This process(p.15). As discontent grew, this resulted in

This chapter will focus
on Somalia’s troubled history prior to the rise of militant group
Al-Shabaab in 2006. By exploring Somalia’s history after its
independence in 1960 and the subsequent succession and demise of
Siaad Barre’s brutal regime, one can gauge an understanding into how
the historical conflict as well as the impacts of climate change have
contributed to the insurgency groups success.

In 1960, Somalia
declared independence from its British and Italian colonial powers
and opted for a multi party democracy with a Presidential
constitution. The new National Assembly combined the Islamic Sharia
rule of law with that of the old colonial powers legal
system(Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1991, p. 14). This new form of
governance boasted 123 members with over 60 clans enjoying
representation which was pivotal in promoting inclusiveness in the
political process and recognising that clan loyalties remained
integral in Somali society. It was these clan loyalties however and
competition between the North and South of the country that ensured
that democracy in Somalia was somewhat short-lived. Not only did the
South already enjoy advantages over the North in regards to natural
resources with easy access to the Juba and Shabelle rivers as well as
extensive economic trading hubs, but very early on politicians from
clans in the South were enjoying top jobs in government which
exacerbated clan tensions. An early example of this is when the first
President after independence, Aden Abdulla Osman , who happened to
belong to the Hawiye clan in the South, appointed a cabinet that was
entirely Southern clan based(p.14). Despite good intentions, the
adoption of clan identification and clan loyalty into the political
system was proving to be problematic. Politics in Somalia had become
entirely clan focused and politicians struggled in balancing their
responsibilities to their voters as well as their responsibilities to
their clans. In what happened to be Somalia’s final democratic
election in 1969, the majority of those elected rejoined the main
political party in the Somali Youth League in an attempt to secure
top governmental jobs which left many with no representation nor the
opportunity to participate in the political process(p.15). As
discontent grew, this resulted in the assassination of Somalia’s
second President, Abdirashid Ali Shermarke by his own bodyguard and
the subsequent bloodless coup d’etat led by Somalia’s head of the
armed forces Siad Barre a mere day later.

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The majority of
Somalians were not experiencing the riches that many were benefiting
from under the democratic government in 1960-1969 thus the armed coup
was welcomed. The Barre regime offered an alternative to the warring
tribalism that was plaguing the country and with the regime’s new
programme under the banner of ‘Scientific Socialism’ where clanism
and subsequent loyalties were eliminated, it was initially met with
widespread approval. Instead of kneeling to competing factions, Barre
brought a focus to improving education and social welfare for all. An
example of early success was the Somalization of education with the
adoption of the Somali language in schools. The Roman alphabet
replaced the traditional Arabic version and helped contribute to
literacy rates rocketing to 60 percent(p.18). Society in Somalia was
to change however as the government was relentless in its attempts to
centralize government operations and to exercise full control over
the local population whilst eradicating traditional clan methods in
law and order. Barre quickly established the brutal National Security
Service who suppressed public opinion and freedom of speech with
dissenters being jailed. In addition, the government implemented
media censorship with only government propaganda being printed in the
press and only one television station in operation which was of
course state led(p.16). In an effort to to crush the all powerful
Somali clans and consolidate power, Barre ruthlessly targeted those
who did not tow the line in the regime’s modernisation efforts. The
African Watch Committee reports – ‘Both the urban population and
nomads 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 a
pattern of psychological intimidation'(Leeson, 2007, p. 692). The
Majerteen clan in particular were specifically marginalised due to
being openly opposed to the ‘regime’s elaborate system of patronage
and state socialism as a formula for downplaying the clan
system'(Mustapha and Tar, 2017, p.282). This was deeply unpopular and
social unrest was to continue in the 1970’s with the declaration that
both men and women would enjoy equal rights. The traditionalists
including clan leaders dismissed this modern day phenomenon and
tensions between a centralised and modernised socialist state and
Somalia’s Islamic teachings intensified.

Barre’s policies proved
to be a controversial shift socially in Somalia but despite the
growing unrest the nation gained, somewhat unsurprisngly, the
attention of the Soviet Union due to its socialist programme. The
Soviets invested heavily in military aid which created an influx of
mass weaponry and expertise into the country. This move also placed
Somalia at the centre of Cold War politics as neighbouring Ethiopia
was already an ally of the United States. The level of investment
from the Soviet Union allowed the government to build up its military
which enhanced its control over the population. Scholar Peter Leeson
states – ‘The state was notoriously corrupt and violent. Political
actors and bureaucrats embezzled state funds, extorted and murdered
weak portions of the population, and engaged in aggressive asset
stripping of state-owned firms(2007, p. 693). Not only was the Barre
regime increasingly predatory towards its own citizens and at odds
with traditional Somali culture in regards to clanship, but the
country was to face one of its first documented grapples with Mother
Nature in the Long-tailed Drought lasting from April 1973 to June
1975 which exacerbated the political situation and resulted in the
displacement of thousands. As this chapter focuses on a brief history
of Somalia up until 2006, the causes and effects of this drought will
be analysed later.

The external competing
power dynamics in the region were once again going to take a dramatic
turn in 1974 when neighbouring emperor Haile Selassie was ousted in
Ethiopia which weakened the states grip on the contested Ogaden
region that was largely populated by Somalians. In a quest to finally
fulfil the dream of a ‘Greater Somalia’ Barre saw the opportunity to
pounce much to the disapproval of the Soviet Union and a full scale
war erupted between Somalia and its long term rival Ethiopia in 1977.
Cold War politics was to play its part with author Jeffrey Clark
stating – ‘Ethiopia’s long-standing relationship with the United
States was ruptured as the new government of Lt. Col. Mengistu
Haile-Mariam embraced Marxism, the Soviets in turn abandoned Siad
Barre and rushed military advisers and equipment to Ethiopia instead.
The Soviet exit set the stage for the first significant American
investment in Somalia'(1992, p. 111). This was a US a power check on
both Ethiopia and the Soviet Union with Somali economic assistance
totalling over $500 million. The level of investment would continue
into the 1980’s and would contribute to the economic demise of the
country and this will be discussed in greater detail later.
Meanwhile, and unfortunately for Siad Barre and Somalia, the Ogaden
War would result in a humiliating defeat in 1978 with Soviet support
of Ethiopia ensuring that 500,000 refugees and guerrillas were sent
packing back across the Somali border(Clark, 1992, p.111). A crushing
defeat to their most bitter of rivals weighed heavy in the minds of
many Somalians and crucially, it was after this period that open
opposition to the Barre regime would intensify. It was of no surprise
that the regime’s first opposition came in the form of the previously
maligned Majertan clan who created the Somali Salvation Democratic
Front(SSDF). Scholars Mustapha and Tar detail the tensions arising –
‘With the support of Ethiopia, the SSDF carried out insurgency
operations in Mogadishu. In response, the Barre regime carried out
reprisal attacks on the Majerteen clansmen within Somalia. These
reprisals were aimed at stemming the ethnic support base of the
rebels and deterring other clans from staging similar
rebellion'(2017, p.282). Ultimately, Barre’s supression proved to be
unsuccesful as another opposition group was formed via London in the
Somali National Movement(SNM) in 1981. However this time it was the
brain child of the powerful Isaaq clan including a notable Hawiye
faction who were and still are the dominant clan in Southern Somalia.
Similar to the influence felt by clan politics under the democratic
government from 1960-1969, clans were now at the forefront of the
opposition movement and it was growing rapidly. Tensions remained
high however due to perceived clan dominance within opposition groups
and this influenced the Hawiye clan’s decision in splitting from the
SNM in 1987(Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1991, p. 22). Despite having
the same goal in ousting the Barre regime, clan competition remained
strife and after the split, the Hawiye clan formed their own group in
1989, the United Somali Congress. The SNM remained strong however and
continue to govern exclusively in northern Somalia’s autonomous
region of Somalialand today.

Disenfranchised clans
did indeed find themselves at the forefront of the opposition
movement but as previously discussed, local Somalians were also
sceptical of what they perceived to be a supression of Islamic
teachings by the government. The tension between traditionalists and
a socialist programme gave rise to a political Islam in Somalia under
the name of The Al-Ittihad Al-Islami(AIAI) who were founded in 1983
by Sheikh Ali Warsame. Scholar Annette Weber details the group’s
origins – ‘Like Hasan at Turabi’s National Islamic Front in Sudan,
the AIAI’s leaders were also influenced by the Egyptian Muslim
Brotherhood….The organisation’s goals were to restore Greater
Somalia and introduce Sharia(2015, p. 3).The formation of such
Islamist groups was also heavily influenced by the Soviet Union’s
invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 to 1989 in what was an effort to
protect Muslim brothers and exercise a defensive jihad. The returning
Afghanistan veterans from this conflict were to dominate a sub-group
within the AIAI and were to be influential in fighting a future
defensive jihad against the West. It was from the AIAI where
Al-Shabaab would gain its most influential leader in the notorious
Abdi Godane and fellow militants such as Aden Ayro and Abu
Mansoor(Hansen, 2013, p. 2&3). Ultimately, the AIAI was to be
unsuccessful in offering an alternative to the status quo of the all
powerful clans after the fall of the Barre regime, but it was from
the off shoots of the AIAI that jihad in the Horn of Africa was to
gain prominence. Furthermore, the government was fully aware of clan
tensions and rivalries and exploited them to the fullest which
exacerbated the rise of such Islamic groups. Scholar Peter Leeson
describes Barre’s actions as ‘ethnic favouritism’ and details his
misgivings – ‘The Barre regime awarded certain client groups
preferrential access to arable land and water….Indeed, the Somali
case is a good example of ethnic favouritism where private
land-grabbing in the Jubba and Shebelle Valleys favoured the late
president’s clan, the Marehan while alienating other groups'(2007, p.

Social unrest
throughout Somalia in the late 1980’s was to continue to grow as the
public grew tired of an increasingly exploitive government and a
corrupt and heavy handed police force. In an effort to control open
dissenters, Barre intensified his efforts in crushing both the
Majeertan and Isaaq clans but he was unable to stem the tide. It was
during this period that the weakening regime struck a deal with
similarly distressed Ethiopia with both agreeing to no longer support
competing factions to the respective governments(Nordiska
Afrikainstitutet, 1991, p.22). This weakened opposition groups who
had lost the support of their greatest ally in Ethiopia but this
proved to be a minor obstacle. By 1988, the Barre regime had its back
up against the wall and opposition efforts escalated from the north
of the country towards the capital Mogadishu in the south. Somalia
was beginning its long descent into chaos as the north of the country
inexplicably fell into its own civil war in a dispute between the
rival Isaaq and Ogadeen clans. From 1988 to 1990, the regime lost
control of all major towns and cities except Hargeisa, Buraro and
Berbera and the Barre government had little chance in regaining full
control of the north when everything else was beginning to cave in
around them. In a last ditch attempt to maintain power, the
government proposed a democratic election for 1991 as well as the
appointment of an Isaaq Prime minister. This was however, too little
too late with the country now deep into a devastating civil war. By
1990 Somalia’s clans had sensed weakeness and fighting between
government forces and allied opposition groups roared into Mogadishu
– ‘Increasing military and political coordination among his many
enemies eventually eroded Siad Barre’s power. In a final desperate
act, the president turned his army loose on the Hiwaye sections of
Mogadishu, destroying much of the infrastructure and provoking a
violent uprising(Clark, 1992, p.111). The end result was Siaad Barre
fleeing the capital in January 1991 and bringing to an end his 21
year old regime. Somalia had rid themselves of a dictator who had
ruled with an iron fist but what proved to problematic for the
nation, was what was left. Unfortunately for the Somali people, peace
was to remain a desired but unreachable goal. The previously cited
article from the African Institute in 1991 very early on recognised
what was potentially bubbling beneath the surface -‘It can be stated
that the opposition groups have no common political programme except
to overthrow Siyad Barre. Once that goal is achieved it is most
likely that they will turn their guns against each other. The civil
war might continue. Only the ememy will be replaced'(p.27).

Somalia was now in
limbo as it no longer had a functioning government nor a government
in waiting that rival clans could agree on. Instead, Somalia was left
with a power vacuum which was to be quickly occupied with warring
clans and notorious warlords who proved to be just as opportunistic
as those in the ousted Barre regime. Two figues were to rise to
prominence in General Mohammed Farah Aideed who was in the mould of
exiled Barre, and Ali Mahdi Mohamed, a wealthy businessman from the
capital Mogadishu(Clark, 1991, p.112). The two factions could not
reach a consensus in their pursuit of power and with other militants
and warlords turning their weapons on each other, another civil war
errupted. The blood shed was the result of lethal social and
political circumstances but a further lingering factor was at hand.
The civil war would ‘end’ in 1992 via a UN brokered peace deal but
not before a famine would hit Somalian shores causing such
catastrophy that it would draw the attention of the entire
international community. Not only did it lead to a battle of
resources with thousands of Somalians displaced, starving or dying ,
but the subsequent humanitarian intervention would exacerbate the
conflict between the two warring sides and create a breeding ground
for the jihadist group Al-Qaeda and its allies. Like the previously
mentioned famine of 1973, the link between climatic conditions in
1992 and the resulting conflict that followed will be analysed in the
next chapter.

In comparison to the
chaos of the 1980’s and the destruction in the early 1990’s, the
remainder of the decade apart from a few minor clashes, was bliss.
The view from the international community was that Somalia had
completed its descent into chaos as a failed state but this is
something that Peter Leeson disputes. Leeson argues that Somalia
under the supposed security of statehood suffered from corruption and
violence and hence statelessness was no worse than what had been
implemented before. The author states – ‘Most depictions of Somalia
leading up to 2006 period grossly exaggerate the extent of Somali
violence. In reality, fewer people died from armed conflict in some
part of Somalia than did in neighbouring countries that have
governments. In these areas security was better than it was under
government(2007, p.695). Leeson continues to detail gradual
improvement in Somalia particularly economically with aircraft firms
being developed, public transport signficantly enhanced and the
growth of hotels and restaurants. Despite having no bank, the
Somalia SoSh showed greater stability under statelessness than it did
under the Barre regime(p.703). Author Stig Hansen presents a further
explanation and details how the use of religion with increased
religious symbols and titles, gave cause to stability and ‘created an
ideational focal point'(2013, p. 18). Hansen states – ‘Religion
gave comfort in a tough situation. Reputation for religious piety and
respect for the Qur’an, perhaps because of the strong condemnation of
theft and rape within Islam, was the factor that made Somalis trust
fellow countrymen to handle security and justice issues'(p.18). With
only warlords left as a means of protection, the Sharia Islamic
courts began to emerge in the capital as a way of implementing
justice. These courts were clan based, independently established and
‘were seen as standing up for the common man'(p.22). Somalian
warlords had become deeply unpopular and Hansen explains that the
Sharia courts were seen to be a legitimate alternative especially
considering ‘history, nationalism, facism, Marxism and clanism had
all been tried and tested(p,23). Crucially, the widely approved
Sharia courts were infiltrated with Afghanistan war veterans and
jihadists who would enjoy an unprecedented wave of popularity from
Somalians as well as the all powerful business community.
Interestingly, after 1992, this small period of relative calm
coincided with no drought nor famine. It wasn’t until 2000 where
Somalia suffered its greatest drought in a number of years. This is
the area where I will seek to analyse if the effects of climate
change in Somalia were a pivotal factor in the subsequent rise of
jihadist groups and particularly to the success of Al-Shabaab.

Unfortunately for
Somalia, the implementation of a justice system and the security that
came with it was not going to last for long. It was in the early
2000’s when external influences would begin to rock the boat. After a
series of talks between rival clans and neighbouring Ethiopia, the
Transitional Federal Government(TFG) was established in 2004
replacing the existing Transitional National Government(TNG). The
result of the talks was an effort to tackle Somalia’s growing warlord
problem that had left clans and the Somalia people alike feeling
exasperated. By replacing a government who had no control outwith the
capital Mogadishu, it was believed that the new TFG would be a viable
alternative to the much feared warlords. However, there was much
scepticism surrounding Ethiopia’s role in the process and clan
politics were once again to play their part. Stig Hansen states –
‘The clan dominating in Mogadishu, the Hawiye, and especially the
Haber Gedir sub-clan felt alienated by the process, as they lost the
presidency they held’ in the TNG(Hansen, 2013 p. 23). Hansen explains
that the Hawiye felt they had ‘lost the leadership of that
government’ but also that Somalians were wary of Ethiopian
involvement in the establishment of the TFG bearing in mind that the
two nations are arch rivals(p.23). Hence, the TFG was never popular
to begin with and Somalians continued their search for a viable, as
well as a legitimiate, alternative.  



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