opposition groups whohad lost the support of their greatest ally in Ethiopia but thisproved to be a minor obstacle. By 1988, the Barre regime had its backup against the wall and opposition efforts escalated from the northof the country towards the capital Mogadishu in the south.
Somaliawas beginning its long descent into chaos as the north of the countryinexplicably fell into its own civil war in a dispute between therival Isaaq and Ogadeen clans. From 1988 to 1990, the regime lostcontrol of all major towns and cities except Hargeisa, Buraro andBerbera and the Barre government had little chance in regaining fullcontrol of the north when everything else was beginning to cave inaround them. In a last ditch attempt to maintain power, thegovernment proposed a democratic election for 1991 as well as theappointment of an Isaaq Prime minister.
This was however, too littletoo late with the country now deep into a devastating civil war. By1990 Somalia’s clans had sensed weakeness and fighting betweengovernment forces and allied opposition groups roared into Mogadishu– ‘Increasing military and political coordination among his manyenemies eventually eroded Siad Barre’s power. In a final desperateact, the president turned his army loose on the Hiwaye sections ofMogadishu, destroying much of the infrastructure and provoking aviolent uprising(Clark, 1992, p.
111). The end result was Siaad Barrefleeing the capital in January 1991 and bringing to an end his 21year old regime. Somalia had rid themselves of a dictator who hadruled with an iron fist but what proved to problematic for thenation, was what was left. Unfortunately for the Somali people, peacewas to remain a desired but unreachable goal. The previously citedarticle from the African Institute in 1991 very early on recognisedwhat was potentially bubbling beneath the surface -‘It can be statedthat the opposition groups have no common political programme exceptto overthrow Siyad Barre.
Once that goal is achieved it is mostlikely that they will turn their guns against each other. The civilwar might continue. Only the ememy will be replaced'(p.27). Somalia was now inlimbo as it no longer had a functioning government nor a governmentin waiting that rival clans could agree on.
Instead, Somalia was leftwith a power vacuum which was to be quickly occupied with warringclans and notorious warlords who proved to be just as opportunisticas those in the ousted Barre regime. Two figues were to rise toprominence in General Mohammed Farah Aideed who was in the mould ofexiled Barre, and Ali Mahdi Mohamed, a wealthy businessman from thecapital Mogadishu(Clark, 1991, p.112).
The two factions could notreach a consensus in their pursuit of power and with other militantsand warlords turning their weapons on each other, another civil warerrupted. The blood shed was the result of lethal social andpolitical circumstances but a further lingering factor was at hand.The civil war would ‘end’ in 1992 via a UN brokered peace deal butnot before a famine would hit Somalian shores causing suchcatastrophy that it would draw the attention of the entireinternational community. Not only did it lead to a battle ofresources with thousands of Somalians displaced, starving or dying ,but the subsequent humanitarian intervention would exacerbate theconflict between the two warring sides and create a breeding groundfor the jihadist group Al-Qaeda and its allies. Like the previouslymentioned famine of 1973, the link between climatic conditions in1992 and the resulting conflict that followed will be analysed in thenext chapter. In comparison to thechaos of the 1980’s and the destruction in the early 1990’s, theremainder of the decade apart from a few minor clashes, was bliss.
The view from the international community was that Somalia hadcompleted its descent into chaos as a failed state but this issomething that Peter Leeson disputes. Leeson argues that Somaliaunder the supposed security of statehood suffered from corruption andviolence and hence statelessness was no worse than what had beenimplemented before. The author states – ‘Most depictions of Somalialeading up to 2006 period grossly exaggerate the extent of Somaliviolence. In reality, fewer people died from armed conflict in somepart of Somalia than did in neighbouring countries that havegovernments. In these areas security was better than it was undergovernment(2007, p.
695). Leeson continues to detail gradualimprovement in Somalia particularly economically with aircraft firmsbeing developed, public transport signficantly enhanced and thegrowth of hotels and restaurants. Despite having no bank, theSomalia SoSh showed greater stability under statelessness than it didunder the Barre regime(p.703). Author Stig Hansen presents a furtherexplanation and details how the use of religion with increasedreligious symbols and titles, gave cause to stability and ‘created anideational focal point'(2013, p. 18). Hansen states – ‘Religiongave comfort in a tough situation.
Reputation for religious piety andrespect for the Qur’an, perhaps because of the strong condemnation oftheft and rape within Islam, was the factor that made Somalis trustfellow countrymen to handle security and justice issues'(p.18). Withonly warlords left as a means of protection, the Sharia Islamiccourts began to emerge in the capital as a way of implementingjustice. These courts were clan based, independently established and’were seen as standing up for the common man'(p.
22). Somalianwarlords had become deeply unpopular and Hansen explains that theSharia courts were seen to be a legitimate alternative especiallyconsidering ‘history, nationalism, facism, Marxism and clanism hadall been tried and tested(p,23). Crucially, the widely approvedSharia courts were infiltrated with Afghanistan war veterans andjihadists who would enjoy an unprecedented wave of popularity fromSomalians as well as the all powerful business community.Interestingly, after 1992, this small period of relative calmcoincided with no drought nor famine. It wasn’t until 2000 whereSomalia suffered its greatest drought in a number of years. This isthe area where I will seek to analyse if the effects of climatechange in Somalia were a pivotal factor in the subsequent rise ofjihadist groups and particularly to the success of Al-Shabaab. Unfortunately forSomalia, the implementation of a justice system and the security thatcame with it was not going to last for long. It was in the early2000’s when external influences would begin to rock the boat.
After aseries of talks between rival clans and neighbouring Ethiopia, theTransitional Federal Government(TFG) was established in 2004replacing the existing Transitional National Government(TNG). Theresult of the talks was an effort to tackle Somalia’s growing warlordproblem that had left clans and the Somalia people alike feelingexasperated. By replacing a government who had no control outwith thecapital Mogadishu, it was believed that the new TFG would be a viablealternative to the much feared warlords. However, there was muchscepticism surrounding Ethiopia’s role in the process and clanpolitics were once again to play their part.
Stig Hansen states -‘The clan dominating in Mogadishu, the Hawiye, and especially theHaber Gedir sub-clan felt alienated by the process, as they lost thepresidency they held’ in the TNG(Hansen, 2013 p. 23). Hansen explainsthat the Hawiye felt they had ‘lost the leadership of thatgovernment’ but also that Somalians were wary of Ethiopianinvolvement in the establishment of the TFG bearing in mind that thetwo nations are arch rivals(p.23).
Hence, the TFG was never popularto begin with and Somalians continued their search for a viable, aswell as a legitimiate, alternative.