Kategoriarkiv: About Somalia

Casestudy: How Somalia became a nation

Many Somalis view the 70’s as Somalia’s golden age. A period of prosperity, peace and happiness under the rule of Siad Barre. Here, the main objective was to build a nation after the model of the Soviet Union.

The rise of a communist regime

The Somali Democratic Republic was the name that the communist regime of former President of Somalia, Major General Siad Barre gave to Somalia after a coup d’état in 1969. A profitable alliance with the Soviet Union helped the regime expand the state sector and build one of the largest armies in Africa.

Somali Flag. Copyright: Wikipedia Commons








Somalia had achieved independence in June 26, 1960 due to the rise of the Somali Youth League – Somalia’s first political party. On July 1, 1960, Italian Somaliland united with British Somaliland to form the Somali Republic. These dates compromise the lyrics of a popular national song.

In the 70’s, large-scale public works programs and literacy campaigns helped dramatically increase the literacy rate among Somalis across the nation. In addition to the nationalization of industry and land, the new regime’s foreign policy placed an emphasis on Somalia’s traditional and religious links with the Arab world, eventually joining the Arab League (AL) in 1974.

For God, Comrad Siad and Country

Siad Barre managed to reconcile communism with religion by adapting Marxist ideology to local circumstances. Emphasis was placed on the Muslim principles of social progress, equality and justice.

The government argued that the teachings of socialism:

  • self-sufficiency
  • public participation
  • popular control
  • direct ownership of the means of production

were completely in line with teachings of Islam.

This enabled Siad Barre and his government to take the position as the country’s moral high ground. He named himself Jaalle Siyaad, “Comrad Siad”, forbade clanism and stressed loyalty to the central authorities.

Propaganda and Nationalism

Many Somalis view the Siad Barre era as the most prosperous period in modern Somali history. Volunteer labour harvested and planted crops, and built roads and hospitals. Almost all industry, banks and businesses were nationalised, while cooperative farms were promoted.

An entirely new writing script for the Somali language was introduced. Education in government schools had to be conducted in Somali, and in 1972, all government employees had to learn to read and write Somali within six months.

To spread the new language and the methods and message of the Siad government, secondary schools were closed in 1974 and 25,000 students from fourteen to sixteen years of age and an additional 3,000 military and civil service employees were sent to rural areas to educate their nomadic relatives.

[audio: http://www.nextstopmogadishu.dk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/somalisongs.mp3]

Soundfile lyrics can be viewed here.

Overview: Peace efforts in Somalia

Many believe that peace in Somalia comes with the establishment of a fully functioning government. The instrument for change is a roadmap designed to end the rule of warlords and restore much needed national institutions to Somalia.

UN-backed roadmap to ensure peace and stability

In august 2011, a UN-backed roadmap to end transitional rule in Somalia was set in motion. The roadmap sets out a series of tasks to be completed by next August. The goal is the constitution of a central government acceptable to all the Somali people.

Among the tasks set out in the roadmap are improvement of security, drafting a constitution, national reconciliation and good governance. And the people entrusted to implement these tasks are part of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TGF).

The TGF is internationally recognized as the official government of Somalia, but beyond the capital, Mogadishu, the TGF has no control over its territory and few means of delievering basic services to the Somali people.

Roadmap unites different parties

The roadmap was agreed upon by an alliance of regional transitional administrations:

  • The Transitional Federal Government
  • The Transitional Federal Parliament
  • The self-declared semi-autonomous regions of Puntland and Galmudug
  •  The group known as Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a

The participation of these parties in the peace process offers great opportunity for stabilizing the country. The roadmap, along with the withdrawal of the Islamist armed group Al Shabaab from Mogadishu in August may be the best chance for peace in years.

The TFG has made many attempts to end its transitional rule. Since 1991, 17 attempts at constituting a central government have failed – mainly because of lack of popular support.

Support from the international community

A number of international partners have commited themselves to the peace process by facilitating cooperation and collaboration among the Somali parties. These partners include:

  • The UN
  • The EU
  • The Arab League
  • The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

But ultimately, it is the Somalia people who must step up and play their part in bringing about change and lasting peace.

“The peace process will only work when the Somali people own it and push it forward,” stated Augustine Mahiga, the UN Special Representative of Secretary-General for Somalia in a statement.






Debate: Clanism in Somalia

Political representation is a complex issue in Somali society, which has been devastated by several decades of civil war causing distrust between people and disillusion with the ‘state’.

The clash between clanism and nationbuilding

Somali citizenship broadly derives from the concept of u dhashay (born to a family/group/clan/nation). This ancestral understanding of citizenship stresses the blood relationship of all Somalis, who claim descent from a common forefather.

Before the outbreak of the civil war in the late 1980s Somalis were commonly perceived as a homogenous ‘nation’. The military regime of Siad Barre demanded loyalty to the state above the clan.

Yet behind the nationalist facade clientism and nepotism continued. In their struggle for power later Somali governments as well as factions in the civil war have used notions of clan loyalty to mobilize support.

The difference between nomads, farmers and the people living in the city 

Different Somali communities have separate perceptions of belonging:

  • Nomads or camel herders: stress family relations. For raiding or in defence, groups of relatives unite.
  • Farmers in southern and central Somalia: stress territoriality, because they depend on land and cooperation for survival.
  • Urban communities: give religious authorities and leaders a strong influence. Here notions of hierarchy and loyalty is key.

In addition, many members of the diaspora have developed a transnational understanding of belonging, and are simultaneously engaged in their country of residence and the homeland.

The Somali diaspora and issues of representation

More than a million Somalis live outside Somalia, either in refugee camps or in countries such as:

  • Italy
  • Canada
  • USA
  • Denmark

Over the last two decades, political representation and participation in peace talks in Somalia has been based on a mixture of clan, military and financial power. This has often strengthened the prestige of warlords and political elites from the diaspora.

Many delegates at national reconciliation conferences fly in to meetings held outside of Somalia. They are paid by international donors and can simply return abroad if things do not ‘work out’ back home.

Representativeness cannot be created from outside. It has to come from within and to be accountable to those who supposedly are being represented: ordinary Somalis.