Crisis in Somalia: attitude of the regional and world powers

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Ayla Parlanova


The article gives a brief historical overview of Somali domestic problems. A particular attention is paid to the reaction of the neighbor states and world powers to the events, occurring nowadays in Somalia.

Somalia is an East African country, which occupies the most part of the Horn of Africa. Nowadays it is a very poor country, plunged into civil war, crime and anarchy. Numerous attempts of the international community to bring the country out of the plight were not successful. However, the level of interest of regional and global powers to resolve the situation in Somalia is disputable. To understand all this, Somalia should be studied in a geopolitical context, which includes the place and the role of the state in the international system.

To begin with, it is necessary to make a brief excursion into the history of the country and to define Somalia&s internal problems. In 1960 two former colonies (British and Italian Somalia) united to form the Somali Republic, but some Somalis remained under the control of the neighboring countries: Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti. As a result, the idea of creating "Greater Somalia", which would unite all Somali ethnic group, has been determining the country&s foreign policy for years. At that time this concept was used for uniting southern and northern clans, which were struggling for dominance.

In 1969 in order to divert public attention from domestic affairs a new president Siyaad Barre unleashed war against Ethiopia. However, Somalia was defeated and the next civil war started. In 1991 Siyaad Barre was overthrown, but the country&s integrity was not restored.

Since the beginning of the 1990s Somalia is divided into six quasi-states: Somaliland, Northland, Maakhir, Puntland, Galmudug, Jubaland. Moreover, the central and southern areas are occupied by a terrorist organization "Al-Shabaab" and the northern provinces are centers of piracy.

Today "Al-Shabaab" declares itself as a branch of "Al-Qaeda". "Al-Shabaab" has different sources of income. For example, terrorists collect taxes from civilians, furthermore, some Arab countries and members of the Somali diaspora in the

* Research supervisor: I.I. Arsentyeva, Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor of Department of International Relations and Russian Foreign Policy. Language instructor: R.M. Bazyleva, Candidate of Philology, Associate Professor of Department of English Language for Humanities.

Western and African countries fund "Al-Shabaab". All in all, annual income estimates at approximately $ 70-100 million [1].

Illiterate and unemployed young people, who join «Al-Shabaab» either for money or as a result of psychological work on them, constantly replenish armed Islamist groups. In addition, terrorists try to recruit leaders of Somali clans, as in Africa a leader can draw the whole tribe. Currently, about 30% of terrorists of "Al-Shabaab" belong to the tribe Rahanwein, 20% - Darod and Hawiye, 12% - Dir [1].

As it has been mentioned above, «Al-Shabaab» is supported by the Somalis, citizens of other countries, that is why this group represents a significant threat to the whole world. However, African countries, especially Horn of Africa, bear the main brunt.

The terrorists& first target is Ethiopia, they endeavor to seize Ethiopian region Ogaden, populated by the Somalis. Throughout the history of the Somali-Ethiopian relations, Ogaden has always been a bone of contention between the countries. If Somalia were a powerful country, it would wage war against Ethiopia. In this regard, Ethiopia is not interested in Somalia&s development. The most promising step seems to establish close contacts with the self-proclaimed state of Somaliland. The thing is that Ethiopia does not have an access to the sea, but Somaliland opens its Berbera port for Ethiopian ships, so it is essential to maintain good relations between Ethiopia and Somaliland.

However, Ethiopia takes part in the African Union&s counterterrorism operations against "Al-Shabaab". In 2009 the African Union created a special mission (AMISOM) in order to support The Federal Government of Somalia. As a result, there were formed five sectors, and Ethiopian is responsible for the third one, which includes the Bakool and Gedo [2]. In this sector Ethiopia launched a massive operation. For example, in 2012 joint Ethiopian and Somali troops cleaned the Bai-doa town, an economic center of southern Somalia, which had been occupied by "Al-Shabaab" militants since 2009.

At the same time, it would be wrong to ignore the fact that Ethiopia tries to eradicate terrorism in Somalia in order to reach its own geostrategic aims. First of all, "Al-Shabaab" poses a serious threat not only to Somalia, but also to Ethiopia. Secondly, Ethiopia worries that "Al-Shabaab" would unite with the Ogaden National Liberation Front, an Ethiopian rebel group. Consequently, for Ethiopia it is essential to defeat terrorists, but not to restore order in Somalia.

The next "Al-Shabaab" goal is to destroy the northeastern Kenya. Unfortunately, terrorists have already begun to implement their plans. On September 21, 2013 "Al-Shabaab" militants killed 80 people in the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi. Moreover, on April 2, 2015 they broke into Garissa University College and 147 people became victims of their attack.

What has Kenya done "wrong"? Firstly, this country is a part of «Greater Somalia» project. Secondly, the Government of Kenya has always derogated Muslim&s from their rights and has been hostile to the Somalis.

In order to confront the terrorists Kenya plays an active role in anti-terrorist operations in Somalia. Kenya participates in the peacekeeping mission AMISOM and the country is responsible for the second sector, which includes Lower Juba and Middle Juba provinces [2]. In 2012, allied forces took the third largest city of Somalia - Kismayo. It was a major blow for "Al-Shabaab".

Furthermore, Kenya supports the militant group "Ras Kamboni", which fights against "Al-Shabaab". On the border with Kenya members of "Ras Kamboni" take a special military training. "Ras Kamboni" operates in self-proclaimed Jubaland State and its main aim is to seize power in the southern region of the country.

Like Ethiopia, Kenya is afraid that the part of its territory, populated by the Somalis, would be divided, that is why Kenya is not interested in restoring the territorial integrity of Somalia. For example, in 2011 the creation of Azania was celebrated in a ceremony in Nairobi. Azania became a new self-proclaimed state in Somalia. It was supposed that Azania would be a buffer zone between Somalia and Kenya.

To sum up, neither Kenya nor Ethiopia have made any effort to combine parts of Somalia, but both countries are afraid of terrorists& infiltration into their territories, that is why Kenya and Ethiopia take part in counter-terrorism operations. In this regard, special attention should be paid to Eritrea, this country, on the contrary, sponsors "Al-Shabaab".

Since 2008 Eritrea has been the only terrorists& ally in the region. The country supplies extremists with weapons, holds for them military exercises. According to some reports, every month "Al-Shabaab" receives from its ally up to $50 thousand [3]. The reason is that Eritrea is eager to weaken its longtime enemy - Ethiopia.

Moreover, the USA could also benefit from a fragile situation in the south of Somalia. Under the pretext of the fight against terrorism, American troops are trying to solidify in Kenya by establishing a naval base in the Indian Ocean.

All in all, some states are interested in both the disintegration of Somalia and maintaining a terrorist threat. However, this is not the only Somalia&s problem. Piracy is not a less important issue, and it is more global than a regional problem.

Piracy off the coast of Somalia flourished in 2007-2008. In 2011 piracy reached its peak, when the global economy lost $6,6-6,9 billion [4]. The Somalis consider piracy as the only source of income. The Somalis confirm that it is a legal way to make money and to some extent it is true. Puntland authority imposed a tax on piracy, consequently legitimizing such an activity. In addition, the Somalis believe that they only protect Somalia from foreigners that invade the Somali territorial sea.

However, poverty is not the only cause of sea robbery. Somalia occupies an important strategic position, so piracy is also an instrument of the biggest geopolitical actors& game. Several tons of the Middle East oil and Asian goods flows via the Gulf of Aden and Suez Canal toward Europe. If the coast of the Horn of Africa did not lay such a dangerous shipping lane, Chinese goods would fill European markets, which would pose new problems for the USA, whose hegemony has already been undermined by China&s growing role in the global arena. For Washington it would be more profitable, if the fragile situation in Somalia exists for a long time. In this case, the USA would be able to maintain its Naval Forces in the region and to control the production and transportation of African oil.

As for the EU, since its project of internationalizing waters of the Red Sea was not supported by Arab countries, the fight against piracy is the only excuse for the legal existence of European ships in the territorial waters of Somalia.

Arms dealers also benefit from Somali piracy. In 2013, the UN Security Council partially lifted the arms embargo on Somalia, as a result, the United States, Egypt, Yemen, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya became the main suppliers of weapons to Somalia.

Moreover, piracy has become a lucrative business. Some western insurance companies require up to $ 70 thousand for one-day shipping through the territorial waters of Somalia. Besides, nowadays there are many private companies, which make money from sending their employees to accompany ships [5].

To sum up, the situation in Somalia can be defined as chronically unstable. The reason is the reluctance of regional and global players to participate in the restoration of the territorial integrity of Somalia, in the eradication of piracy and terrorism problems. It can be confirmed that some actors profit from Somali war, but Somalia occupies a strategically important geopolitical position; as a result, the existence of such a precarious situation would probably cause irreparable damage to the global economy and could even destabilize the world order.


1. Aleynikov S. About Inclusion of the Somalia&s Al-Shabaab in the Al-Qaeda // Institute of the Middle Eastern Studies. - 13.02.2012. - URL: http://www.iimes.ru/?p=14165
2. AMISOM Military Component // AMISOM. - URL: http://amisom-au.org/mission-profile/military-component/
3. Kudelev V. Situation in Somalia in March 2010 // Institute of the Middle Eastern Studies. - 11.04.2010. - URL: http://www.iimes.ru/?p=10438
4. Aleynikov S. Revisiting the Issue of Somali Piracy or who Benefits from it // Institute of the Middle Eastern Studies. - 16.02.2012. - URL: http://www.iimes.ru/?p=14195
5. Filatov S. Barmaley from Somalia // International Affairs. -11.02.2011. - URL: https://interaffairs.ru/news/show/631

Briefly about the author

Parlanova Ayla Telman kyzy - student of Institute of History and International Relations, Saratov State University. E-mail: parlanova@rambler.ru

somalia “al-shabaab” piracy “greater somalia”
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