Somalia: Resilience In The Face Of Relentless Assaults – Analysis


Executive Summary

In many ways, the state of Somalia has become synonymous with resilience and fortitude unparalleled anywhere else in the world, despite harsh forces and ceaseless attacks aligned against it for decades.  Somalia has survived unending assaults by those who do not wish it well and this was compounded by forces of nature beyond Somalia’s ability or any other country’s ability to cope with alone, such as droughts, famines, floods and now the corona pandemic. 

This report analyses the forces stacked against the country and adds on to the thoughts that may help the state overcome them in the days ahead. Many have tried to keep Somalia out in the cold in a state of conflict, undermining of the authority of the state and the legitimacy and capacity of its state institutions. 


Somalia’s history is old and dates to beyond written history.  The most recent one is marked by the end of colonialism, the reshaping of the Somali state through the union of two distinctly different administrations from Europe and forging a new Somali state. The new Somali state soon after attracted stiff antagonism intent on keeping it away from its goal of reuniting the Somali people under one flag and in one geographic Somali space, which forces eventually led to its collapse and recovery only, after some twenty-one years in the wilderness, in 2012, when a new infrastructure unknown and undigested by the Somali people in the form of a polarized federal system was put in place.

Since this is a foreign-inspired structure, designed not to help the country, it only continued, as it was so designed, to exasperate the situation, but Somalis being Somalis, they are slowly but surely adopting it with a stride. Being nomadic and always exposed to constant changes in their environment, they are adept in surviving difficult situations, other nations may not survive.

Major Issues Somalia faces


Federal Structure


New to the Somali people. Divides the country into clan enclaves. General Somali resistance to it but would slowly be adopted in a format acceptable to them.
Terror GroupsInternal/ExternalDisruptionWeaken the Somali state and Somali fabric

The African Union


Positive in the beginning but quite ineffective at present. No need for their presence currently. The SNA is capable of handling building peace in the country.


Interference to ensure Somalia never recovers fullyKenya is one of the external factors that helped pull down the Somali state and keep it at an irrecoverable state (Failed) for a long time. When one is in a glass building, one should not throw stones. Kenya forgot this very enlightening wisdom.



Imperial-cum-regional power
Assisted in the collapsing and destruction of the Somali state. Currently interested in building peaceful relationship with the Somali state, without ceding the Somali space under its control previously wrongly acquired by the ex-imperial power of Ethiopia. Closer relationship between the two states (Somalia and Ethiopia), along with Eritrea, would be a good thing for the region of the Horn of Africa. Together the three countries were the source of most of the problems of the region and they could become a very solid regional group, should Djibouti  and Sudan also decide to join it.



The UAE is one of the few countries in the world that is run by descendants of pirates of the old. They are involved not only in Somalia but also in Libya, Yemen, Syria, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Qatar and many other countries with the aim of earning a living on the backs of those countries. Fear that Somali ports may unduly affect the Jebel Ali Port of Dubai drives it against Somalia. The UAE allegedly supports the terror groups in the country and a number of the member states in the Somali federation.
The Somali people used to feed the people of the UAE in the old times and the new burger sheikhs should not forget that the Horn of Africa is part and parcel of security of the region. Qatar may have had major problems if the Somali air space was not open to it. It is food for thought for the UAE and the people of the Gulf.  


Barriers against Russia and ChinaIn the growing cold war, the USA is building its forces in the region as the war on terror winds down and more powerful forces in the form of Russia and emerging China show up in the region.
The EU and UKExternalEconomicMaintaining old influences in the region

The UNO and NGOs


The United Nations Organization has been helpful in Somalia and so were many NGOs but associated with their activities were also many of the underlying ills associated with them wherever they do some work, including corrupting the locals, suspected money laundering operations, maintaining the continuation of the civil strive to have their staff keep their jobs. 
The disregard for the country’s socio-political culture and the imposition of a federal system inapplicable to a homogenous society has not been helpful and polarized the society.
Yet no one can ignore the humanitarian work these organizations have done throughout the decades the Somali state was in turmoil.



Seeking minerals and oil and gas for their economic engines as well as markets for their products. A clash with the west in the region is brewing.



Russia was the largest supplier of arms to the region and re-entering the Somali market is not far-fetched. Russia is currently exploring the region for its geostrategic requirements.

Egypt and the Arab Factor


General Arab interest
Egypt is generally the country in the Arab league, other than the UAE that is heavily involved in Somalia for their own ends. Egypt’s interest is related to its water security while the UAE is related to its DP World ambitions to cut down any possible competition at the bud.
Their involvement in Somali affairs has been more disruptive than co-operative and Somalia can and should do without them. It would be difficult for any Somali leader to have these two countries behaving in any other way other than being antagonistic to Somalia, unless such a leader is subservient to them.
The Arab league is the main instrument which both countries use to keep Somalia on the hold. The main question most Somalis ask themselves is whether Somalia truly belongs to the Arab league, sharing nothing other than the Islamic religion with them?
Shouldn’t Somalia be just another Muslim country like Turkey or Pakistan, or Malaysia?



Strategic and economic
Turkey’s relationship goes back to the Ottoman times but recently re-emerged through the assistance Turkey extended to Somalia for which the Somali people are incredibly grateful. The relationship is bound to grow stronger than with any other nation in the world.

The General Somali interest


Somali unification
Unifying all Somali territories in one cohesive and contiguous space has always been the goal of Somali leaders throughout history. The Somali lands were divided only when Europeans competing among each other, each grabbed a piece(s) and to assure of themselves of their influences and parted away with a portion to the only African state of the time, Abyssinia.
Pan-Somalism with respect to reunifying Somali territories in a single nation remains unsettled and incomplete and would always be in the minds of all Somali leaders. The strategies so far employed towards this objective have failed and a need for a revamping and addressing this desire of Somali people would need to be addressed by future leaders of Somalis. At present, keeping the already unified parts together is proving to be difficult and remains one of the main issues Somalia as a country must face.

The Economy


Somalia is recovering from a long drawn civil war and a collapse of the state organs, both political and economic. The country’s economic institutions are being rebuilt and progress is felt throughout its main pillars such as agriculture, fishing, trading and even manufacturing.
The country remains poor though, although substantial assistance has been received from the international partners such as the World Bank and the IMF. The old debts are being slowly forgiven and the country is collecting taxes, albeit, at much lower levels than it should be doing.
Rapid urbanization, digitization of the economy, education, health services, operation of ports both sea and air are all improving. Overall job creation and economic growth are expected in the future.

Somalia’s main internal strength lies in the fact that Somalia’s people are ethnically one people with minorities reaching not near enough levels, where they can cause disruptions in the society, be it political or otherwise. Although the Somali organizational infrastructure of clans and sub-clans is one of its main weaknesses, it is also one of its main strengths and this is what has made the Somali people survive the harsh and malevolent attacks the country has been exposed to. Basically, Somalis are families, small or large, and families look after each other across the globe. Somali diaspora across the globe has financially sustained their brethren and kinsmen back home through this period of tough times, to which the country was exposed. The same clan structure also enabled the society to reorganize itself at community levels and regional levels such that those who belonged to the same clan groups found shelter and peace in the regional enclaves where they lived.

The clan relationships have also allowed Somali people to recover/repay and recompensate each other of robbed/stolen properties to each other hence lessening antagonisms among the population. The same relationships have also allowed people to travel to each other throughout the country despite the terror groups implanted in the country and the clan warlords that soon after the collapse of the state appeared in the country. Business and trade grew up in these communal and regional groupings and these intrepid business people soon moved to cover the country in its entirety. One would find money transfer companies and telecommunications companies operating in each and every village of the country and beyond. The stable and tranquil regions then became oasis for providing services such as education. Hospitals whether private or public started to operate in these regions and schools opened. Both services went beyond what the previous Somali governments were able to provide in the old days of central authority. Schools from elementary to higher institutions opened in many of the regions of the country and specialized hospitals were also instituted in some of the larger regions.

Road building, port building and operations, airports and many other lifelines of a modern society were put in place by intrepid Somalis throughout the country, sometimes with the help of foreign bodies but with truly Somali management in place. Amoud University, the first community owned university in the world was opened up in Awdal region in 1997 and this was followed by a plethora of universities in many of the country’s main cities. The main ports of Berbera, Mogadishu, Bosaso and Kismayo are all operating at better levels with better equipment than they ever were before the collapse of the state and the airports are also faring much better. Both Berbera and Hargeisa now enjoy international airports and so do Mogadishu, Kismayo and Bosaso.

Basically, the clan infrastructure became one of the main strengths of the state instead of leading it to disintegrate as was hoped for by those who do not wish the country well. One must not ignore the fact that the health services could be much better under better circumstances and the educational services could be much better co-ordinated than they actually are, but the seed of a thriving population is fully in place

Somalia has one of the longest coasts in the world and the longest in Africa and Somalia looks forward to becoming a giant blue economy involving not only fishing, but also scopa-diving, ship building, elegant beachfront real estate, thriving tourism enjoying the country’s warm blue sea. The country’s economy also has many other factors which can propel it forward to a thriving one. Its agricultural base is strong, and its livestock industry is both a source of meat and milk, while new industries are expected to add onto the existing riches of the country such as the oil and gas industry, which is now generally assumed to be just over the corner.

The most destabilizing factors that Somalis would need to watch are among others the continued presence of foreign forces that are no longer needed and the continued presence of intelligence organizations in the country as ambassadors of their countries. Somalia would need to improve its foreign policy priorities and its foreign policy in general. It should be dealing with the ministries of foreign affairs directly and the foreign ambassadors in the country should be asked to behave like ambassadors duly enjoying their ambassadorial privileges.

No country can ever assure itself of its security without a national army and Somalia is one of the few countries in the African continent that developed a fairly viable national army, that was able not only to assure Somalia’s security but also helped many African countries develop their own security services and the liberation of many African countries from the European colonialism that they were subjected to. Somalia’s roles in South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Eritrea and Djibouti cannot just be pushed under the carpet. The Somali National Army is one of the pillars of the Somali society and allowing it to play its rightful role in the recovery of the country would be a great achievement. With the Somali National Army growing now at the current pace, there would be no need for AMISOM or any other force to assure it of its safety or security.

The so-called disharmony among the federal member states and the federal government is but an illusion created by foreign parties to prolong their presence in the country. Every African soldier in the country feeds some 10 people, which means that some 206,260 Africans (Ugandans, Kenyans, Burundians, Djiboutians, Nigerians and Ethiopians) now live on income from Somalia (currently some 20,626 African soldiers work in the country). There are also some 5,000 NGO staff who, on a per capita, spend over US$50,000 per month. Those thousands of people operating in the country at the cost of Somalis would all join the unemployed in their countries, should the stability of the country be assured and the need for them would no longer be necessary. Accordingly, one of the major problems that the country faces now, is this unemployable force that are parasitically living off the backs of Somali people and enjoying lavish lifestyles their countries could not afford them. No wonder any report that comes from the NGOs and the international community in Halane paint the country in a bleak outlook, hoping that they would continue to live off the Somali people’s already broken backs.

Kenya’s continuing interference in Somali affairs is another destabilizing factor in Somalia. Fear of a strong Somalia appearing in the Horn of Africa and Somali irredentism drives Kenya to unsustainable aggression that could only lead to Somalis reclaiming the Somali space in Kenya, which is practically a third of the country. The Somali space in Kenya often referred to as the Northern Frontier District was subject to a referendum in 1963 and as is well known 87% opted to join their brethren in Somalia only to be denied by Great Britain, the colonial power of the time. Should Kenya continue in the current path, it would lose more than it is bargaining for.

Our reading of the state of Somalia is that the internal tensions which were exploited, by and large, by many of the foreign parties involved in Somalia, are dying away. Only politicians with personal agendas are competing in the Somali political map. The recent events in Mogadishu amply demonstrated that the people of Mogadishu despite being from one clan, were not ready to go into a new strive and clan fighting. The electoral impasse was settled through Somali solutions and the country is heading for elections in the months ahead. The irony of the whole matter now is that most of those vying for political positions are competing on their national patriotism instead of their clans as was the case in the past and this bodes well for Somalia, though the ravens using them still abound.

Somalia has yet to develop a coherent foreign policy on its relations with West Asia, which to date and other than Qatar, has been very disruptive of Somalia. West Asian countries are neighbours of the Horn of Africa, including Somalia. The two regions need each other, and no region can be strong without the other. Somalia, because of its religious ties to West Asia, is one of the countries closest to them, but West Asia played rough with Somalia and Somali people that was not necessary in the past three decades. Although it would be difficult for Somalis, yet one must always weigh issues seriously. Somalia would need to develop a forward looking and diplomatic policy in its relationships with these countries of West Asia.

Dr. Suleiman Walhad

Dr. Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at [email protected].

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