But it is not only the low GDP that makes Somalia so poor. The problem lays in a mix of political and climate circumstances that stifle Somalia’s development. According to James Fergusson, author of “The World’s Most Dangerous Place”, a book that deeply analyses social and security problems in Somalia, the latest famine (that killed almost 260,000 people) was ”essentially a man-made disaster” and “blame for it can be laid squarely at the door of Al Shabaab”. Similar conclusions come from the recent FAO/Fews Net Report that estimated the toll of deaths due to famine in Somalia (FAO/Fews Net, May 2013) . It says that “the humanitarian response to the famine was mostly late and insufficient, and that limited access to most of the affected population, resulting from widespread insecurity and operating restrictions imposed on several relief agencies, was a major constraint”.
The biggest problem in Somalia is its political instability. Since the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in the early 1990s, Somalia's residents reverted to local forms of conflict resolution, consisting of civil law, religious law and customary law. A few autonomous regions, including the Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug administrations, emerged in the north in the ensuing process of decentralization and Al Shabaab emerged as an autonomous Islamist group, now linked with Al Qaeda (Lewis I. M, 2002 and 2008). According to the most recent Report on Somalia by the Armed Confilct Location and Event Dataset (ACLED), a dataset designed for disaggregated conflict analysis and crisis mapping in over 50 countries in the developing world, “Al Shabaab continues to pose a threat to the stability of the federal government and undermine the new regime’s ability to establish and maintain lasting security and peace… However, Al Sha-baab is far from the only violent actor in the city. Analysis of interaction data reveals a very high level of violence perpetrated by unidentified armed groups”. (ACLED, April 2013)
|Population in 2012 (m)||10.2||1,080.6||1,023.1|
|Population growth (1950-2010) %||325.6||350.6||173.8|
|Population in 2050 (m)||27.1||2,393.2||9,550.9|
|Number of people per sq km (2010)||15.0||34.0||51.0|
|Population Pyramid (2010)|
|Population (Age 0-14) %||47.7||41.1||26.6|
|Population (Age 15-64) %||49.5||55.4||65.7|
|Population (Age 65 and older) %||2.8||3.4||7.7|
|Child dependency ratio||96.4||74.2||40.5|
|Aged dependency ratio||5.7||6.1||11.7|
|Birth rate (n° of births per 1,000 people) (2013 E)||41.5||18.9|
|Death rate (n° of deaths per 1,000 people) (2013 E)||14.2||7.9|
|Infant mortality rate (n° of deaths per 1,000 births) (2013 E)||101.9||37.6|
|Life expectancy at birth (years) (2013 E)||51.2||68.1|
|Total fertility rate (n° of children born per each woman) (2013 E)||6.2||2.5|
|Urban population (% of total population) (2010)||37.0||50.5|
|Somalia||Somalia's rank (on 229 countries)||United States||South Africa||Rwanda||Eritrea||Djibouti|
|GDP at PPP Int.$ bn (2010)||5.9||165th||15,940.0||592.0||15.7||4.5||2.4|
|GDP per capita at PPP Int. $ PPP (2010)||600||225th||50,700||11,600||1,500||800||2,700|
|GDP real growth (2010 % change on previous year)||2.6||118th||2.2||2.5||7.7||7.0||4.8|
|Economy's structure (2012 E), GDP % share|
The first president of Somalia was Aden Abdullah Osman, who was succeeded in 1967 by Dr Abdirashid Ali Shermarke of the Somali Youth League (the dominant political party). In October 1969, President Shermarke was assassinated, and the army seized power under Major - General Muhammad Siad Barre. He suspended the 1960 constitution, dissolved the national assembly, banned all political parties, and formed a military government. In 1970 he declared Somalia a socialist state. His government invested in public works and in a successful campaign to improve literacy.
In 1976, the junta transferred power to the newly created Somalia Revolutionary Socialist Party, and three years later (1979) the constitution for a one-party state was adopted. Over the next few years Barre consolidated his position by increasing the influence of his own clan and reducing that of his northern rival, despite often violent opposition.
In 1977–78 Somalia fought a war against neighboring Ethiopia in support of Somalis living in the Ogaden province, who sought self-determination. After initial military success, the Somali army was defeated by Ethiopia, who received Cuban and Soviet Union military support.
Military defeat damaged the prestige of the Barre regime, which became increasingly authoritarian as opposition to it grew. In 1982 the anti-government Somali National Movement (SNM) was formed in the north. Oppressive countermeasures by the government led to an estimated 50–60,000 civilian deaths by 1990 and 400,000 refugees fleeing to Ethiopia.
Although Barre was re-elected in 1987, the SNM had taken control of large parts of the north and east of the country. Barre survived an attempted coup in January 1991. However, with rebel forces advancing rapidly, on 27 January 1991 he fled the capital and was replaced as president by Ali Mahdi Muhammad. Civil war broke out across the country and, in May 1991, the area in the northwest which had once been British Somaliland announced its secession, as the Somaliland Republic, with Abdel-Rahman Ahmed Ali, leader of the SNM, as its president (replaced by Muhammad Ibrahim Egal in 1993). The Somalian government refused to recognize its independence and launched a succession of military campaigns in an attempt to re-occupy it.
The four rival Somali factions (United Somali Congress (USC), Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM), and Somali Democratic Movement (SDM), signed a ceasefire in June 1991, but this failed to hold. Fierce fighting broke out in September 1991 and continued, and by the end of the year 20,000 people had been killed or injured. By April 1992 ex-president Barre abandoned his attempt to return to power and took his family and the remnants of his army into exile in Kenya.
1991-2006: UN peacekeeping operations in Somalia and the transitional governments (TNG and TFG)
Following the outbreak of the civil war and the ensuing collapse of the Siad Barre regime in the early 1990s, Somalia's residents reverted to local forms of conflict resolution, consisting of civil law, religious law and customary law. A few autonomous regions, including the Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug administrations, emerged in the north in the ensuing process of decentralization.
In August 1992, due to the rising famine, a coalition government agreed a UN military presence to support relief efforts. The UN Security Council authorized this peacekeeping operation, called UNOSOM, and the USA organized its largest relief operation to Africa, ‘Operation Restore Hope’.
In December 1992, a contingent of 1,800 US Marines landed in Mogadishu, under UN auspices, and seized control of the harbor and airport. They were the first of a planned US military presence of 30,000; France and Italy also committed themselves to sending troops. Two days later the two dominant warlords in the area, Ali Mahdi Muhammad and Gen Muhammad Farah Aidid, both of the USC, agreed a UN-brokered truce. They signed a peace plan on 15 January 1992, but factional fighting continued in remote areas.
The warlord Gen Aidid saw UN efforts to promote peace and a federal political system as a threat to his power and, in June 1993, his militia attacked and killed 24 Pakistani peacekeeping troops who were part of UNOSOM. Fighting between the two escalated and 12 US troops were killed in Mogadishu in October 1993. US president Bill Clinton announced in March 1994 a staggered withdrawal of US troops and in November 1994 the UN Security Council voted to withdraw UN forces. Full withdrawal of UN troops was achieved by March 1995, although the rule of law had not been restored.
Clan-based fighting continued, and the power struggle between Aidid and Ali Mahdi Muhammad resumed. In early 1996, Aidid launched a campaign to try and re-occupy the Somaliland Republic, but he was assassinated in faction fighting in July 1996, and, his son, Hussein Aidid, replaced him as interim president of Somalia. In 1997 and 1998 rival Somali factions signed peace agreements, but they did not hold. In 1999, the Ethiopian army invaded Somalia, in support of opponents of the war lord Hussein Aidid.
The early 2000s saw the creation of fledgling interim federal administrations. The Transitional National Government (TNG) was established in 2000 followed by the formation of its successor the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in 2004, which reestablished national institutions such as the Military of Somalia.
More in details, in July 2000, after a four-month Somali reconciliation conference held in neighboring Djibouti, a power-sharing agreement was reached and a national constitution agreed for a three-year transitional period. A transitional parliament was elected in August 2000, with Abdiqasim Salad Hassan, a former interior minister under Siad Barre, chosen as Somalia's civilian president. Somaliland and Puntland both rejected the new government. The new government proved incapable of establishing order and nationwide rule, as heavy fighting broke out between rival militias in 2001.
In April 2002, Southwestern Somalia became the third part of the country to break away from Mogadishu and declare itself an autonomous state, as the civil war continued. After peace talks in Kenya, a new transitional parliament was set up in August 2004 and in October 2004 it elected the warlord Abdullahi Yusuf, previously president of Puntland, as transitional president and Ali Muhammad Gedi as prime minister.
2006-2011: the Islamic Courts Union and peace talks in Djibouti
In 2006, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), an Islamist organization, assumed control of much of the southern part of the country and promptly imposed Shari'a law. The Transitional Federal Government sought to reestablish its authority, and, with the assistance of Ethiopian troops, African Union peacekeepers and air support by the United States, managed to drive out the rival ICU and solidify its rule. The ICU subsequently splintered into more radical groups such as Al-Shabaab (see the next paragraph), which battled the TFG and its AMISOM allies for control of the region, with the insurgents losing most of the territory that they had seized by mid-2012.
Between 31 May and 9 June 2008, representatives of Somalia's federal government and the moderate Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) group of Islamist rebels participated in peace talks in Djibouti brokered by the former United Nations Special Envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah. The conference ended with a signed agreement calling for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops in exchange for the cessation of armed confrontation.
With the help of a small team of African Union troops, the coalition government also began a counteroffensive in February 2009 to assume full control of the southern half of the country. To solidify its rule, the TFG formed an alliance with the Islamic Courts Union, other members of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia, and Ahlu Sunna Waljama'a, a moderate Sufi militia. Furthermore, Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, the two main Islamist groups in opposition, began to fight amongst themselves in mid-2009.
2011-2012: the new Constitution and the born of Somali Federation
In 2011-2012, a Roadmap political process providing clear benchmarks leading toward the establishment of permanent democratic institutions was launched. Within this administrative framework, a new Provisional Constitution was passed in August 2012, which designates Somalia as a federation. Following the end of the TFG's interim mandate the same month, the Federal Government of Somalia, the first permanent central government in the country since the start of the civil war, was also formed. The nation has concurrently experienced a period of intense reconstruction, particularly in the capital, Mogadishu.
Al Shabaab was originally founded in the early 2000s after splitting from Al Ittihad al Islamiya. The group became most prominent from 2006 onwards when it seized control of Mogadishu in a joint campaign with the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). In late-2006, Ethiopia invaded and occupied much of Mogadishu with limited resistance: Al Shabaab was pushed out and became the most prominent militant force in South-Central Somalia, gaining control of almost all of the territory outside the capital and into parts of the Central Mudug region.
Until an intensified campaign by African Union and Somali forces in late-2010, Al Shabaab continued to control considerable territory within and surrounding Mogadishu, but in the past three years this has been reduced considerably. Ethiopian and Kenyan involvement in the campaign since late 2011 – and the integration of the latter into the official African Union AMISOM forces – has contributed to the increased momentum of the federal government’s success in retaking territory.
As of early 2013, the federal government and aligned forces had retaken all major urban centres in South-Central Somalia, with Al Shabaab relocating its headquarters to the town of Jilib in Middle Juba, and retaining control over largely rural areas.
Over the course of these events, the group has undergone considerable transformation. Since 2012, the group has been formally aligned to Al Qaeda, thereby definitively preventing any possible role in a negotiated resolution. Tactically, the group has also evolved: during periods of relatively uncontested control over territory, there were limited reports of Al Shabaab engaging in targeted violence against civilians. Then theis kind of violence has risen a lot.
This evolution in tactics reflects the group’s reduced organisational capacity. With reduced forces and capacity, however, the group can still have a significant destabilising effect. When Ethiopian forces temporarily withdrew from Hudur in March 2013, Al Shabaab was prepared and in position to retake the town quickly, facilitated by the group’s sustained – though low-level – presence and activity.
The group has also evolved territorially: while the federal government has made significant progress in formally ousting Al Shabaab authorities throughout the South Central region, Al Shabaab operatives and aligned militants remain active in recently seized territory and in the capital, Mogadishu. While Al Shabaab attacks and fatalities in the capital have been declining since the AMISOM-led campaign to regain the capital they continue to be a presence in Heliwa, Yaqshid, Wardighley and Daynile areas in particular.
Furthermore, under military pressure in South-Central Somalia, Al Shabaab has expanded both southwards and to the north-east. In the former, Al Shabaab militants and aligned combatants have been active in north-eastern Kenya, where they continue to have a destabilising effect on security. In Somalia’s north-east, Al Shabaab militants have been reportedly operating and establishing bases in the rural and relatively inaccessible region of Bari. Establishing themselves in this region and aligning themselves with local militias may provide them with an opportunity to regroup.
Note: This part is mainly taken from: FAO/Fews Net Report on Famine in Somalia (May 2013) - http://www.fews.net/Pages/default.aspx
“Severe drought in Somalia is a cyclical event, but it does not have to lead to famine. Nomads have survived for centuries by fleeing the drought zones and finding new pastures for their livestock. 2011 was essentially a man-made disaster – and blame for it can be laid squarely at the door of Al Shabaab…”
There is consensus that the humanitarian response to the famine was mostly late and insufficient, and that limited access to most of the affected population, resulting from widespread insecurity and operating restrictions imposed on several relief agencies, was a major constraint. Based on numerous individual surveys conducted throughout southern and central Somalia by FAO/FSNAU and partners, and in the refugee camps by various other agencies, it was assumed that the impact of these combined events on human health would be severe. Indeed, the surveys indicated that both death rates and the prevalence of acute malnutrition among children were well in excess of emergency thresholds, and far surpassing any value observed in Somalia during the previous five years, at least. However, the estimates of mortality from available surveys did not cover the entire affected population, nor the full period during which food security emergency and famine conditions occurred. Indeed, during the emergency, the United Nations did not issue real-time death toll estimates. In 2012, improved conditions presented an opportunity to take stock of lessons learned and document the effects on health and mortality of exposure to severe food insecurity and malnutrition during 2010 and 2011. Therefore, a study was commissioned by FAO/FSNAU, with substantial technical and financial support from FEWS NET, in order to produce an estimate of the number of deaths during the 2011 Somalia famine, and among refugees displaced to camps in Ethiopia (Dollo Ado) and Kenya (Dadaab).
|Region, livelihood||Estimated excess death toll (95% percentile interval)||Estimated percentage of the population that died in excess of the baseline (95% percentile interval)|
|all ages||under 5 years||all ages||under 5 years|
|Bakool||10,700 (8,300 to 13,200)||5,600 (4,300 to 6,800)||2.9||7.3|
|Banadir||58,000 (48,000 to 68,900)||27,200 (22,100 to 32,400)||6.2||16.6|
|Bay||20,700 (18,600 to 22,900)||20,900 (18,200 to 23,900)||6.4||12.7|
|Galgadud||4,200 (2,000 to 7,700)||4,300 (2,700 to 8,800)||1||4.7|
|Gedo||17,800 (16,000 to 19,700)||6,400 (5,300 to 7,900)||5||7.1|
|Hiran||7,400 (5,600 to 9,200)||2,800 (1,900 to 3,800)||1.8||3.2|
|L. Juba||7,900 (5,900 to 10,100)||3,300 (2,100 to 4,800)||1.8||3.2|
|L. Shabelle||96,200 (89,200 to 104,200)||42,900 (38,900 to 47,000)||9||17.6|
|M. Juba||11,900 (10,200 to 14,100)||5,900 (4,800 to 7,300)||4.5||9.8|
|M. Shabelle||22,200 (19,800 to 24,900)||12,900 (11,600 to 14,300)||3.7||9.7|
|Mudug||300 (-2,200 to 3,500)||100 (-1,500 to 3,500)||0.1||0.1|
|Total||257,900 (243,600 to 272,700)||132,900 (124,700 to 142,300)||4.6||10.1|
|agro-pastoralist||69,800 (64,100 to 76,100)||41,600 (37,700 to 45,600)||5||11.2|
|IDP||68,700 (60,900 to 76,100)||34,400 (29,900 to 39,100)||6.5||14.6|
|pastoral||34,200 (29,800 to 39,600)||18,700 (15,500 to 24,400)||2.3||5.1|
|riverine||46,800 (42,200 to 51,700)||22,400 (19,500 to 25,600)||5.1||11.1|
|urban||38,200 (30,000 to 47,200)||15,500 (12,300 to 19,400)||4.8||10.6|
|Total||257,900 (243,600 to 272,700)||132,900 (124,700 to 142,300)||4.6||10.1|
The full toll of the emergency is perhaps easier to visualise when considering the percentage of the population estimated to have died as a result: these are about 4.6 percent overall, peaking in Lower Shabelle at 9 percent for all ages and at 17.6 percent among children under 5 years old.
ACLED, (April 2013), Country Report: Somalia.
Bernasconi A, (2011), Somalian refugees in Ethiopia: Impact of emergency health relief activities in Dolo Ado, Paris: Epicentre.
Cassanelli, Lee V., (1982), The Shaping of Somali Society: Reconstructing the History of a Pastoral People, 1600–1900, Ethnohistory. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania University Press.
Elmi Afyare Abdi, (2010), Understanding the Somalia Conflagration: Identity, Islam and Peacebuilding.
FAO/FSNAU - FEWS NET, (May 2013), Mortality among populations of southern and central Somalia affected by severe food insecurity and famine during 2010-2012, Rome, Washington.
FAO,(2009),The Resource Outlook to 2050: By how much do land, water and crop yields need to increase by 2050? FAO Expert Meeting: “How to Feed the World in 2050”, FAO, Rome, Italy.
FAOSTAT, (2010a), FAO Statistical Yearbook 2009 - Agricultural Production, disponibile su: http://www.fao.org/economic/ess/publications-studies/statistical-yearbook/fao-statistical-yearbook-2009/b-agriculturalproduction/en/.
Fergusson James, (2013), The world’s most dangerous place – Inside the outlaw State of Somalia.
Harper Mary Jane, (2012), Getting Somalia Wrong?: Faith, War and Hope in a Shattered State.
Hillbruner C, Moloney G, (2012), “When early warning is not enough - Lessons learned from the 2011 Somalia Famine”, Global Food Security 1: 20-28.
Jureidini R, (2010), Mixed Migration Flows: Somali And Ethiopian Migration To Yemen And Turkey - Final Report, Cairo: Center for Migration and Refugee Studies, American University in Cairo, http://www.drc.dk/fileadmin/uploads/pdf/IA_PDF/Horn_of_Africa_and_Yemen/Mixed%20Migration%20through%20Somalia%20and%20across%20Gulf%20of%20Aden%20-%20Background%20study.pdf.
Lindley A, Hasley A, (2011), Working paper 79 - Unlocking protracted displacement: Somali case study, Oxford: University of Oxford. http://www.rsc.ox.ac.uk/publications/working-papers-folder_contents/RSCworkingpaper79.pdf/view.
Lewis I. M., (2008), Understanding Somalia and Somaliland: Culture, History, Society.
Lewis I. M., (2002), A Modern History of the Somali: Nation and State in the Horn of Africa, 4th ed, Eastern Africa Studies, Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.
LTEconomy, (July 2012), “Sahel Working Group Report 2011’s main results, and FAO advice ”.
LTEconomy, (October 2012), Interview with Peter Gubbels, (Groundswell’s Co-Coordinator for West Africa).
LTEconomy, (October 2012), Interview with Momadou Biteye, (Regional Director for Oxfam GB in West Africa).
Kummu, M., et al., (Giugno 2012), “Lost food, wasted resources: Global food supply chain losses and their impacts on freshwater, cropland, and fertiliser use”, Science of the Total Environment 438 (2012) 477–489.
Maxwell D, Haan N, Gelsdorf K, Dawe D, (2012), “The 2011-12 famine in Somalia: introduction to the Special Edition”, Global Food Security 1: 1-4.
Menkhaus K., (2012), “No access: critical bottlenecks in the 2011 Somali famine”, Global Food Security 1: 29-35.
Parfitt, J, Barthel, M, (2011), Global food waste reduction: priorities for a world in transition, UK Government's Foresight Project on Global Food and Farming Futures.
Polonsky JA, Ronsse A, Ciglenecki I, Rull M, Porten K, (2013), High levels of mortality, malnutrition, and measles, among recently-displaced Somali refugees in Dagahaley camp, Dadaab refugee camp complex, Kenya, 2011, Confl Health 7: 1.
Raleigh C, Linke A, Hegre H, Karlsen J, (2010), “Introducing ACLED-Armed Conflict Location and Event Data”, Journal of Peace Research 47: 1-10.
Salama P, Moloney G, Bilukha OO, Talley L, Maxwell D, et al., (2012), “Famine in Somalia: evidence for a declaration”, Global Food Security 1: 3-19.
Salama P, Spiegel P, Talley L, Waldman R, (2004), “Lessons learned from complex emergencies over past decade”, Lancet 364: 1801-1813.
Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, (2011), Global Food Losses and Waste, Roma.
UNEP, (2009), The environmental food crisis.
Acled - http://www.acleddata.com/
Acled – Country Report on Somalia - http://www.acleddata.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/ACLED-Country-Report_Somalia_April-2013.pdf
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) - http://www.fao.org/index_en.htm
Food and Agriculture Organization – drought page - http://www.fao.org/emergencies/emergency-types/drought/en/
Fews Net, Report - Famine-related mortality among populations of southern and central Somalia, 2010-2012 - http://www.fews.net/Pages/default.aspx
James Fergusson - http://www.jamesfergusson.info/dangerousplace.html
United Nations (Population Division) - http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/
United Nations, Permanent Mission of the Somali Republic to the United Nations - http://www.un.int/wcm/content/site/somalia/pid/3235
United Nations, UNSomalia - http://www.unsomalia.net/
This article by Dario Ruggiero
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License
Download the article in the PDF version (With more data and figures)