The World Bank/IMF Structural Adjustment Programs and the Somali Crisis

by Julius O. Ihonvbere

Department of Government
The University of Texas at Austin
Burdine Hall 536 Austin, Texas 78712-1087
Tel. (512) 471-5121; Fax (512) 471-1061

Paper prepared for the symposium on "Towards Conflict Resolution in the Horn of Africa," organized by the African Studies Program, Central Connecticut State university, New Britain, Connecticut, November 19, 1994.

The clan system that is embedded in Somali culture is not in itself responsible for the destruction of Somalia: the deliberate policy of exacerbating clan rivalries is. Said Bare initiated the policy, but the war lords bent on replacing him replicated his tactics.(1)

There are more arms than food in Somalia. These arms were not fabricated by Somalis... they were given by the outside, to serve outside interests. Those who provide arms are partners in crime.(2)

Somalia is one African country that came to occupy the center stage of global attention as a precipitate of a very unfortunate development in its political history. The country had served the interests of the former Eastern bloc and the Western alliance very well. Unfortunately, it did not benefit from its spasms of allegiance to either bloc and at the end of the cold war, the economy was in shambles, the state had been terribly delegitimized and was fast disintegrating, poverty, alienation, cynicism, and violence had become the order of the day. These conditions only served to worsen an already bad situation. Though signs of impending disaster were there for all to see, very few NGOs had the resources and interest to concern themselves with this poor, backward, underdeveloped, and almost unimportant nation in the Horn of Africa.

It was not until the media brought the gruesome pictures of starving children, corpses on the streets, moving skeletons, and sickly children watched over by vultures waiting for them to take the last gasp of air, that the United States, the only surviving super power after the Cold War, and the United Nations, now under the unprecedented influence of the United States, responded to the Somali disaster.

Unfortunately, analyses of the origins, dimensions, and implications of the Somali crisis have tended to be superficial and impressionistic. Part of this problem is because the world, even the academic community, had to rely on the media with its journalistic interpretations and penchant for sensationalism. Somalia had not benefitted from the massive influx of expatriate western researchers in the 1970s as was Tanzania, Kenya, Cote d'Ivoire, and Nigeria. Thus, not much is known about the nation's political economy in the West. It was thus easy and rather convenient to blame the crisis and the disintegration of the Somali state on the so-called warlords and ethnic or tribal clans. The wrong argument was that the clashes among the clans and the inability of the warlords to reach a consensus is responsible for the Somali crisis. This, we argue, is only a very partial and superficial explanation of the crisis.

Our goal in this paper is not to argue that the IMF and World Bank vcreated the Somali crisis. Rather, we contend that the crisis is directly a precipitate of ruthless explouitation, unmderdevelopment and marginalization of the Somali social formation by the forces of Westewrn imperialism. We contend that this crisis weas reproduced through the interplay of political forces, the alignment and realignment of political and ideological interests in opoast-colonial Somalia. It is into this crisis, precipitated by internal and expernal forces, thart the IMF and thw World Bank waded in the 1980s only to deepen contradictions, destroy the foundations of stability, erode the legitimacy of the state, intensify poverty snd alienation, and lay the foundation for the more popularly known version of the Sonali experience as was seen very recently. In this paper we begin by locating Somalia in the African crisis. Next, we take a brief look at the background to the crisis in Somalia, the nature of the crisis, and the role of the World Bank and the IMF in the deepening of the responses. We conclude by examining the implications of the crisis for Africa and prospects for peace and recovery in the country.

Somalia in the African Predicament

There is increasing agreement on the fact that sub-Saharan Africa has performed very badly on all fronts in the past decade.(3) The region entered the 1990s as the most crisis-ridden, most debt-distressed, most marginal, and most poverty-stricken in the world. On virtually all indicators of development, Africa lagged behind other regions in the developing world.(4) Describing the situation in sub-Saharan Africa in the mid-1980s, Edward Jaycox, Vice President, Africa Region of the World Bank noted:

At that time, most of the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa...were in an economic free fall: no goods on the shelves, no spare parts, no chalk in the classrooms, no drugs in the clinics and so on. Budgets were out of control, debt was piling up, institutions were decaying, social indicators were falling, and, in substantial parts of Africa, famine stalked the land. The "African Crisis" was well under way.(5)

While the deteriorating situation alerted the world and African governments to a new reality, policy responses at national, regional, and global levels failed to stem the tide of decay and disintegration. Political and economic reforms were tentative, post-hoc and uncoordinated. More importantly, the reforms embraced by most African regimes were simply designed to impress donors and creditors, open credit lines, and to attract more foreign aid.(6) At the structural levels, the reforms dealt with superficial and superstructural problems and contradictions, leaving substructural contradictions intact. Such cosmetic responses failed to contain the region's deepening crisis, and by the end of the 1980s, Africa had become "the greatest development challenge facing the international community..."(7) Many desperate governments and leaders rushed to embrace economic restructuring programs only because the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund(IMF) conditioned further assistance on stabilization and adjustment policies and other international financiers, donors, and creditors adopted similar positions. But in most instances, conditions had deteriorated to unprecedented proportions, and regimes were not in any position to negotiate better terms or to modify reform packages which pay little cognizance to the specificities of their economies.

It is in this context that we can appreciate Jaycox's summary of the African predicament at the end of the 1980s:

Sub-Saharan Africa was in an especially vulnerable position because its basic economic structures and capacities were weaker than anywhere else.

The region had no industrial base to speak of, its human resource and management skills were extremely thin, its infrastructure was sparse and often run-down, its technological options were limited, and it was rapidly losing its competitiveness to other developing regions. Wrong-headed policies fed into and exacerbated these basic problems. Grossly overvalued exchange rates, excessive taxation of exports, widespread price controls and subsidies, state interference in internal and external trade, and generally poor management of the revenues from the commodity price booms of the 1970s- all these left Africa...with a major development crisis on its hands.(8)

At the end of 1992, Africa's external debt stood at $290 billion. This was "about two and a half times greater than in 1980, while sub-Saharan Africa's debt had more than tripled."(9) The region's debt is equivalent to 90 per cent of its GNP. For sub-Saharan Africa, it is equivalent to 110 per cent of GNP. Debt servicing in 1991 alone was $26 billion. With a population of about 600 million, Africa accounts for half of the world's refugees, average life expectancy is 51 years, population is growing at an annual rate of 3.2 percent- the highest in the world (it is 2.1 for Latin America and 1.8 for Asia), only 37 per cent of sub-Saharan Africans have access to clean drinking water, food production is 20 per cent lower than 1970 levels, and its economic growth rate is the lowest in the world standing at 1.5 percent. The depth of its economic stagnation, and decay in the majority of cases, is evidenced in the fact that the region's combined GNP of less than $150 billion is about the same as Belgium's!(10) According to Lance Murrow, "In the face of political instability and disintegrating roads, airports and telephone networks, and other disincentives, investors...are withdrawing from sub-Saharan Africa and looking elsewhere."(11) In addition, "AIDS is devastating the continent's and operating costs in Africa are 50% to 100% higher than in South Asia, where the return on investment is nine times as great; 25 years ago, the regions were even."(12) According to the Institute for African Alternatives(IFAA), over 1000 children die daily from avoidable diseases and this excludes the disaster cases of Somalia, Mozambique, and the Sudan.(13) By the end of 1992 African countries were classified as "the poorest, most troubled, least developed and hungriest in the world."(14) Africa News drawing from reports by the World Bank and several international agencies also noted that large numbers of African nations were "at or near the bottom of global indicators of development; they account for 90 per cent (23 of 26) of the "most Severely indebted nations in the world," and in the International Index of Human Suffering the region accounts for 66 per cent (20 of 27) of the "Extreme human suffering" category, and 40 per cent (24 of 56) of the "high human suffering" category. Finally, in its Economic Report of Africa 1992, the Economic Commission for Africa(ECA) practically echoed its previous reports showing overall deterioration in practically all sectors.(15) In his 1992 end-of-year review of Africa's economic prospects, Laiyashi Yaker, the ECA's Executive Secretary noted that "With output rising at barely 2 per cent per annum..., Africa's chronic economic ills of the 1980s seem unabated. Continued low growth and resulting austerity has badly hit social spending."(16)

The net implications of declining investment and foreign assistance, political instability, stagnant or failed adjustment programs, low growth rate and capital flight have been declining standards of living, regime turnover, economic dislocation, and increasing marginalization in the global division of labor.(17) More and more Africans are dying from poverty and civil wars than ever before. The youths and intellectuals are practically fleeing their respective nations for the Middle East, Europe, and North America. The general terrain of tensions, uncertainty, disillusionment, declining purchasing power, unemployment, institutional decay and inefficiency, and widespread corruption constitute part of the African reality and background which has manifested itself in the Somali situation.

The point to note therefore, is that the conditions of economic and political decay are common to all African social formations without exception.(18) The manifestation of the crisis as has happened in Somalia differ only in terms of the resiliency of the state, the nature and power of the contending constituencies, the degree of external support and interest in the economy, the structural integration of production and exchange forces, and the character of leadership and national constituencies. Let us now examine the case of Somalia.

Somalia: The Path to Crisis and Disintegration

The territory known as Somalia today was colonized in the 19th century by the British, French, and Italians. Colonialism ruthlessly exploited and underdeveloped the country. As part of the politics of divide-and-rule, the colonial powers did everything possible to play one clan against the other sowing seeds of discord and conflicts. In July 1960, the independent Somali state emerged from the Union of British and Italian Somaliland. This left millions of Somalis outside the new state in Djibouti, the Ogadeen in present day Ethiopia, and the former Northern Frontier District of British Kenya. For the first nine years of political independence, the country enjoyed relative peace and some form of democracy. It gained strength from its cultural, racial and religious homogeneity- Somalia has one major ethnic group, one language, and one religion.(19) The existence of six major clans- Daarood (35 per cent of the population), Hawiye (23 per cent), Isaaq (23 per cent), Digil, and Rahanwayan (11 per cent) and the Dir (7 per cent)-and several sub-clans did not lead to a complete break down of law and order. Inter- and intra-clan politics was conditioned by the influence of the heer (social contract) which dictates the relationship between the clan and the individual. To be sure, there were several points of contradictions, conflicts, and uncertainty. There were over 60 political parties, complex and conflicting political coalitions, assassination of political figures, and suppression of the press. Most of these developments were largely precipitates of the distortions, contradictions, and disarticulations caused by the colonial experience and the reproduction of a neo-colonial political reality.

The period before 1969 also witnessed several points of tension. First, the Northern clans, especially the Isaaqs in the former British Somaliland felt neglected, and dominated by the Southern Somalis. Second, the Somalis in Kenya and Ethiopia were eager to join their kins in the new Somali state and consequently developed liberation movements to pursue this objective. Third, the Somali government gave open encouragement to these liberation movements in Kenya and Ethiopia and made open territorial claims. Fourth, post-independence governments neglected infrastructures, basic needs, and education which could have reduced primordial loyalties and sentiments and strengthened national cohesion. The consequence was increasing reliance on the clan and clan politics to survive the difficult conditions of poverty and exploitation from domestic and foreign interests. Finally, fifth, in spite of the country's claim to democracy, repression was common and corruption was widespread. These simply deepened loyalties to regional and clan leaderships and accentuated the reproduction of inherited conditions of instability and limited legitimacy and hegemony of the Somali state.

In October 1969 things took a turn for the worse as has been the case in the majority of African states. In the African context, Somalia had done very well in being able to run a democratic system for nine years before General Siyaad Bare seized power in a bloodless coup. He suspended the constitution, dismissed parliament and replaced it with the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC). Bare remained in power for 21 years during which corruption reached unprecedented proportions, clannishness became the fundamental basis of politics, infrastructures were run down, the legitimacy of the state, its institutions and agents were clearly eroded, and he carried out several bloody persecutions of opposition elements. As part of his strategy to remain in power for life, Siyaad Bare had civilianized himself, taking the title of President, decreed a socialist one party state in October 1970, and established the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP) which replaced the dissolved SRC in July 1976. Siyaad Bare imposed himself on the SRSP as its Secretary-General.

The context of Bare's persecution and direction of foreign aid and scarce resources to repression and security matters reveals part of the background to the Somali crisis. At independence in 1960, Somalia was and has remained one of the poorest countries in Africa. With a population of 7.5 million (1987) only 1.6 percent of the land area was cultivated. Livestock production accounts for 47 per cent of its gross domestic product and manufacturing accounts for a mere 5 percent. The exportation of livestock products accounts for 60 per cent of its exports with bananas accounting for 40 per cent. Its GNP per capita in 1990 stood at a mere $120, one of the lowest in Africa. Its foreign debt profile of $2.4 billion showed a debt/GNP ratio of 283.4 per cent. Life expectancy was a mere 47 years, adult literacy was 24 per cent, under-5 mortality was 215 per thousand, only 27 per cent of the population had access to health care, and 37 per cent had access to safe water. In 1988, at a time Siyaad Bare was busy attacking villages and eliminating opposition movements, 70 per cent of rural Somalis were living below the poverty line, less than a fifth of all school age children were attending any sort of school, and half of the population still depended on livestock for their livelihood. On all indicators of development, Somalia was doing very badly by African standards:

Somalia is one of the poorest nations in the world, classified by the UN as a "least developed country" LDC....Even before the devastation and suffering brought by the civil war, conditions for most Somalis were extremely difficult....

The poverty of Somali's people is explained in part by the country's extremely underdeveloped and fragile economy...manufacturing has been little developed,....Dominated by public enterprises, the sector has been plagued by obsolete equipment, shortages of raw materials, irregular energy supply, uncertain foreign exchange and inefficient and corrupt management.(20)

It was in the context of these debilitating conditions that the Bare regime squandered Official Development Assistance(ODA) which accounted for 37 per cent of GDP by 1984- contributing between $300 and $400 million in the 1980s,(21) and diverted massive military aid to large scale human rights abuses and the repression of popular organizations.

A few examples of Bare's repressive politics will suffice. In July 1977 he was at war (in support of the Western Somali Liberation Front(WSLF)) with Ethiopia over the disputed Ogadeen region and suffered a crushing defeat largely as a precipitate of Soviet support for the Mengistu regime in Ethiopia. This forced Siyaad Bare, a former staunch ally of the Soviet Union to opt for American support. Bare's government expelled 6,000 Soviet personnel from Somalia in November 1977. This switch was very rewarding as it earned the Bare regime substantial military and economic support from the United States. With the military and economic aid, the Regime was able to wage its war against growing opposition and the persecution of so-called communist organizations. Clans from which the opposition were drawn were subjected to unparalleled attacks and persecution, civil society was suffocated, and popular groups were driven underground. Bare's "reign of terror (was) cited by international human rights groups as one of the cruelest on the continent."22 Foreign economic aid was used to strengthen the security forces and to create a very ruthless elite security agency called the Duub Cas (Red Hats). Foreign money was also used to buy the support of some prominent political figures, bribe journalists, and sections of the military.

As part of his "clean up" campaign to consolidate his new allegiance to the West and to check opposition to his openly inefficient and corrupt regime, Siyaad Bare practically destroyed several villages and massacred thousands of Somalis. Intellectuals were either jailed or chased out of the country for daring to criticize his mismanagement and corruption. According to Africa Watch, Bare's abuses included "aerial bombardment of civilian targets, secret detention in squalid conditions, the burning of villages, the indiscriminate use of landmines, the deliberate destruction of reservoirs and the killing of livestock, the lifeline of the rural population."(23)

The Majareeten sub-clan which is part of the Darood clan received a taste of Bare's ruthlessness in 1979 when the Red Hats killed over 2000. The Isaaqs in the North were next. In response to feelings of alienation and marginalization, Isaaqs in exile had formed the Somali National Movement (SNM) and had launched a military offensive to oust the Bare regime in 1988. The SNM enjoyed widespread support beyond the Isaaq clan and was very popular amongst youths and professionals. In response the Bare regime killed over 5000 unarmed civilian Isaaqs suspected to be members of the SNM and destroyed the northern cities of Bur'o and Hargessia through massive aerial attacks.(24) The massacres forced over 300,000 Isaaqs to flee into exile in Ethiopia.(25) In 1989 the persecution was directed against the Hawiye clan which had formed the United Somali Congress (USC) to challenge the Bare regime. As in other cases, the Bare regime responded with systematic attacks and massacres of women, children, and the widespread displacement of herdsmen and farmers.

Unfortunately for the Bare regime, the USC was strategically located to effectively challenge the repressive politics of the government and the army. Following two years of fighting, the Somali capital of Mogadishu fell to the forces of the Hawiye dominated USC in January 1991. General Bare fled Mogadishu to Garba Harre in the Gedo region in southwestern Somalia where loyal troops waged their own war against the rest of Somalia. Bare left "a country in ruins, a capital looted, widespread fighting between clans and armies, hundreds of thousands of refugees and a people on the verge of starvation. A country once praised for its unity was disunited, facing dismemberment."(26) The fall of the Bare regime did not lead to the restoration of peace and harmony or to the promotion of an environment for national reconciliation, reconstruction, and rehabilitation in Somalia.

With the fall of Bare, an interim government was set up under the leadership of USC member, Mohammed Ali Mahdi. Mahdi's government did not receive national acceptability and could not assert its powers and authority throughout the country. Efforts by Djibouti's President Gould Aptidon to convene a broad-based conference as a basis for improving the credibility and legitimacy of the Mahdi government yielded little results. To make matters worse the USC broke into two major factions, the one in support of Mahdi, and the other in support of General Mohammed Farah Aidid. This division led to increased sub-clan conflict between Aidid's Habr Gedir sub-clan of the Hawiye and Mahdi's Abgal sub-clan also of the Hawiye. This rift intensified the fighting in Mogadishu.(27) The USC, SNM and scores of other opposition factions took up arms against Bare's clan- the Daroods, and against themselves in a senseless struggle for power and control.

In the North, the SNM under the leadership of Abdurahman Ahmed Ali "Tur," adopted its former colonial borders and proclaimed its independence from Somalia in May 1991 when it announced the creation of an independent state of Somaliland. Ironically, the new republic of Somaliland failed to receive recognition from any nation.(28) This proclamation was opposed by the United Somali Front (USF), the Somali Democratic Association (SDA), and the United Somali Party (USP). The beginning of the complete deterioration of the Somali economy and the disintegration of the Somali state had been set in motion.

What became very clear from the ensuing conflicts were that: first, the various leaderships of the so-called resistance movements lacked any credible agenda for a united Somalia and lacked a program for national reconstruction; second, the leaders were more interested in personal power and the benefits of power than in the good of the nation; third, too many opposition elements had emerged in the struggle to oust Siyaad Bare that it became impossible to bring them together to create a national platform and agenda for reconstruction and development; fourth, the militarization of Somali society under the Bare regime through the massive infusion of military aid under the Cold War environment by both the West and East had made sophisticated and very dangerous weapons available in Somalia. With the fall of the Bare regime and without a central authority, the military depots were simply raided and there was a free distribution of weapons to any one who could carry one thus intensifying the violence and reducing possibilities for peace; fifth, the repressive tactics of the ousted Bare regime had created and consolidated an environment of intolerance, distrust, exploitation, and destruction in the country. Many of the gangs, and opportunistic opposition movements simply fed into that tradition and waged a war against the people and society. Their methods of looting, rape, destruction, and mindless massacres were exactly the same as those employed by Bare before his fall in 1991; sixth, with the drought which had affected Somalia between 1990 and 1992, the situation was made worse by the massacres of women and children, the destruction of herds of cattle and farmlands, hoarding of food stuffs by the gangs and war leaders, the general insecurity of life and property, and widespread looting. What followed was unprecedented starvation, disease, death and the unfolding of one of the worst cases of anarchy and destruction in the history of the African continent; finally, seventh, because Somalia did not posses nuclear weapons it was not a threat to the West and to any one. In the context of the end of the Cold War and the fall of the communist Mengistu regime in Ethiopia it was no longer of much use to the immediate needs of the West, and of course, Somalia was not a major oil producing country and its economy was one of the weakest in the region, it did not attract the attention and interest of western investors. Consequently, in spite of several warnings by UN agencies and several NGOs, very little global concern was directed to the unfolding Somali disaster. The 1992 American presidential campaigns which concerned itself with Russia and Eastern Europe, trade with Mexico, Bosnia-Herzegovina and so on, hardly discussed the disaster in Somali. It was not until the Western media, following extensive lobbying from NGOs, freelance journalists and some UN agencies brought pictures of corpses on the streets, starving children, and gun totting children and gangs to the homes of many Americans that President George Bush decided to send about 30,000 American troops to Somalia to secure the ports and major cities in order to make the delivery and distribution of food and relief materials possible in Somalia.(29)

Conclusion: Towards Recovery and Democracy in Somalia

It is true that the world powers and the UN were slow in responding to the crisis in Somalia. Just like the country had been a pawn in the hands of the super-powers during the Cold War, it was also a victim of the end of the Cold War. With attention and interest diverted to Eastern Europe and the deepening crisis in the developed economies, poverty-stricken, underdeveloped, and crisis-ridden countries around the world were virtually unimportant to the major powers and the United States.(30) The civil war in Somalia had destroyed virtually every institution that could have supported rehabilitation including the government itself. As Bruce Nelan has noted "Somalia is a country with no working economy, no police force, no government."(31) Wells were contaminated, hospitals were looted and destroyed, all schools were closed, and only 15 of the country's 70 hospitals were open though without drugs, doctors or basic amenities. As well, water taps were dry, food disappeared from the markets and shops, except for open gun markets, all regular markets were closed. All embassies were closed, inflation reached unprecedented levels as the local currency became worthless and as Ernest Harsch notes, "The entire formal banking system disappeared. Some private individuals continued to lend and trade currency, however, charging high interest rates and transaction fees. The Somali shilling circulated internally, but had no official recognized value; the US dollar became the preferred currency of Somali traders."(32) Gun runners from Ethiopia and Kenya did brisk business in Somalia supplying weapons to the scores of warring factions and gangs, "all telecommunications stations were destroyed, and telephone cables in the towns were looted for their copper. Electricity generating stations were heavily damaged, forcing Somalis to rely almost entirely on fuelwood for their energy needs...industry ground to a standstill, and some factories were even dismantled, their parts and equipment sold off in neighboring countries."(33) With the major cities virtually in ruins, over 300,000 dead from starvation and war, 1 million displaced and living as refugees in neighboring countries and in Europe, and an estimated 2 million facing death by starvation, the Somali crisis finally attracted concerted action from the United States, donors and the UN. Throughout this display of death and disaster, the World Bank and the IMF pretended as if they were not part of the crisis, that they knew notnhing about the processes that made an insane and insecure person of Said Bare, and that their policies did not contribute to eroding the power and relevance of institutions that could have prevented the disintegration of the Somali state.

Our discussion thus far has highlighted several critical issues that need to be put into consideration in an attempt to understand, in a holistic manner, the origins and implications of the crisis in Somalia. First, the country's historical experience which fragmented the people and severely underdeveloped the economy and society is critical to understanding the present crisis. The present crisis is largely a manifestation of past experiences and contradictions. Second, the limited hegemony of the state, its agents and institutions made it impossible for post-colonial governments to contain the forces of disintegration, mediate class and clan contradictions, and promote growth and development. Third, the advent of Siyaad Bare was a monumental disaster for the young Somali state. Insecure in office and without viable and credible programs for reconstruction and development, his regime mismanaged scarce resources, hopped from one super-power to another, converted the country into a pawn in the hands of the super-powers, promoted suspicion and conflicts within and between the clans, and unleashed an unprecedented reign of terror on the people of Somalia. This diverted scarce resources and foreign aid away from development to military and security matters with the consequence of reproducing the country's backwardness and marginalization in the international division of labor. Fourth, the Somali clans had lived and interacted with one another for over a thousand years without political and economic decay to the current levels at any period. To be sure, relations were not always harmonious. The reality is that clans in themselves do not generate conflicts and destruction. It is the politicization of clan relations and politics that accentuates conflict and destruction.(34) This is exactly what has happened in Somalia. The clans have been subjected to barrages of manipulation and harassment by the British, the French and other colonial powers, then by post-colonial leaders drawing on support, even encouragement, from both super powers in the days of the Cold War. Fifth, the Cold War played a large part in the current Somali crisis. It is instructive to note that while a few strategically located nations like South Korea for the West and Cuba for the East benefitted from the Cold War, Somalia, like the vast majority of African states were simply pawns of the super powers. Not one African country emerged from the alliances with either or both as a developed or industrialized nation. Leaders were encouraged not to reach accommodation with domestic constituencies. Simple conflicts that could have been resolved at the OAU or national levels were given ideological coloration and used as excuses to expand super power interests in Africa.(35) So-called assistance was often in the form of military aid and poverty-stricken and backward countries received some of the most dangerous and destructive weapons in the 20th century.(36) As Sulayman Nyang rightly notes, "Somalia became very much a depository of arms" for the great powers and "we are seeing now the belated manifestation of irresponsible politics on the part of those big powers; they were more interested in selling arms than in helping societies grow food."(37)

Without doubt, support from the United States was a major part in Siyaad Bare's arrogance, repressive politics, human rights abuses, and refusal to tolerate opposition.(38) For all his oppressive actions, the Bare regime received little or no condemnation from the Western powers. Sixth, the depth of the destruction in Somalia could have been mediated if the UN and the great powers, especially the United States, had responded in a comprehensive and serious manner on time. The point that the UN Charter did not anticipate a situation where there would be no government to deal with is unacceptable. With its resources, and the resources it could call upon at short notice, the UN ought to be in a position to restructure its policies, strategies, and institutions to respond to situations of rapid political deterioration. The crisis in Somalia did not suddenly descend on the international community. The signs and implications were there for all to see. The argument can be made that if the crisis had occurred in a more resource endowed and more strategically located country, perhaps the responses from the developed nations would have been different. Though the conditions are different, the massive response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait shows that the Somali situation was not so-unexpected and unprecedented. Finally, seventh, the crisis in Somalia, as we have now seen, is only the immediate manifestation of Africa's deepening crisis. In Liberia, the Sudan, Mozambique, Ethiopia and in other parts of the region, the state is under severe train and challenges, the economies are at best stagnant, politics and the state have been privatized by the elites, and the processes of political and economic restructuring have deepened coalitions, contradictions, and conflicts to very dangerous proportions. This means that, there is no reason not to expect a repeat of the Somali situation in places like Togo, Zaire, and Liberia. A combination of inherited contradictions and distortions, post-colonial alignment and realignment of political and social forces, economic decay and deterioration, and a very exploitative and hostile international division of labor are some of the conditions certain to reproduce the Somali situation in other areas.(39)

For the Republic of Somaliland, the people are clearly determined to sustain their autonomy as an independent nation state. To be sure, they have not completely ruled out some form of dialogue and political arrangement with the rest of Somalia even if this will now be on their own terms and must respect their self-determination. The republic today is a desolate devastated area which has not received international recognition and is not receiving the required assistance from donors and lenders to promote recovery. The current government of President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal is still confronted with serious political, social, and economic contradictions and pressures. The republic has established the framework for a viable democratic system which could empower the people and the communities and thus make viable growth and development possible in the future. Yet, it has to deal with the opportunistic politics of the former president, Abdurahman Tuur who is in exile in London and currently engaged in extensive subversive politics. This situation must not be allowed to degenerate to the Angolan situation which will only serve to rationalize global skepticism and stereotypes and further impoverish the already poor and desperate. Yet, Somaliland must learn from the mistakes of Somalia as far as the World Bank is concerned. It cannot afford to impose painful orthodox adjustment programs on a poor, hungry, insecure, and already frustrated populace. Mr. Egal and his cabinet must take the alternative political and economic positions and prescriptions advanced by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) very seriously.(40) Without doubt, adjustment is necessary to manage scarce resources, eliminate or reduce waste and mismanagement and improve growth. Yet, it must not be at the expense of the people or at the expense of national autonomy. Given its current state of poverty and backwardness, Somaliland must develop urgent linkages with other popular groups in Africa, especially the human rights and pro-democracy communities. This is one way to get the other African governments to give it recognition rather than an excessive focus on the United States which has openly declared its unpreparedness to take the lead in this regard. As well, Somaliland must be prepared to take advantage of economic opportunities in South-South cooperation rather than focusing on the markets of the west. Countries like Brazil, South Africa, India, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Korea should be targets for business, aid, and technology.

In the specific case of Somalia, it was only natural that in the context of the inability of the state to meet the basic needs of the people, ensure security, and create an environment for rational politics, people and their loyalties will easily dissolve into more reliable and more assured terrains of politics and social interaction. In Somalia, the clan provided such a terrain. Its politicization by power-hungry elites, does not immediately convert the clan into the primary and most important variable in the explanation of the crisis. While the Somali opposition fought very hard to oust the Bare regime, "they brought more calamities to their own people than did the displaced regime"(41) through irresponsible politics, personal ambition, narrow mindedness, total disregard and disrespect for the will of the people, political opportunism, and narrow vision. There is no doubt that the so-called warlords are a disgrace to the whole idea of national liberation and leadership in the contemporary world even if at a level we do recognize the fact that they are equally victims of a political culture and environment conditioned by violence, manipulation, and distrust.

The future for Somalia cannot be said to be bright no matter how generous we wish to be. The process of reclaiming its sovereignty and dignity from the outside world will take decades. Somalis are going to be viewed from the perspectives of the starving and horrifying pictures that were presented to the world by the international media. Rebuilding the state, rehabilitating institutions, generating confidence in the government and its institutions, rehabilitating displaced persons, encouraging the refugees and investors to return to Somalia, reconstructing telecommunications and other infrastructures, and disarming the gangs and war chieftains will take a long time. Creating the required institutions for administrative efficiency and promoting democracy and the mobilization of the people for growth, development, and self-reliance will be an even greater task. We must remember that before the break down of law and order, Somalia was one of the least developed countries in the world. The crisis has pushed it beyond the category of a fourth world country, now completely at the mercy of international agencies, donors and relief agencies even for maintaining security and distributing food aid. It is however possible to argue that at the end of the day, Somalia will be better off than before the crisis: a new, democratic, and peaceful Somalia, with a lot of experiences and lessons to draw from might just emerge from the present disaster.

For the UN, the Somali crisis and the response of donors, the relief agencies, and the United States would probably be a lesson on how to handle future similar developments.(42) The criticisms which the UN faced from several quarters, and the open attacks on the person of the Secretary-General during his visit to Somalia are pointers to new expectations from the UN in the new global order. Hopefully, in the future, warnings from NGOs will be taken more seriously, the Security Council will live up to expectation by acting more swiftly, and necessary institutions will be established and funds set aside to confront such developments which are bound to recur again.

For African nations, the Somali crisis exposed their relative helplessness and unpreparedness for national and regional emergencies and disasters. The Somali crisis ought, in the first instance, to be the responsibility of the Organization of African Unity(OAU). In 1991 the OAU spent millions of dollars to host its Summit in Abuja, Nigeria. Yet, it was unable to take the initiative in the Somali crisis. Without doubt, countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Egypt, are in a position to send a combined force of over 50,000 troops without endangering the security of their respective nations. Africa, once again, had to wait for the United States to send 30,000 troops, and for the outside world to send relief materials and supplies. In so long as African states do not demonstrate a collective commitment to regional autonomy, self-reliance, and an ability to contain regional conflicts through a mobilization of domestic resources in the first instance, they would continue to remain vulnerable to foreign penetration and manipulation.

The task of rebuilding Somalia (with or without unity with Somaliland) is still formidable. There is still the job of encamping the clan forces, disarming the roving gangs, providing seeds for farmers, reconstructing houses, and getting basic infrastructures working again. As well it has not been easy getting the leaders of the armed gangs to respect declared cease-fires.(43) Frequent outbreaks of violence between rival war groups, and between the groups and peace-keeping forces continue to challenge the process of rehabilitation.(44) The ability of the UN to establish a credible Somali Police will be a crucial step to securing a safe environment and bringing some order to the country. Widespread lawlessness still exits outside the areas where UNITAF forces operate.(45) The on-going peace talks in Ethiopia with the support of President Meles Zenawi do not appear to be addressing some of the critical issues. The focus is on ensuring peace among the very same forces and organizations which destroyed the country. As Africa Watch has noted,

The current effort does not adequately address the underlying causes of the destruction of Somalia's social fabric that ultimately led to famine. In sponsoring a peace process, the United Nations is acting as if the cause of the disaster was simply war. The U.S Special Envoy to Somalia...has limited his diplomatic efforts to ensuring that the factions avoid attacking the international forces and observe a shaky cease-fire. In fact, it was not war alone that created this disaster, but rather the massive, persistent, deliberate violations of human rights committed by all the factions in the course of the war. The longer this important distinction is ignored, the harder it will be to achieve a lasting solution to the Somali conflict.(46)

This is an important, even if incomplete point.(47)

Very few indigenous NGOs are involved in the talks. The hundreds of Somali professionals, doctors, nurses, teachers, civic leaders, clan heads, and employees of the relief agencies who have extensive experience in containing the excesses of the warring groups have been excluded from the peace talks and their contributions have not been adequately acknowledged. Africa Watch reports that the organizations have had problems communicating with the UN, the US Special Envoy and the relief agencies. Grassroots organizations like the IIDA, the Somali Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SORRA), the Somali Relief Association (SOMRA) and the Union for Somali Salvation Youth (USSY) were specifically told that the peace talks were "restricted to the fighting factions" only.(48) This is a major mistake. Leaders like Siyaad Bare succeeded in driving popular forces underground, squandering national resources, and suffocating progressive organizations because of the weakness, marginalization, and fragmentation of civil society. To exclude popular organizations and grassroots movements from the urgent task of rebuilding Somalia is to address the problem from a superstructural and superficial perspective. If care is not taken, at the end of the day, power will be handed over to a very weak and loose coalition of the political organizations or to a faction of the organizations. Either way, such a coalition government will be unable to restore investor confidence, retain the sympathy of the outside world, stimulate growth and development, promote law and order, and commit itself to democracy, accountability, social justice, popular participation, respect for the judiciary and a free press, and human rights. The current situation is an ample opportunity to empower civil society, strengthen grassroots and popular organizations, and ensure that political leaders and public institutions, including the police and armed forces will be accountable to the people and civil society in a post-crisis Somalia.


  1. Africa Watch, Somalia- Beyond the Warlords: The Need for a Verdict on Human Rights Abuses (New York: Africa Watch, March 7, 1993), p. 3.
  2. Boutros Boutros-Gali quoted in Ernest Harsch, "Somalia-Restoring Hope," Africa Recovery Briefing Paper (7) (15 January 1993), p.18.
  3. See Julius O. Ihonvbere, "The Economic Crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa: Depth, Dimensions and Prospects for Recovery," The Journal of International Studies (27) (July 1991); and his "Deepening Economic Crisis and the Re-Defining of Euro-African Relations," Philosophy and Social Action Vol. 29 (3-4) (1990). See also World Bank, Sub-Saharan Africa: From Crisis to Sustainable Growth (Washington D.C.: World Bank, 1989); North South Roundtable, The Challenge of Africa in the 1990s (New York: North South Roundtable, 1991) and John Ravenhill (ed.), Africa in Economic Crisis (London: Macmillan, 1988).
  4. See Robert Browne, "The Continuing Debate on African Development," TransAfrica Forum Vol. 7 (2) (Summer 1990); Julius O. Ihonvbere, "Political Conditionality and Prospects for Recovery in Africa," International Third World Studies Journal and Review Vol. 3 (2) (1991); and Institute for African Alternatives, Alternative Development Strategies for Africa (London: IFAA, 1989).
  5. Edward Jaycox, "Africa's Development Challenge and Prospects," in his collection of essays, The Challenges of African Development (Washington, DC: The World Bank, 1992), p. 2.
  6. See Karamo Sonko, "Debt in the Eye of the Storm: The African Crisis in a Global Context," Africa Today Vol. 37 (4) (1990); Julius Nyangoro, "The Politics of International Debt: The Case of Africa," Africa Quarterly Vol. XXVI (1) (1986); and Omari Abillah, "False Start?: Structural Adjustment and African Political Economies," Dalhousie Review Vol. 68 (1-2) (Spring-Summer 1988).
  7. Edward Jaycox, "Africa's Development Challenge...," op. cit. p. 14.
  8. Edward Jaycox, "Economic Reform and the Challenge of Adjustment," in his collection of essays in The Challenge of African Development op. cit., p. 15.
  9. United Nations, African Debt Crisis: A Continuing Impediment to Development (New York: Africa Recovery, 1992), p.1.
  10. Lance Murrow, "Africa: The Scramble for Existence," TIME (September 7, 1992).
  11. ibid, p. 42
  12. ibid
  13. See Institute for African Alternative, Alternative Development Strategies for Africa op. cit.
  14. "African Countries Lead Misery Index," Africa News (May 25-June 7, 1992), p. 3.
  15. Economic Commission for Africa, Economic Report on Africa 1992 (Addis Ababa: ECA E/ECA/CM.18/2, 1992).
  16. Reported in Roy Laishley, "ECA: Another Tough Year for Africa," Africa Recovery Vol. 6, (4) (December 1992-February 19930, p.1.
  17. See Julius O. Ihonvbere, "The Changes in Eastern Europe and their Implications for Africa's International Economic Relations," The Nigerian Journal of International Affairs Vol. 16 (2) (1990), and his "Surviving at the Margins: Africa and the New Global Order," Current World Leaders Vol. 35 (6) (December 1992).
  18. See Michael Chege, "Remembering Africa," Foreign Affairs Vol. 17 (1) (1991-92); "Aid Flows to Africa Stagnate," Africa Recovery (December 1991); Ernest Harsch, "Food Aid Lags Behind Massive Need," Africa Recovery (August 1992); and Adebayo Adedeji, "The African Challenges in the 1990s: New Perspectives for Development," Indian Journal of Social Science (3) (1990).
  19. See Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Somalia: Country Profile (Ottawa, Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board Documentation Center, March 1990); and Lee V. Cassanelli, The Shaping of Somali Society (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982).
  20. Ernest Harsch, "Somalia- Restoring Hope," op. cit., p. 18 and p. 19.
  21. ibid, p. 19.
  22. Robert M. Press, "Somalia Tries to Pick up the Postwar Pieces," The Christian Science Monitor (19 February 1991). See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights for 1990 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, February 1991); Africa Watch, Somalia: A Government at War with its Own People (New York: Africa Watch, January 1990) and several reports by Amnesty International and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.
  23. Africa Watch, Somalia: A Government at War with Its Own People op. cit, p.2.
  24. See Almami Cyllah and John Prendergast, "Genocide in the Horn of Africa," Washington Post (July 1, 1990).
  25. See Robert Gersony, Why Somalis Flee Washington, DC; Bureau of Refugee Programs, Department of State, August 1989.
  26. 26 African Association of Political Science, "A Nation in Turmoil: Somalia," AAPS Newsletter New Series No 7, (June 1992), p.3.
  27. See "Somalia USC and SDM Report Fighting in Central and Southwest Regions," British Broadcasting Corporation (July 26, 1991 Report No. ME/1134/B/1); Alan Rake "Fresh Start," New African (September 1991); "Somali Leader Reported to be Ousted by Rival," Washington Post (19 November 1991); Jane Perlez, "As Fighting in Somalia Rages On, African Neighbor Seeks a Truce," New York Times (6 January 1991); and Robert M. Press, "rebel Clashes Forestall Peace in Newly Liberated Somalia," The Christian Science Monitor (5 April 1991).
  28. See "The North Declares Independence," New African (July 1991); "Part of Somalia Declares its Independence," Washington Post (20 May 1991); and "Drifting Apart," Africa Events (June 1991).
  29. See Jeffrey Bartholet, "The Road to Hell," Newsweek (September 21, 1992) and Bruce W. Nelan, "Taking on the Thugs," TIME (December 14, 1992).
  30. See Julius O. Ihonvbere, "The Dynamics of Change in Eastern Europe and their Implications for Africa," Coexistence (29) (1992).
  31. Bruce W. Nelan, "Taking on the Thugs," TIME (December 14, 1992), p.28.
  32. Ernest Harsch, "Somalia- Restoring Hope," p. 11.
  33. ibid.
  34. See Julius O. Ihonvbere, "The 'Irrelevant' State and the Quest for Nationhood in Africa." Forthcoming in Ethnic and Racial Studies
  35. See Michael Clough, Free at Last?: U.S. Policy Toward Africa and the End of the Cold War (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 1992); Stephen Wright, "Africa in the Post-Cold War World," TransAfrica Forum Vol. 9 (2) (Summer 1992); and Eboe Hutchful, "Eastern Europe: Consequences for Africa," Review of African Political Economy (50) (March 1991).
  36. According to Donald Patterson, U.S. ambassador to Somalia 1978-82, Somalia received $65 million in military assistance from the United States in fiscal years 1980,'81, and '82, "half was for air defense radar and almost all the remainder for nonlethal items like radios and trucks." at several other times, emergency air lifts of arms were delivered to Somalia after 1982 to balance military forces in the Horn. See Donald Patterson, "Somalia and the United States 1977-1983: The New Relationship," in Gerald J. Bender, James S. Coleman, and Richard S. Sklar (eds.), African Crisis Areas and U.S. Foreign Policy (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1985), p.196.
  37. Sulayman Nyang, "A Regional Perspective: the Horn of Africa," in ADC, ADC Conference on Somalia op. cit., p.11.
  38. See Donald K. Patterson, "Somalia and the United States, 1977-1983: The New Relationship," op. cit.
  39. See Keith Richbung, "Somalia: A Land of Clan Control," Austin American Statesman (December 13, 1992); Kenneth B. Noble, "Zaire: Two Leaders, Many Problems, Few Hopes," New York Times (March 9, 1993); Steven A. Holmes, "Africa: From Cold War to Cold Shoulders," New York Times (March 7, 1993); and Julius O. Ihonvbere,"Building and Sustaining Democracy in Africa: Impediments and Possibilities in the 1990." Forthcoming.
  40. See Economic Commission for Africa, African Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment Programmes (Addis Ababa: Eca Secretariat, 1989), and African Charter for Popular Participation in Development and Transformation (Addis Ababa: Eca, 1990).
  41. Sulayman Nyang, "A Regional Perspective: The Horn of Africa," op. cit., p.11.
  42. See Paul Lewis, "U.N. May Shape New Era With Somalia," Austin American Statesman (December 13, 1992).
  43. See Molly Moore, "Somali Warlords Break U.N. Deadline," The Washington Post (February 16, 1993); Jane Perlez, "Somali Clan Killed Dozens of Rivals, U.S. Officials Say," The New York Times (December 29, 1992); and Richard Joseph, "Focus on Somalia: The U.S. Connection," Africa Demos Vol. III (1) (February 1993).
  44. See Steve Vogel, "U.S. Troops in Somalia Chafe at Police Role," The Washington Post (January 21, 1993); Alison Mitchell, "6 Somalis Killed as Bandits Clash with G.Is," The Washington Post (January 17, 1993); Michael Gordon, "Pentagon Says Killing of 2 Somalis May Have Been Accidental," The New York Times (December 12, 1992) and Africa Watch, "Somalia: Beyond Warlords...'" op. cit.
  45. Ernest Harsch, "Somalia- Restoring Hope," op. cit., p. 4.
  46. Africa Watch, "Somalia- Beyond War Lords: The Need for a Verdict on Human Rights Abuses." op. cit., p.1.
  47. There is the equally important issue of why it was possible to violate human rights, and the very crucial economic issues which encourage political instability and the abuse of power.
  48. 48 Africa Watch, Somalia- Beyond Warlords...," op cit., p. 20.