Failed States and Civil Wars: Somalia
The history of Somalia is a bloody one, filled with failed occupation, anarchy and civil war. Early Somalia established itself as a merchant state. Its key geographical location by the natural strait between the Horn of Africa and Yemen made it a focal point for trade.This essay will explore the history of internal struggles of the Somalilands and its many wars. It will investigate the colonial influences and conflicts between Somalia and its imperial occupiers and how these influences set the stage for future conflicts between the clans. Also, it will attempt to define the reasons why Somalia has become a failed state. The importance of United States foreign policies will be discussed as they have yet to build a reliable government and what, if anything, can be done to resolve the problems that have plagued Somalia for centuries. Lastly, the growing problem of piracy and terrorism in the region will be covered.
Somalia: A History of Turmoil
In order to understand current Somali conflict, one must explore its violent history. Prior to nineteenth century European infiltration, the continent of Africa comprised informal, state-less societies. Many of these groups were ruled by heads of tribes or clan-families, which offered the only semblance of government. Those regions that were not under any type of rule, defaulted to anarchical communal groups of hunter gatherers. Tribal conflicts and territorial disputes were typically resolved by shows of force. This collection of informal systems lasted until trade brought the other continents on to Africa. Trade along coastal Africa brought with it contact with other cultures. Persian, Arab and European merchants capitalized on the bountiful slave trade, natural resources and key ports available on the Dark Continent. Somalia, on the eastern most tip of "the Horn," has an arid climate and few natural resources, but due to its geographic location, became a pivotal port for merchants. It is likely that these merchants brought the religion of Islam into the region. However, the lucrative trade and extended contact, brought with it the threat of colonization. In the late nineteenth century, native societies in Africa were unable to fend off European forces with advanced weaponry, and like many lesser developed territories, Somalia was colonized and divided among the imperial powers. At one point, the Somalilands (which included Puntland, Mogadishu, southern Somalia and portions of Djibouti and Eritrea) were compartmentalized under the rule of French, British, Italian and Ethiopian colonies.
It is worth noting that Somalis are a mostly homogenous population. Specifically, they share a common language, religion (mostly Sunni Muslim, minority Shi'i) and a common historical identity. The main source of internal contention has always been disputes between the four main clan-families; the Dir, Darod, Isaaq, and Hawiye clans.(Jennifer De...