The Heritage Of War And State Collapse In Somaliland And Somalia: Local-Level Effects, External Interventions And Reconstruction

By Ismail I Ahmed & Reginald Herbold Green

If you want to dismantle a hedge, Remove one thornbush at a time. Somali proverb


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Somalia and Somaliland are both inhabited basically by Somalis with small Oromo minorities in both, and a large Swahili minority in the latter. Both have multiple clans, sub-clans, lineage and blood groups and in both Islam is central to social values. Somalia had no history of a stable state before Italian rule but Somaliland did (Haud-Hargeisa-Berbera-Arabia trade axis centered). The United Republic of Somalia (rejected in the referendum by Somaliland) passed from political instability to two decades of Said Barre’s increasingly centralized and repressive dictatorship which waged war against the North-west (Somaliland) and North-east (Bosaso) as well as against Ethiopia. The dictatorship collapsed in 1991 basically because of the 1987± 91 Somaliland Liberation war. The economies of Somalia/Somaliland turn on pastoral production, commerce, and remittances. These have recovered in part in Somalia and fully in Somaliland. However, only a fraction of the Barre regimes dissolution of service delivery and user-friendly law and order capacity has been made good in Somaliland and virtually more in Somalia. USA/UN intervention did limit starvation and for a time open violence. That was at a high cost in finances, in the reputation of peacekeeping and to Somalis. UNOSOM answered political and civil questions before having any real grasp of civil, political and economic realities. The price was to entrench warlords and militias and to marginalize `peacelords’ (elders and merchants). Somaliland, never occupied by UNOSOM, has engaged in a series of large, long peace conferences of elders from all parts of its territory leading to a real if fragile national/territorial identity with personal security in most areas, an elected president and two-house parliament, a user friendly police force and court system and the beginnings of a restored professional civil service.

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