The book traces the current unfolding and complex events back to their historical roots. It starts with a history of Somalia`s colonial period, when external powers divided Somali territories, and explains thoroughly the events leading to the catastrophic civil war in early 1991. It also presents an extensive analysis of Somalia’s civil war and the often confusing and troubled history of this nation.
The book (which seems to be a revised PhD thesis) is divided into nine chapters. The first three chapters set out the analytical framework of the study and offers wide conceptualization on the conflict in relation to multiple identity markers such as clan, Islam, and Somaliness. The discussions presented by the author are remarkable. Firstly, he investigates all the peace reconciliation efforts along with the roles played by foreign actors and greedy warlords. Secondly, the obscure notion of clan identity is well explained, something which is often embellished in other works. Afyare writes: “clan identity, in itself is not the cause of the conflict; it’s a mobilization instrument”p.34.
This is true because there are more issues that unite Somali people than clan affiliation, but it became the opium Somalia`s ruling class have used to divide and rule Somalis.
In chapter three, he seeks to explain why clan identity is conducive to the current civil war, its drivers and dynamics; and the consequences of clan politics and who benefits from such politics, and why. The author presents mixed explanations, including that exploitative colonial and country’s leaders has compounded inimical inter-clan relations. For example, the last regime’s divide-and-rule policies assured the docility of different clan groups.
The first six chapters of the book highlight the failure of the state in transforming the conflict, thus prolonging the civil war, the rise of political Islam, and the further Talibanization of Somali society.
The peculiar Islamist outlook the author proposes from time to time is overly entertained in his thesis. The explanation of the Islamic awaking, although well placed and dramatic, recites familiar works but contributes to no fresh insights. Furthermore, his Islamist take is questionable. A somewhat weak part of the book is the notion which underplays the imminent threat to neighboring countries like Ethiopia.
The chapter subtitle reads: “Islamic courts in Somalia: A vehicle for social change”p.63. This statement is certainly correct, but not sophisticated enough to explain minority radicals’ nature and the threat they pose to regional security that provoked Ethiopian intervention. Afyare’s analysis relies more on Islamist interviews for its dominant political force. This account, which I disagree with, provides the basis for generating several hypotheses on the likely form and trajectory of political Islam in the country.
The dominant role of extremists in Union Islamic Courts (UIC) as well as hostility to Ethiopia, including destabilizing units dispatched into Ethiopia’s Somali region long before the Ethiopian intervention in 2006, is barely covered and jihadi motives are not mentioned at all.
The author’s illustration of the international community’s routine symbolic interventions exemplifies the gap between reality and the theory which fuels endless war. The point he argues for is, if the international community wants the people of this troubled country to take responsibility for their lives, they cannot engineer solutions for them, no matter how smart these may seem.
He draws on a number of cases to explain the need to review over two decades of fruitless engagement. For several reasons I do agree with him in this. First, the failure of so many interventions puts a restraint on the search for a solution. Different peacekeeping missions, picking leaders, taking sides and trying to impose a government by force without tangible state building measures are the past actions which are synonymous with international community actions. The international community should stop its obsession with forming endless transitional administrations without state building measures. Secondly, while it is important for the international actors to allow a breathing space in which Somalis can devise solutions to their own problems, Somalis have to be allowed to make experimental decisions along with proven ones. The central argument here is that Somali’s need to decide their own fate and the international community should only support a “home grown solution”p.137.
The author illustrates how the clan issue is no longer a hurdle in Somalia since the Islamists came to power. Sadly, politicians are putting their interests before the nation and are prolonging inter-clan conflicts. The author offers alternatives to overcome 4.5 quota formulas like a “bicameral system where one of the houses can have clan representatives and another by districts or geographical formula”. However, Afyare is not enthusiast the system which he considers a tool to interfere in the country’s affairs. This interference comes mostly from neighboring Ethiopia, as Afyare elegantly puts it “were formula has been designed in 1996”p.93. According to him, Ethiopia has had different roles in the last 20 years. Kenya has a “facilitator and beneficiary’s role of the conflict”p.97, and Djibouti’s “peace promoter” roles are the major regional players in the country, p.98.
Warnings of foreign interventions are carefully documented in this book, in which the role of the international community and of the United Nations especially, makes for dismal reading. ''The UN, its backers, and the NGO’s in Nairobi control what is happening in Somalia” writes Afyare, p.131.
The US government’s add-on to the conflict is well highlighted and it can also be implicit in how the international community has dragged its feet on justice and accountability, fearful that growing instability in the country could spiral into further anarchy if it alienates its warlord allies.
Of course, one reason why Afyare could not provide space on the subject is because of the absence of domestic institutions and capacity that can support a comprehensive transitional justice process. Each of these issues can only be discussed when there is genuine national state building. Although international actors have repeatedly sermonized on the importance of justice and reconciliation, they have done little to exclude notorious warlords that have committed war crimes from the political process.
In addition to this, they supported and financed criminal warlords as published in recent Wikileaks cables. According to these, ruthless warlords like Gen. Morgan, Qanyare, Qaybdid and Bashir Raghe were to be the men on the ground and whenever the US needed support in the War on Terror they could be armed against small district courts in Mogadishu, which later sparked the UIC’s formation.
UNDERSTANDING THE SOMALIA CONFLAGARTION
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