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Background considerations on Somalia
by Arthur Muliro
Since the collapse of the Siad Barre government in 1991, the Somali Republic (Somalia) has been plunged into a crisis that seems to have no end in sight. The country is effectively split into at least three separate zones that enjoy peace and tranquility to differing degrees. To the northwest, the autonomous region of Somaliland is perhaps the singular place within the confines of the Somali republic where life is as close as possible to ënormalí and where there is a functional government. Somaliland has declared its intention to quit the Somali Republic, but as yet, remains an unrecognized entity. Puntland on the northeast, declared itself an autonomous state in 1998, but unlike Somaliland, has no intentions of seceding from the Somali Republic. As with Somaliland, there is relative peace and calm, with more than one-third of the Somali population living here. The lower half of the Somali Republic, what is referred to as ëSouth-Centralí is where the bulk of the chaos and mayhem continues to reign.
The recent history of Somalia is replete with various governance transitions, civil war, attempts to restore order (internal and external) and the collapse of many such initiatives, largely through lack of trust, subterfuge and insufficient goodwill to carry through resolutions taken by the various political actors. With the slow-motion implosion of the latest initiative by the international community in the form of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the imminent takeover by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) which has been waging war on the TFG, it is not very clear what the future will be, particularly in those contested territories (depicted in the map above in a shade of green). What is however clear is that within this context of chaos and mistrust; internecine conflict and external interventionism, is that there has been little space for reflection on, and consensus ñ both internally and externally as to what sort of entity should emerge from the ashes of this conflict, and more importantly, how to try and reconcile the various warring elements. Warlords, the Sheikhís and the international community have been the key protagonists in this theater with moderate elements, particularly from within Somali civil society and intelligentsia have been sidelined.
This situation has tended to create an image of a rather extreme society, where polar opposites thrive; one in which reason is as absent as calm. A society which seems committed to push itself to the very brink of self-annihilation. At one level, this nihilistic vision is perhaps one that remains attractive to certain interest groups. But for the millions of Somali citizens, the current situation is one that provokes deep anguish. For them, the continuation of the conflict, particularly in the South-Central part of the country, and the absence of a lasting political solution to the problems of the country are a humiliation.
For further reading: To Move Beyond the Failed State†by International Crisis Group