The country of Somalia, located in Eastern Africa in the region referred to as the African horn, has been historically affected by armed conflict. In the decade-long period of 2002 to 2011, for example, Somalia has continuously experienced armed violence. (Global Humanitarian Assistance, 2014) Further demonstrating the unstable status of the Somalian state, Somalia has been classified as a fragile state as recently as 2012 alongside possessing a high vulnerability index score for 2012-2013, an index that is used to measure potential conflict and political as well as state instability. (Global Humanitarian Assistance, 2014) Prima facie, as a result of this continuous instability, Somalia has been a heavy recipient of foreign aid, following a general Western policy trend that sees foreign aid as the answer to disequilibrium in developing countries. For example, in 2011, the most recent year in which such data is available, the top ten donators of foreign aid to Somalia (in order: the UK, the EU, and the US) provided over 700,000,000 USD to Somalia. (Global Humanitarian Assistance, 2014) Despite this sum, Somalia’s precarious situation and continued conflict would appear to support the thesis that foreign aid does not engender stability. From the contrasting perspective, the wholly intuitive thesis that if foreign aid is not properly administered, stability cannot be ensured is also justified. Foreign aid without a sound strategy is ineffective, as the case of Somalia demonstrates.
Somalia’s continual armed conflict and a lack of a stable government have been two factors that clearly affect the success of foreign aid strategies. Somalia’s systematic problems are the result of an absence of any effective political or social system. As Bradbury and Healy concisely summarize the recent history of Somalia, Somalia has “mutated from a civil war in the 1980s, through state collapse, clan factionalism and warlordism in the 1990s, to a globalized ideological conflict in the first decade of the new millennium.” (p. 10) Namely, in the last ten years Somalia has seen a rise of an Islamic-oriented movement, the Islamic Courts Union. (globalsecurity.org) The Islamic based ideology of the Courts provoked concern in the international community, for example, leading to armed intervention in 2006 by Ethiopia, supported by western powers such as the U.S., which limited the Islamic courts’ power in the country. (globalsecurity.org, 2014) Various militant groups, however, emerged from the courts, regaining southern Somalia and prompting a Kenyan military operation that was supported by a group in Somalia known as the Somali Transitional Federal Government. 2011. (globalsecurity.org, 2014) As a response to the lack of a centralized government, northern regions of Somalia, Somaliland and Puntland, have declared autonomy from Somalia, moves, however, that have surprisingly not been recognized by the majority of the international community, despite the instability in the country. (globalsecurity.org, 2014) This lack of political stability has clearly squandered the opportunity to effectively manage and distribute aid.
Although Somalia has clearly been in a state of war for the last decade, a situation that has undermined any opportunity to create a stable central government, foreign aid has remained high. This is one of the strangest policy decisions of the top Western donators to Somalia: in so far as the country has no stable central government, how can foreign aid be expected to be effectively utilized and managed? Whereas 68.1% of aid has been given for humanitarian causes, directly engendered by the war, the majority of the remaining aid has been given for governance, peace and security aims and public services.
(globalhumanitarianassistance.org) In so far as Somalia remains in crisis despite foreign aid, this clearly underscores the failure of this policy. Independent analysis has also confirmed this failure, as a leaked UN report in early 2014 cited that the aid donations were subject to “high level and systematic abuses” by Somali government officials.” (Kelly and Shipman, 2014) It was also reported that an additional £500,000 of British aid had been stolen by the Al-Shabaab organization, whereas the fate of non-Western donations, such as 48 million from the UAE in 2013, “was not recorded in the Central Bank and that only one-fifth of the 25 million contributed by Qatar was accounted for.” (Warah, 2014)
According to the glaring failure of aid, the logic behind continuing this policy seems entirely suspect. With continuing conflict and without a stable government, the possibility that aid would suddenly be effectively managed is a claim without foundation. The recent history of Somalia shows that the lack of peace coupled with ineffective government makes foreign donations nonsensical.
However, these glaring failures of the foreign aid packages begs the following question: why does Somalia continue to receive such a high amount of foreign aid? The donators to Somalia seem entirely committed to a merely financial policy, without any concern of what transpires with this donation. There appear to be two options. On the one hand, this could be considered to be an act of policy incompetence. On the other hand, an instable Somalia may be the strategic objective of the majority of the donators. Namely, donations are going to a number of different groups in Somalia, which continually perpetuates war. Whereas it is impossible to speculate on the grand geopolitical strategy of donators, it is also entirely naïve to accept an interpretation of this data which holds that the donating political organizations continue to provide Somalia with aid in utter ignorance of the failure of these approaches. From this perspective, continued Somalian instability would coincide with other formerly stable nations that have been rendered unstable because of U.S. and Western policy and direct intervention, namely, Iraq and Libya. The Somalian case suggests that foreign aid may ultimately be intended for realizing contrary strategic and policy objectives.
- Bradbury, M. & Healy, S. (2010). “Endless war: A brief history of the Somali conflict.” Accord, 21. Retrieved July 22, 2014 at http://www.c-r.org/accord-article/endless-war-brief-history-somali-conflict
- Global Humanitarian Assistance. (2014). “Somalia.” www.globalhumanitarianassistance.org Retrieved July 22, 2014 at http://www.globalhumanitarianassistance.org/countryprofile/somalia#tab-home
- Globalsecurity.org (2014). “Somalia civil war.” www.globalsecurity.org. Retrieved July 22, 2014 at http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/somalia.htm
- Kelly, T. & Shipman, T. (2014). “Foreign aid to Somalia helps ‘al-Qaeda’: Pressure grows to divert cash back to the UK.” The Daily Mail, February 24, 2014. Retrieved July 22, 2014 at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2566310/90m-British-aid-Somalia-helps-Al-Qaeda-Pressure-grows-divert-cash-UK.html
- Warah, R. (2014) “How Somalia aid cash funds Al-Shabaab.” The Daily Nation, March 2. Retrieved July 22, 2014 at http://www.nation.co.ke/news/-/1056/2228088/-/14buggq/-/index.html