Past and present attempts to stabilize war-torn Somalia through military, diplomatic and humanitarian interventions highlight the entanglements and interplay between local and foreign elites in policies and practices that have frequently and effectively undermined state building in south-central Somalia. Existing analyses have focused predominantly on local actors and internal dynamics to account for the continuous political disorder in the former Somali Democratic Republic since 1991. In contrast, this study highlights the role of external aid in dysfunctional state building efforts in Somalia.
Rather than assuming that foreign actors are outside the local and national political settlements, such actors should rather be seen as an integral part of these processes. Consequently, the power and interests of both Somali and international actors must be taken into consideration in order to understand the shortcomings of stabilization policies. Persistent tactics by Somali elites—mobilizing, appropriating and redirecting foreign resources and agendas—have been at the core of failed state building. Such tactics form part of what French Africanist Jean-François Bayart has described as ‘extra version’. Because Somali elites have regularly turned their participation in transitional governments into a resource appropriation tactic, state building has become an end in itself rather than the outcome of a more profound process of actual state formation that would have entailed the centralization of coercion, the generation of public revenue or the building up of popular support.
The report highlights four findings that partly echo existing scholarship but also offer new insights for statebuilding and political settlements. Firstly, in south-central Somalia a recurrent negative relationship between external stabilization attempts and peaceful political settlements can be observed. More significantly, coercive external statebuilding has encouraged violent attempts to produce a political settlement within the country. This holds particularly true for the time periods of 1991–1995 and 2006–2016 in south-central Somalia—and inversely, also for Somaliland after 1991, where external statebuilding efforts were minimal. Secondly,
summary ry 7
while both political settlements and international interventions in Somalia have changed over time, some of the forms of extraversion have remained constant. The use of coercion, the appropriation of external resources, flight and trickery have been obstacles to more peaceful political settlements. They have led statebuilders to favour the creation of formal institutions as a prerequisite—rather than an outcome—of actual state formation. Thirdly, selective or partial recognition is the key foreign policy mechanism by which authority and resources are bestowed upon Somali constituencies in particular times and particular places. This recognition has fueled political competition, rewarded abuse and ineffective governance, and repeatedly encouraged the creation of briefcase organizations—including, most recently, federal member states. Lastly, the extraversion of foreign aid and external stabilization has been so long-standing and entrenched that donors and the range of external actors aiming to influence political developments in Somalia have become an integral part of these processes.
Since 1991, Somalis and foreigners have tried periodically to reconstruct some form of centralized state authority in Somalia, with the intention of reducing violence and insecurity and improving lives and livelihoods. These attempts to stabilize and pacify war-torn Somalia have evolved considerably over the past two and a half decades. Interventions have included humanitarian relief, capacity-building, state building, peace building, security sector support, and direct external military support for counter terrorism and anti-piracy activities.1 Yet these efforts have been undermined by a number of factors: evolving conflict dynamics from warlord politics to militant Islamism; profound distrust, grievances and trauma; the sheer number of people with a stake in Somali politics; and repeated political and humanitarian crises.
A broad range of factors has contributed to the recurring political instability in post-1991 Somalia. The most prominent among these are the segmentary social fabric of Somali society—clannishness, tribalism—Somali distrust of centralized and, more often than not, predatory state authority, constituencies that benefit from armed conflict and ill-informed donor assistance and foreign policy initiatives.
What accounts for the failure and limited success of external stabilization policies in Somalia in terms of producing their desired outcomes? What impact did these statebuilding interventions have, or not have, on political actors, processes and events in war-torn Somalia? And to what degree did they transform existing or potential political settlements in the country? These questions can be addressed by focusing both on the broader conditions in which stabilization policies have been implemented in south-central Somalia and the recurrent patterns that have characterized relations between select powerful elites. In examining.part 1