The Zombie Nation in the Lion’s Den

Center for Policy Analysis and Research

  • By Abdiwahid Abdullahi*

    April 12, 2016

    Since the awakening of the Somali nationalism in 1945 after the defeat of Dervish warriors in the Godan plains of Nugal, the Somalis were dreaming to settle an old grievance that divided the Somali inhabited territories. The arrival of the Europeans had not only divided the Somali people, but actually stopped the Ethiopians to reach the Indian Ocean as they were intended to capture. The political idea of a united Somali territory had begun after the World War II, but did not materialize because the powerful Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie wanted to have a stake in the divided Somali territories. The Emperor had claimed that the Somali nomads are part and parcel of greater Ethiopia, and he alleged that he was doing a favor for Europeans.

    The north of Somalia (Somaliland) and south of Somalia merged and formed the Somali Republic. The great SYL leaders, ex-premier Abdullahi Isse Mohamoud, president Adan Abdulle Osman, Present Abdirashiid Ali Sharmake and Major General Mohamed Siyad Barre and numerous political elites of the north including ex-prime minister Mohamed Hagi Ibrahim Igal and Ambassador Michael Mariana rode a hard saddle to regain the lost territory. However, the pursuance of that policy wrecked the internationally recognized Republic of Somalia. In 1967 the Ex-prime minister Mohamed Hagi Ibrahim Igal attempted to downplay the Somali territorial claims by suggesting the policy of Minor and Major issues at Arusha in Tanzania. Mr. Igal might have seen the impending danger looming over the region, but whether he was right or wrong is something debatable for the future generations. However, the nationalistic notion that Somali leaders appealed was crushed after a number of Somali politicians and military officers went to Ethiopia in order to pursue their individualistic political agenda. After the 1977 war between Somalia and Ethiopia, the upward political trajectory of Somalia shifted from aggressiveness to annex the lost territory to desperately defending its own territory. The balance of power became asymmetrical as the Somali warlords flocked to Ethiopia in order to receive military supplies for their war against the last central government of Somalia in Mogadishu.

    The artillery barges lasted from 1977 to January 26, 1991 between Somalia and Ethiopia, and the war in the Horn Africa during the 20th century was coming to an end. The state of Ethiopia’s borderline has changed as Eretria successfully seceded from Ethiopia in the last 1990s and Somalia is no longer a unified country where undefined “federalism” continues to weaken Somalia. Ethiopia, on the other hand, seems more stable than Somalia although border clashes happen around Eritrean edge, but the question is how far the Ethiopian regime is willing to continue the massive spending budget for their military machine that roams the camel wilderness of the Horn of Africa. For sure, this approach will eventually slow down the economic growth that Ethiopia is witnessing.

    Moreover, for the first time, with the help of the international community, the Arta peace conference in Djibouti was the only comprehensive peace process since the collapse of the central government in 1991. Since then Somalia has become an experimental laboratory where it is still unclear which political framework that is good for this tribal and primitive society in East Africa. In the cocktail parties of diplomatic circles of Horn Africa, some advocated that Somalia cannot be a nation, but fiefdoms of tribally confederated regions that are solely administrated by regional authorities like intergovernmental Authority of Development (IGAD). Moreover, whether a federal system can work or not in Somalia remains unclear. This system is not leading to a unified nation, but just pushing a more disintegrated country. The territories of federal states are not equal and some members don’t even consider themselves as parts of Somalia while another claim its territory is 1/3 of the known Somali territory. The districts of the two Southern Federal member states are a hot bed of the Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab and in reality; it will take time to see any functioning an inclusive administration that are capable in providing equal common goods will ever take place in these regions.

    The current national leadership failed to take a bold political move to further the national identity by setting a common ground for further discussions about why Somalia failed instead of entertaining false political rhetoric. The central government was supposed to be the engine and the spiritual hub that drives the intellectual discussion in matters of constitution and co-ownership. The whole concept of governance has become a source to solicit and receive welfare checks from the wealthy donors. The leadership of the nation outsourced their responsibility to AMISOM and other regional institutions. They are consummated actors tailored their remark to fit the regional audience and masters of deception feigning to fight the terrorism but actually milking it. This is the condition that makes Somalia to be a zombie nation a walking dead nation that has lost its purpose and direction. There are two reasons why Somalia is in this condition. One, the political leaders and tribal elders promoted tribal allegiance instead of curbing it for the sake of the nation, and two, the tribal affiliation is superseding the national identity. The Somali people are not the source of legitimacy for the governance system, and whenever there is a stalemate, the regional organization of IGAD and the international community are those who dictate what they see “solutions” for Somalia. The fact is that whatever solution that the international community brings in any given country is limited and does not mean a long term solution. The ultimate solution that Somalia needs can only come from the Somali people when they can courageously take the ownership position of their country and find a working system that leads to the re-creation of creating a unified Somali identity.

    In conclusion, Somali elites and religious scholars may fear that Ethiopia would seize this crumbled nation by maintaining the status quo and follow the footsteps of Ethiopian expansionist to fulfill the dreams of their forefathers. The fact is that Somalia is not a hostile to anyone except to itself. It has lost its temptations to incorporate Ogden, Northern Frontier District (NFD) of Kenya and Djibouti is an independent and sovereign nation. Somalia is confined in the internationally known border line of the Somali Republic even though no one can deny that the territories of the internationally recognized of the Republic are in danger nowadays. However, even though the international law doesn’t allow any nation to annex another nation, the circumstances in Somalia, and the existing security threats (though exaggerated for political reasons) supported by the international community permitted the Ethiopians to keep its upper hand for good or bad in Somalia.

    The proliferation of technology and the need to trade freely among the communities in the region prescribes the leaders in the region to act responsibly for the benefit of the whole.  The era of territorial wars must have been over with the end of the Cold War as it is replaced by cooperation and exchange of ideas. The Horn of Africa has to give a birth of a new leadership that is capable to contain the ongoing conflicts that derailed the resources and the manpower of the region. It is time to think for a new era of cooperating and lifting up the living standard of the people of Horn Africa.


    *Abdiwahid Abdullahi is a political analyst for CfPAR. He is also a legal scholar, and one of the Board Members of CfPAR. He can be reached at


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