Critical Inquiry on the Forces that Sustain Somali
Predicament

Samatalis Haille is a recent graduate of University of
Minnesota with degree in Philosophy, Political Science
and Psychology), Minneapolis , Minnesota , USA .
Contact, haille60@yahoo.com

 

This paper investigates the nature of dynamics,
conditions, and forces that prolong civil war duration
in Somalia. It suggests, utilizing vast research on
this matter, that poverty, a structural feature of
Somali society, prolongs civil war duration. As
poverty prolongs civil war duration, civil war
generates and sustains more poverty; this process, as
researchers have noticed, constitutes a cycle that
feeds itself to generate poverty and wars. A set of
internal and external forces, also, aid this dynamics
thereby assuring its capacity to deliver poverty and
wars. This first part of the paper, concentrates on
the link between poverty and war, and suggests
mechanism to weaken the link between them; in
subsequent sections, I shall examine other factors
that aid war prolongation and its attendant misery
(such as external interventions, clans, interest
groups and Diaspora communities).
Poverty [1], as research shows, prolongs civil war
duration [2]. Somalia is a poor country in civil war
[3]; poverty, therefore, would prolong civil war
duration [4]. One possible mechanism through which
poverty prolongs civil war duration is that it limits
educational and employment opportunities available to
young males: this group constitutes the vast majority
of warriors in Somalia and else where [5]. Facing
limited alternatives, as shall be shown below, they
are cheaper to recruit and retain as soldiers, thereby
easing the cost of initiating and sustaining war
operations.
Employment and educational opportunities, in Somalia,
are extremely limited. Reasons as to why this is the
case is as follows; education is limited because less
than 2% of secondary school aged population go to
school; the rest do not [6]. Moreover, unemployment
among urban population is 65%, whereas its
corresponding figure for the non-urban population is
about 40% [7]. This would suggest that rural
populations are better off than their urban
counterparts, not so, conditions in rural and nomadic
areas( here after referred to just as rural areas)
are worse for two reasons: First, urban areas house
administrations( be it local or regional), businesses,
schools, and in some cases aid organizations, while
rural areas do no house these entities. Consequently,
they lack opportunities offered by these entities;
Second, extreme poverty ( a condition under which
individuals are incapable of meeting basic needs such
as food, clothes and shelter) predominates rural
areas: more than half ( 53.4%) of extremely poor in
Somalia, live in rural areas, whereas less than 25% of
these destitute population live in urban areas( 23.5%
to be exact)[8]. Relative lower unemployment in rural
areas, therefore, belies the prevalence of extreme
poverty. Under such rural and urban conditions, one
anticipates the existence of large, extremely poor,
unemployed and unschooled young population struggling
to survive in harsh environment. If this is the case,
war chiefs would have easier time recruiting and
retaining these young men as soldiers; Moreover, as
long as these economic and social conditions exist,
war chiefs would continue to have access to cheap
labor provisions that can sustain their operations for
an extended period of time.
When recruits are killed or injured, for instance,
others would be hired to replace them. This is likely
not to generate any major complications, because there
is always recruits who lack alternatives to earn an
income or occupy themselves; the availability of these
population, therefore, solves recruitment problems
that war chiefs face. The resolution of this problem,
partly, makes wars more sustainable processes. And
once wars are easier to sustain, they may be initiated
and sustained for variety of purposes; they may be
initiated and sustained, for instance, to protect or
acquire income generating source or even capture or
bargain about the nature of post-conflict state (see
page 3, paragraph 2 of this paper).
Poverty also prolongs civil war duration by making
?governments? established in neighboring countries
(during reconciliation conferences) less sustainable;
government being less sustainable survives only in so
far as it manages to secure and sustain funds from
outside entities, failing to secure or sustain these
funds, however, would force the government to cease
operations and start collapsing. As the state
collapses, war continuation becomes a default
condition. In this sense, then, poverty prolongs civil
war duration by making formed governments less
sustainable. One possible mechanism through which
poverty weakens the state and contributes to its
collapse is by limiting potential revenues that can be
extracted by the state through taxations [9].
Potential revenues is limited, in Somalia, because
majority of the people are poor (73% of the them)
[10]; Moreover, the country is among the poorest in
the world and was getting poorer as the civil war
persisted [11];
Suppose, however, that some segment of the population
say, relatively richer 30% of the population, would be
able to fund core state operations through taxations;
under such circumstances, one may anticipate that the
state would have access to limited funds that can be
used to sustain its operations should the outside
funds dry, for whatever reasons. I contend, however,
that even this limited fund will not reach its
intended destination, rather collection agents and
their associates would appropriate these funds as they
see proper( they may take the money for themselves,
because they are under-funded or perhaps they are
simply greedy folks or both) . Reasons for this
proposition are as follows: Somalia lacks, at this
time, state institutions, be it security, judicial or
revenue-collecting institutions; they will, therefore,
need time to develop to the point where they are
effective in doing their jobs. Since this takes time,
they will go through a transitory period in which they
are weaker, weaker in the sense of being under-funded,
in addition to being in their earliest stage of
development. Under such circumstances, judicial and
security institutions, like any other institutions of
the state, would also be weaker; thereby lacking
capacities to investigate and punish those who
appropriate collected funds; if this is the case,
collected revenues, are less likely to reach their
intended destination; in this scenario, the state will
not only lack potential resources to tax but would
also lack means to acquire them.
Somali state facing these funding problems has
traditionally relied on foreign support to sustain its
operations; it is likely that the state had collapsed,
when it was unable to secure these funds from its
traditional patrons [12]; Consequently, the state
might have been unable to pay its employees, thereby,
encouraging them to cease operations and leave. It is
likely, also, with a benefit of hindsight, that
rebels, in 1990s, had easier time defeating the state
owing to the bankruptcy of the state, thereby assuring
themselves reasons to celebrate; but their
celebrations did not last long. They faced the same
problems that previous governments had faced: limited
funding or lack of means to extract revenues or both;
failing, just lack their predecessors, to secure
outside sources of funds, they followed suit. Many
?governments? that were further established in
reconciliations conferences that took place in
neighboring countries (during 1990-2002), followed
similar path: the path to collapse and irrelevance. It
remains to be seen whether the current government will
succeed in resolving these funding problems.
As poverty continues to favor wars, through weakening
the state and easing the cost of initiating and
sustaining armed conflicts; wars, in return
reciprocate [13]: wars generate more poverty by
displacing populations and capital, destroying
infrastructures, and by increasing insecurity [14].
Some evidence is available indicating that poverty-war
dynamics is at work in some parts of Somalia; A
socioeconomic survey carried in 2002, suggests a
general link between peace and better levels of income
in Somalia [15].
Conditions under which poverty and wars predominate,
wars would be easier to initiate and sustain for
variety of purposes; they may be initiated and
sustained for idiosyncratic reasons such as personal
vengeance and family feuds [16]; Or for attaining or
protecting an income generating-source, such as ports,
airports, road blocks, or plantations [17]; (3) They
may also be initiated and prolonged for bargaining
about or even capturing post-conflict state [18]. All
these purposes, and many others, will be pursued so
long as they are profitable, and they are profitable
in so far as the cost of war is low relative to the
profits that can be attained as result of initiating
and sustaining armed conflict[19].
As more wars are waged for variety of reasons, as
more society becomes poorer, and as more society
becomes poorer, as more society becomes vulnerable to
more and more wars in the future; under such scenario,
society appears to be trapped. Trapped, in part, by
two powerful forces feeding one another: war and
poverty. Societies lacking means to escape from this
trap, continue to experience violent episodes and
abject poverty for extended period of time.
Recommendations
1- One way to make wars less sustainable is to build
more schools; doing so, would decrease the number of
potential recruits available for armed mobilizations
and would also increase the cost of recruiting them;
research further links education to a lower risk of
civil war [20] This is probably because, as Paul
Collier and his team suggest, schools either occupy
young people or change their attitudes towards life
[21]; in either case, education would make wars less
sustainable.
2- How do you build schools?; one way to build them is
to mobilize funds from Diaspora populations, local
populations( people in villages, districts, and towns
in Somalia) and from international well-wishers, so
that they can be used to establish more sustainable
and more affordable public schools.
3- Do not wait peace to build schools, the phenomenon
of war and poverty is likely to be cyclical; that is
to say, poverty and war feed one another. Hence, they
can survive for extended period of time. Building more
schools in conflict zones disrupts the vicious cycle
of war and poverty, by making wars costly to initiate
and sustain. Moreover, less sustainability of war is
likely to incline war chiefs and their affiliates to
appreciate peace.
4- This paper recognizes that more schools are, at
best, insufficient to terminate war, precisely, for
this reason; I shall discuss other factors that
sustain armed conflicts and make pertinent
recommendations.