Somalia and Terrorism

The purpose of this paper is study the falls of governance in Somalia and its role in facilitating the rise of various terrorist organizations in the country and the region. The paper will examine the fall of the government in 1991 and how the country has since then recovered. It will also examine the various roles international organizations and foreign countries have played in the conflict. The paper will examine the various terrorist/militant organizations fighting in the conflict. It will also examine the success and failures of the transnational government that has been running Somalia with the aid of AU and the UN.
Terrorism in Somalia and Its Causes
Somalia is a country on the horn of Africa; in fact it is the horn of Africa. It is located on the near the Gulf of Aden, a strategically vital shipping lane. The capital of Somalia is Mogadishu. Since the 1990s Somalia has been without an effective government with parts of the country in complete anarchy and chaos ruled by various warlords and militias (Seyle). The Army was disbanded and the country was left without a police or a judiciary. Many have called Somalia the world’s only true failed state (Jones). The chaos and the anarchy has allowed for the rise of various fundamentalist groups who have engaged in terrorism and numerous wars crimes and human rights violations in the territory they control with relative impunity. The absence of government and state institutions had created a vacuum which was filled by the Jihadist groups who implemented Sharia law. The imposition of Sharia law was first welcomed by the local communities as it restored some order in the territories they controlled but eventually the population turned against them after witnessing the brutality with which the law was imposed. The Wahabi inspired sharia governance was at odds with most Somalis who follow a more moderate Sufi version of Islam.
Somalia is inhabited by mostly Ethnic Somalis who form 85% of the population. The Ogaden region in Ethiopia and the North Eastern Province in Kenya are majority ethnic Somali areas that border Somalia. They are a result of European colonialism and colonial borders. Today what is Somalia consists of what was Italian Somalia and British Somaliland during the colonial period. Somali became an independent country in 1960. After the breakdown of governance in Somalia, British Somaliland declared independence and became the State of Somaliland. It has experienced relative peace as a separate political entity but has failed to gain international recognition of its independence. French Somaliland choose to be a separate entity through a referendum and today is the independent country of Djibouti. It hosts one of the most important US military base in the world and the command center in Africa of the United States Military. In 1969 after the assassination of the president the army launched a military coup which bought Siad Barre to power. He would rule the country till 1991. He was by any measure a despotic leader.
Siad Barre was proponent of a greater Somalia ideology, which aimed to unite all majority ethnic Somalia areas in one country. This included areas that were/are parts of Ethiopia and Kenya. In that pursuit he invaded Ethiopia with the intention of capturing the Ogaden province which was a majority Somali area and formerly an important grazing land for Somali people. The Ogaden War which initially Somalia was winning was lost when the Soviet Union and rest of the communist world started supporting Ethiopia through the supply of weapons, supplies and ammunition. Ethiopia was then ruled by a Maoist government. The War proved particularly taxing for Somalia with the depletion for resources and finances(Mubarak, p38). In 1978 an abortive coup took place in Somalia and that resulted in purges throughout the government. The end of the cold war had also diminished the strategic importance of Somalia and resulted in decreased international interest in Somali affairs. The Ogaden War had weakened support for the government. In 1991 various rebellions started, the government was removed from power and the national army was disbanded. The various fractions and clan based militias started to fight among themselves for power and control. This was the beginning of the Somali Civil war.
In the early months of the civil war more than 300 thousand people died and over Three million people were made refugees. An estimated 1.5 million People faced starvation (Chayes & Chayes). It became imperative for the international community and the United Nations to intervene in what was becoming a massive humanitarian crises. In April 1992 United Nations Operation in Somalia 1. The contributing countries included Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Egypt, Fiji, Finland, Indonesia, Jordan, Morocco, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan and Zimbabwe. It was tasked with providing humanitarian relief and restoration of order. United Nation Security Council resolution 794, which passed unanimously created a peacekeeping force for Somalia led by the United States. This went on to become the United Nations Operation in Somalia 2. The United Nations suffered heavy casualties in the mission with the United States alone losing more than 50 soldiers. The UN operations ended in 3 March 1995 through operation United Shield. Despite the end of the operation being declared a success, Somalia was still without an effective government.
In 2000 the first transnational government in Somalia was formed at the Somalia national peace conference in Arta, Djibouti. Abdiqasim Salad Hassan was elected the first president of the body whose mandate ended in 2003. It was replaced by the transnational federal government formed in 2004. It was internationally recognized and it formed the transnational institutions and the transnational parliament (Somalia country profile).
The government authority was still limited and by the end of 2006 much of the territory of Southern Somalia was captured by the Islamic Courts Union who imposed sharia law in the territory under their control. The Islamic courts started near Mogadishu and spread form there fighting and defeating various warlords. Some of those Warlords were financed and supplied by the United States which led to some criticism that the US policy had further destabilized the region (Wax and DeYoung).
The Islamic courts union (ICU) also faced strong opposition from Ethiopia who described them as allies of Al-Qaeda. The ICU promised law and order and to that effect they carried out anti-piracy operations in coastal areas. The ICU took over many territories and by the end of 2006 had declared Jihad on Ethiopia because of its support to fractions opposed to the ICU. Ethiopia intervened militarily and together with the Transnational Federal Government pushed the ICU out of the various territories they had taken over. The coalition was helped by soldiers from the African Union and air strikes by the United States Air Force. The defeat of the ICU left much of Somalia under government control for the first time since the fall of the federal government in 1991. The ICU fractured into various groups, of which one of the most radical was Al-Shabaab. The full name of Al-Shabaab is Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen which roughly translated into English as Movement of Striving Youth. Today it is the most prominent violent Jihadi group in Somalia, and is quite notorious for its methods and attacks outside of Somalia. Al Shabaab’s ideology is Islamist Wahabism and Somali nationalism. The ideology “which resonate in the Somali psyche for a number of reasons, including the UIC’s relative success (despite its short-lived experience in power) in establishing order and enticing Somali businesses to invest in Somalia, the widespread presence of Islam in Somalia, and the highly contested presence of foreign troops in the country” (Salahi). This ultimately shows the difficulty of peacekeeping in countries where the troops have no national mandate. This also explains why the organization was successful in its expansion in Somalia.

Fig.1: The present map of Somalia showing various territories in the country. It is taken from the BBC and was last updated on September 2015.
Al-Shabaab follows a radical Wahabi ideology while most Somalis tend to follow a more moderate Sufi version of Islam. It is waging Jihad on Somalia government, the African union troops and their allies in the region. Its last leader was killed in a US strike. Jihad is an Arabic word, it literally means struggle. Theologically there have been two forms of Jihad in Islam. The most important one is the inner Jihad which is the struggle within oneself to live life according to the teachings of Islam and to avoid things considered in Islam as sins. The other one is outer Jihad which is the fight against external enemies. Most Islamic scholars view this as Defensive warfare or just war that should be fought with the intent to protect the territorial integrity of the state or freedom of religion of Muslims. The concept of modern Jihad can be traced back to the early 20th century. The period saw European colonialism spread to most Muslim majority areas of the world. This created revivalist movements in Muslim countries. This movement developed primarily in Egypt and Pakistan, both of which have strong history of Islamic intellectual tradition. It led to the formation of the Islamic brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami, both of these movements have the goal to form a pan-Islamic government that has a government which is based on unity between the state and religion. Hassan al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood and Syed Abul Ala Maududi founded Jamaat-e-Islami. They hoped to achieve this aim through the implementation of Sharia law. Jihad which had grown into a stale ideology by this point, but was revived with a new goal, the liberation of Muslim lands from non-Muslim countries (Analysis: The Roots of Jihad).
Al-Shabaab senior leadership is mostly made out of ethnic Somalis and foreigners trained in Afghanistan. Sayed Qutb an important member of the Muslim Brotherhood declared all non-Muslims, even Christians and Jews, who have been viewed in the past as people of the book, as infidels. He predicted that in the future there will be an evitable clash of civilizations. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser executed Qutb but his views found wide acceptance across the Islamic and Arab world. Maududi and Qutb inspired a new generation of Islamist including Ayatollah Khomeini (the founder of the Islamic Government of Iran) and Abdullah Azzam. Azzam fought in the Afghan war and had previously taught at an University in Saudi Arabia where one of his students was Osama Bin Laden. He was one of the first from the Arab world to join the Jihad in Afghanistan. He earned the nickname the “Emir of Jihad”. The Jihadist in Afghanistan was backed by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United States. Saudi clerics at that time tried to limit Jihad talk and activity to only the Soviet Union, but that did not work as many others had entered a thought of perpetual Jihad. Azzam wanted those who fought in the Afghan war to return to their countries and resume their daily life but other like Al-Zawahri(present head of Al-qaeda viewed things differently. Zawahri said “Afghanistan should be a platform for the liberation of the entire Muslim world”. After Azzam was assassinated in Pakistan, Zawahri views took prominence (Analysis: The Roots of Jihad).
Al-Shabaab is today the largest active militant movement in Somalia. The organization became known for its violent tactics. It kidnapped foreign aid workers and destroyed an Italian cemetery in Somalia. The arrival of Ethiopian troops boosted the support of Al-Shabbab as they were seen as foreign occupying army by many. From 2008 it started forming stronger ties with Al-Qaeda and started to emphasize the Somali conflict as a part of the wider Jihad in the World. The group has been banned in the United States and United Kingdom. It is estimated that it has 7,000 to 9,000 fighters. It has carried a number of grisly attacks in Kenya that has renewed worldwide interest in the organization. It has been able to establish a recruitment network in Kenya, based around the city of Mombasa which has a large Muslim population. It imposes sharia law in the territories it control and has stoned women and cut of the hands of those accused of thievery. In 2012, Ahmed Abdi Godane, the then leader of the group, pledged allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of Al-Qaeda (Who are Somalia’s al-Shabab?).
In 2009 the Transnational Federal Government went into an alliance with the remnants of the former ICU and Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a, a Sufi militant organization with the intention of strengthening government rule. African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has been aiding the federal government take control of the region. (Shinn) The organization has proved effective in recruiting foreign members particularly from North Africa and the Middle East. Since 2007 it has been able to recruit more than 40 Americans. 15 Americans have died fighting for the terror group (Satlin).
In 2012 a new government was formed with International support, it has been fighting Al-Shabaab to restore the rule of law in the country. The year also saw the first swearing in of a parliament in Somalia in 20 years. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected president in 2012, beating incumbent Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. This was the first Somali Presidential election since 1967. He was elected by members of parliament who were elected by tribal elders. In 2015 president Mohamud postponed elections over security fears. The Arrival of the AMISOM (African Union Mission to Somalia), the African Union peacekeeping force has bought more authority to Somalia government. Somalia government reach has been slowly expanding, with that Somalia is starting to stabilize. Al-Shabaab is losing territory and influence but remains a potent foe to this day (News). It is still able carry out sporadic attacks in Somalia and neighboring countries. More Somalis are returning from abroad bring with them much needed resources, knowledge and finance. The economy of Somalia is recovering slowly and is improving the lives of people in areas controlled by the Somali Government (Who are Somalia’s al-Shabab?).


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