Conflict and Environmental Security in Somalia

Political and Environmental Instability in Somalia

Scientific Essay 2016 19 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Region: Africa


The contemporary era of international relations is characterised by increased political and economic interconnectedness and interdependence between states and non-state actors. Globalising and managing trade and commerce processes through institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank promoted global industry, big businesses, and multinational corporations that depend heavily and more than ever before on the exploitation of natural resources such as oil, gas, and minerals and compete over securing their fair share of power-generating resources whether they are hydel, thermal, or nuclear. In the developed world, overuse of natural resources coupled with the disposal of massive amounts of industrial wastes in dump sites can have long-lasting detrimental repercussions on human health as well as the natural environment. Whereas the industrialised countries of the Global North are attempting to find new ways of recycling industrial wastes and developing alternative sources of energy through the use of advanced technology, developing and underdeveloped countries in Africa such as Somalia, Mali, and Ethiopia struggle to maintain the few and scarce natural resource available to them for current as well as for the future generations. Inter or intra-state conflicts in such countries worsen the severity of environmental issues, chiefly droughts. Often, the scarcity of natural resources in these countries becomes an environmental issue with social, economic, and political dimensions, hence, threatening the stability of the state and acting as “Pandora’s Box” by causing crises of different kinds to emerge and impact populations locally and regionally. Somalia as an underdeveloped African country represents a quintessential example of how a correlative relationship between political instability and environmental issues can cause the entanglement of a state into a vortex of interrelated crises leading to more instability, both political and environmental.

Part One: A Cause for War: The Environment in 21st Century

History offers a quarry of instances on wars and conflicts that erupt for a variety of reasons. In his article “Wars in the Twenty First Century: The African Dimension”, Nigerian scholar Joseph Oluwadare Abiodun argues that the armed conflicts and civil wars in African countries such as Liberia, Sudan, Rwanda, and Somalia are essentially fuelled by socio-economic factors and the fundamental changes Africa has been experiencing since the end of the Cold War.[1] It is indispensable to note, however, that the issues of political, social, and economic marginalisation and exclusion of certain ethnic groups in addition to the often cumbersome processes of democratisation in Sub-Saharan African countries can be inextricably linked to and influenced by purely environmental factors such as the scarcity of natural resources. For the author, environmental scarcity is among the major drivers contributing to inter and intra-state conflicts in Africa which are often studied by scholars within the “Resource Curse” thesis or framework specifically developed for the analysis of the correlative relationship between conflict and resource scarcity.[2] Ineffective management of natural resources can equally be a major cause of conflict even in states with a wealth of resources. Scholar A. Ross states in his article “Does Oil Hinder Democracy” that natural resources in African countries can trigger, prolong, and even “finance” conflicts within or between states.[3]

He notes that some of poorest states in Africa can paradoxically have diverse and abundant natural resources. Due to lack of management in countries with weak or collapsed states, these resources can fuel violent conflicts by being diverted into financing certain ethnic or religious groups instead of empowering the economic system of the state as a whole.[4] In such cases, Ross argues that the issue of armed conflict in relation to natural resources in Africa becomes a complex matter when considering how the ineffective management of abundant natural resources can lead to lack of development in some countries.[5] Here, the state’s scope of economic development and eventually political stability becomes directly linked to its ability to manage the available natural resources. In other words, effective management of natural resources becomes as vital as the availability of these resources to ensure a state’s social, economic, and political stability. This relationship between conflict, resources, and state management capabilities and how it can impact stability explains the emphasis of some scholars such as Johanna Mendelson Forman and Tony Colman of the Wilson Center on the urgent need for aiding African leaders develop and enhance their leadership and governance skills to ensure a balanced distribution of resources for political stability.[6] For Forman and Colman, assisting these leaders would chiefly involve the financial contribution of states such as the United States and the United Kingdom and non-state actors such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.[7]

In addition to the post-Cold War changes and the availability and management of natural resources, scholar Joseph Oluwadare Abiodun identifies another variable that he considers a central perpetuator of armed conflicts in Africa which is globalisation.[8] For Abiodun, a rapid globalisation of the world resulted in the “international scramble” for the exploitation of Africa’s “economic and strategic” resources. This resulted in “de-industrialisation”, social crises, and the impoverishment of most countries in the continent which fuelled the emergence of civil wars.[9] In 1998, the United Nations issued a report on armed conflicts in Africa. According to the report, more than 30 rampant wars have been fought in Africa since the 1970’s, and 14 out of the total 53 African countries experienced war in the year 1996.[10] This resulted in the death of “half of all war-related deaths worldwide” and the displacement of about 8 million African refugees.[11] Resource exploitation coupled with the scarcity as well as the poor management of natural resources, according to the report, have “undermined” Africa’s ability for sustainable developed and rendered solving of the crises in Africa a matter of saving and defending humanity as a whole.[12]

Somalia’s Environmental Issues and Policies: General Overview

According to a 2015 country review report conducted by various scholars and specialists such as Robert C. Kelly and Denise Youngblood Coleman from Country Watch, Somalia is among the African countries where civil war increased the already existent environmental stress and degradation by severely disrupting any institutional management of the country’s ecosystem and biodiversity.[13]

Currently, the environmental issues Somalia faces include the increase of population density, scarcity of water supplies, overgrazing, deforestation, desertification, soil erosion, and use of contaminated water which harbours pathogens and viruses that can potentially threaten human lives.[14] The country also faces natural threats and hazards such as recurrent droughts, frequent dust storms, floods, and famine.[15] To manage its environmental issues, Somalia depends on the combined efforts of The National Environmental Co-ordination Committee and the Ministry of National Planning.[16] The country does not have a single major non-governmental organisation that can help with a better and closer understanding of the environmental issues or forge partnerships and accords with other international non-governmental organisations that can provide financial and technological support.[17] According to the report, the environmental issues of the country influence its political stability. Based on the Political Stability Index, Somalia scores 2 out of 10 which translates as a very low level of stability.[18] This means that the country is at a high risk of experiencing turmoil during transitions of power which can involve coups and terrorist attacks from reactionaries.[19] Political instability as an indirect outcome of the environmental issues of the country negatively affects the population in terms of access to health care, education, and gender equality. The issues of concern that need to be urgently addressed include solving the socio-political problems to achieve peace in Greater Somalia.[20] According to U.N agencies, about a million Somalis suffer from starvation and droughts, and the lack of peace in the country makes humanitarian conditions even worse.[21]

The vulnerability of governance in Somalia has created an environment that fosters terrorist groups and militias and facilitates seizing and controlling resources.[22] These challenge the legitimacy of the TNG police force, especially in Mogadishu where the violent clashes result in detrimental damage to the environment as well as the death of hundreds of civilians.[23] According to the 2015 review report, Somalia is currently a “transitional parliamentary federal government”, and it has been operating without a genuine central government since the fall of the Siad Barre regime in 1991.[24] Despite peace-building efforts, the country is divided into three main autonomous areas: the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), and “self-declared” Somaliland, and the Puntland. Ineffective governance and leadership in addition to the environmental issues such as droughts and recurrent floods make the human rights record of Somalia quite poor.[25] The authors argue that Somali citizens cannot change their deteriorating conditions since they have no central and trustworthy government to communicate with.[26] This adds to the fact that “politically motivated killings”, rape, arbitrary detention, kidnappings, human trafficking, child abuse and labour, and restrictions on freedom of speech are very common in the country, especially in Mogadishu.[27] Prison conditions are “harsh and life threatening”, and in most regions of the country, the judicial system consists of a combination of Sharia Law and the penal code of Somalia before the war in 1991.[28]

Despite the establishment of a transitional government, Islamic militias and warlords took control of large swathes of land before the emergence of Islamic terrorist insurgency of Al Shabab.[29]

The political environment began gradually to stabilise after the elections in 2012 when Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected president of Somalia.[30] The elections of September 2012 were considered the “most inclusive election in the country in years”.[31] After the elections, pirate activity decreased from 163 piracy incidents in 2010 to 69 in 2012.[32] Slow improvement in Somali governance and leadership encouraged the International Monetary Fund in 2013 to meet with Somali authorities and suggest policy advice as well as technical assistance to the country.[33] According to the IMF, Somalia gradually “emerges from a prolonged period of internal strife” and “few economic activities” and needs a lot of support and assistance to recover.[34] The creation of a new constitution, federal institutions, parliament, president and cabinet encouraged the World Bank in late October in 2014 to establish new ties with Somalia in order to provide the country with a budget, public financial management services, and capacity building.[35] However, the current situation in Somalia does not encourage investment due to the rampant civil war, the deteriorated environmental conditions, and also the devastated infrastructure.


[1] Joseph Oluwadare Abiodun, “Wars in the Twenty First Century: The African Dimension,” Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences 3, no. 3 (2011): 469-77.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Michael L. Ross, “Does Oil Hinder Democracy,” World Politics 53, no. 3 (13 June 2011): 325-44,http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=7678284&fileId=S0043887100020153(accessed December 17, 2015).

[4] Michael L. Ross, “Does Oil Hinder Democracy,” World Politics 53, no. 3 (13 June 2011): 325-44,http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=7678284&fileId=S0043887100020153(accessed December 17, 2015).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Johanna Mendelson Forman, “Governance, Conflict, and the Limits of Globalization,” Wilson Center 14, no. 7 (2015): 67-69, file:///C:/Users/Toshiba/Downloads/three+ch_5.pdf.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Joseph Oluwadare Abiodun, “Wars in the Twenty First Century: The African Dimension,” Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences 3, no. 3 (2011): 469-77.

[9] Ibid.

[10] “New Report of Secretary General Explores Causes, Potential Cures of Conflict in Africa,”http://www.un.org/press/en/1998/19980415.SG2045.html (accessed December 17, 2015).

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Robert C. Kelly, “Somalia: 2015 Country Review,” http://www.countr ywatch.com (accessed December 17, 2015).

[14] Robert C. Kelly, “Somalia: 2015 Country Review,” http://www.countr ywatch.com (accessed December 17, 2015).

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Robert C. Kelly, “Somalia: 2015 Country Review,” http://www.countr ywatch.com (accessed December 17, 2015).

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Robert C. Kelly, “Somalia: 2015 Country Review,” http://www.countr ywatch.com (accessed December 17, 2015).

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.


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Somalia international relations Globalising industrial waste environment natural resources




Title: Conflict and Environmental Security in Somalia