Somalia: Hope after 25 years of bloodshed

While most people’s knowledge of Somalia might come from the 2001 blockbuster Blackhawk Down or occasional horrific news stories popping up, there has been some recent optimism that the state could pull itself out of its long running civil war in time for the 2016 elections. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the case as several factions renewed conflict and the election, originally scheduled for August, has been delayed.

The country, located on the Horn of Africa, hasn’t had a functioning central government since 1991. In 2000, a transitional government was established, but it failed to hold the country together. In 2004, another transitional government had more luck and, with international support, was able to hold elections and adopt a federalist constitution in 2012.

I recently spoke with Somalia expert Sakariye Cismaan, a blogger based in the Somali capital Mogadishu, about what the future might hold for the troubled state.

Cismaan explains that a hardened group of militant Islamists has risen and now challenges the progress. The group, Al-Shabaab, formerly the Islamic Courts Union, has become the main barrier to peace and has even launched terrorist attacks outside of Somalia, such as the 2015 Garissa University College attack, that killed 148 mostly young people. 

Despite all the setbacks, Cismaan says there are positive signs that the country may be turning a corner. 

Q? Is there any optimism for a peaceful solution in the future?

Yes, of course, the tangible progress, however small and however slow, has been inspiring. Since the transitional period ended in 2012, the support from the international community has been strong. Now most international agencies and foreign embassies [concerned with Somalia] are based in Mogadishu rather than in Nairobi, Kenya where they used to be based in for a long time. The numbers of violent episodes such as suicide explosions and assassinations have dropped. Now only certain places are targeted such as government buildings and hotels where government officials live. Roads are paved, the education system of the country is united under one curriculum, and four regional administrations are now established and operational and the last regional administration is in the initial phase of its establishment.


Q? Is there a past that Somalia can look back to, something in its own history to build a more stable future?

In 1960 after independence Somalia had one of the few democratic governments in Africa, and held a free and fair election in 1964 where a new president was elected and the president who lost the election handed over power peacefully. The early 1980’s drought that plagued much of East Africa was contained and overcame by Somalis, whereas our neighbours were helped by the international community. So I think we can once again rise up to the challenges in front of us and come out even stronger.


Q? What do you think needs to be done to build a stronger future?

Well, we are now building our police force, our armed forces, and our governmental institutions all from scratch and of course that takes time. So I think we are on the right track and if I know anything about the Somali people it’s their resilience and their hard work and through determination we will get there.

This article first appeared in Issue 21, 2016.
Posted 10:37am Sunday 4th September 2016 by George Elliott.