State Instability in Somalia: Islamic Extremism & Insurgency
“Historical Amnesia is a dangerous phenomenon, not only because it undermines moral
and intellectual integrity, but also because it lays the groundwork for crimes that lie ahead.”
It is nearly impossible to pick up a copy of the New York Times or The Washington Post or turn on CNN and not see scenes of the humanitarian crisis, gangs, piracy, insurgency, and civil war regarding the deteriorating situation in Somalia splashed all over the pages. Due to increased piracy attacks, Somalia has gained world wide attention which has brought to light the declining conditions faced by hundreds of thousands of Somali’s. Starvation due to drought, clan fighting, Islamic extremism, corrupt and weak politicians, as well as Ethiopian interference have all contributed to rendering this once peaceful country into a state of anarchy. Since the collapse of the Somalia state in 1991, the world has witnessed the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians due to the clan based Somali Civil War as well as violent conflict between the countries two Islamic sects. A bitter US invasion which resulted in the famed Black Hawk occurrence only served to aggravate Somalia’s ties with international community. With over 1 million displaced citizens, peacekeepers from the United Nations, the United States and Europe, the African Union, among others, have intervened in the conflict, at times with slight success, but have not been able to reach any form of state stability since the 1990’s. This has led to mediators from world organizations uniting their efforts to approach the conflict in Somalia from various models of thought and methods including the political sciences, socio-economics, and the psychological backgrounds in an attempt to resolve the crisis currently existing in much of Somalia.
Though many factors contribute to the current failed state of Somalia, for the purpose of this paper, I will focus on Islamic extremism as one source of conflict, and research Somalia’s main Islamic insurgent group, Al Shabbab. An analysis of the effects of the insurgency on contributing to the decay of the state will be assessed in the research. I will discuss the dynamics and origins of the group power, group identity and group purpose, and societal effects of the group. These findings will discuss the role of Islamic extremism, funding by piracy, clan based fighting, and governmental factors which influenced the fall of the Somali state.
Second, the research will examine the concept and ideology of state failure and give an overview of the research findings of various scholars, such as Patrick Chabal, Ulf Engel, and Anna-Maria Gentili in relation to conflict resolution and peacebuilding using the Somali Extremist group case study. I will support/analyze my discussion using the research of Chabal, Engel, and Gentili, authors of, Is Violence Inevitable in Africa, which will be used as the main text for analyzing the conflict in Somalia. I will analyze the state of Somalia in relation to piracy and Islamic extremism using explanations given by the authors and discuss the role of conflict analysis and resolution as applied to specific cases in Somalia.
To begin, for us to properly understand the current definitive idea of Islamic extremism it is essential to define militant Islam in its current context brought on by changes occurring post-1970. First, the term Militant Islam translates to, “an actual violent group behaviour committed collectively against the state or other actors in the name of Islam” (Ibrahim, 5) This current post-1970 ideology of militant Islam is discussed in the book, Islam, Politics, and Social Movements, by author Edmund Burke III who gives a brief history of the recent emergence of what he calls “Islamicism”. Burke argues that militant Islam has been “revivalised”, meaning that it has gained renewed and popular...
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