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Amid Somali turmoil, pockets of hope remain


“Amid Somali turmoil, pockets of hope remain,” is part two of a series on terrorism and piracy in Somalia.

Somali instability is nothing new. In fact, if someone were asked about Somalia, they would probably want to talk about Black Hawk Down, pirates, or maybe, in light of recent events, terrorism.

Foreign Policy recently rated Somalia as the worst failed state in the world for the third year in a row. Others believe that Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, is the most dangerous place on Earth.

With the recent terrorist attacks on a Ugandan World Cup watch party, many, including the African Union (AU), are now wondering if the international community needs a stronger military presence in Somalia.

Knowing that Somalia has been a hotbed for anarchy and instability for nearly twenty years now, others may be wondering if all hope is lost.

Dr. Dan G. Cox*, an Associate Professor of Political Science at the U.S. Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, believes that “there is always hope.” Cox, who is writing the forthcoming book, The Somalia Trap, with Major Christopher J. Heatherly**, believes that the best chance for peace in Somalia will be orchestrated by Somalia and her neighbors.

A New Peacekeeping Mandate?

But while some are advocating for the deployment of UN peacekeepers to restore peace to Somalia, the AU itself failed to modify its own peacekeeping mandate. CNN reported Thursday, that AU officials were debating an expansion of their peacekeeping mandate at their recent summit in Uganda. However, no decision was reached. AU officials, who requested helicopters and other supplies from the U.S. and U.K., said they will need definitive answers before they decide to expand their presence beyond Mogadishu.

Cox and Heatherly “are extremely concerned that there is momentum for a large-scale, nation-building effort gaining steam and that increased terrorism, especially extraterritorial terror attacks, such as the devastating recent attack in Uganda, will serve as a trigger for intervention.”

A Better Response

But the U.S. military doesn't need to be redeployed to Somalia.  A better response, argues Cox, “might be to allow the three [provinces of] Somalia,” Puntland, Somaliland, and Somalia-proper, “separate nation status.”

This is inline with what Jeffery Gettleman says. Gettleman, the East Africa bureau chief for The New York Times, maintains that the provisional federal government doesn’t have enough control over the situation in Somalia—at least not beyond a few city blocks in Mogadishu. Therefore, argues Gettleman, the national government should not be receiving all of the resources needed to stabilize the Somali state.

This top-down-approach is preventing aid from flowing to other, safer areas in Somalia. Gettleman suggests that the international community should be injecting resources into certain “nodes of stability” around the country.

Adado: Pocket of Stability

One such node of stability exists in central Somalia. Last year, Gettleman reported about the birth of a Somali “state within a state,” built by Mohamed Aden. Aden, who immigrated to the United States, has returned to Somalia. He is now the leader of Adado, a once poor community that has essentially been transformed into a stable city-state north of Mogadishu.

Aden is both an “accidental warlord,” and a “shard of hope.” By channeling money from clansmen in the U.S. and Europe, Aden, who received a degree from Minnesota State, has applied his knowledge, skills, and abilities to build a successful local government in Adado.

Adado is now an “enclave of peace” with a respected police force, schools, new businesses, and most importantly, the rule of law. Encompassing about 5,000 square miles, Adado’s territory has become one of the safest places in Somalia.

Working with his clan, the local elders, and other community members, Aden has basically transformed Adado on his own. Neither the UN, nor the provisional federal government in Mogadishu has supported him.

This is unfortunate. Adado is home to a number of Somali pirates. One wealthy pirate has even started building a large, new home behind Adado’s police station. Aden cannot challenge their way of life though, because he does not have the resources. Nor does he have the ability to replace their way of life. “Besides,” Aden says,

you can’t just wipe out a whole line of work for thousands of young men. If you take something away, you must replace it with something else. Otherwise, more problems.”


Many Somalis, says Cox, whose previous book was Terrorism, Instability, and Democracy in Asia and Africa, don’t even want to be forced back into a single “coherent state.” If provinces like Somaliland and Puntland actually achieved independence, the international community would be able to “contain the problems of piracy in Puntland and terrorism in southern Somalia,” argues Cox. Moreover, the international community would then be more capable of applying Gentleman’s prescription of providing aid to entities other than the transitional federal government.

Cox asserts that “Somaliland is fairly stable and relatively prosperous,” and even the “recently elected president has called for a separate nation-state of Somaliland to be recognized.”

Up until now, the international community has ignored Somaliland for diplomatic reasons. The AU fears recognizing Somaliland would set a precedent for secession throughout Africa. But, Ali Mohamed, president of the Somaliland Freedom Foundation in Lewis Center, Ohio, believes that Somaliland is a “beacon of hope.” It’s also had a stable government for some time now, and it’s been able to maintain law and order within its defined borders.

Somaliland declared independence in 1991. And while Somaliland has never needed AU, UN, or US military aid, people there have established a “secular Muslim democratic state from scratch.” In fact, recent elections saw an incumbent president peacefully transfer power to a political opponent!

Recognizing Somaliland’s sovereignty would have several benefits. One major benefit comes to mind. With a several hundred mile long coastline, an independent Somaliland could be a great asset in the fight against piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

Whether or not Somaliland obtains international recognition, Chris Albin-Lackey argues that “it is well past time for Western governments claiming to be interested in restoring peace to Somalia to start finding ways to help build on Somaliland's many still fragile achievements.” After all, there are “many real possibilities in Somaliland.”


Puntland, another northern province, has also been experiencing relative peace for the last few years. In 1998, in fact, the leaders of Puntland declared the province an autonomous state within Somalia. Unlike Somaliland, Puntland does not necessarily seek independence, though.

Still, Puntland is a major source of Somali piracy. It’s believed by some, that more pirates are based in Puntland than anywhere else in Somalia. And, as Cox previously argued, recognizing the province’s independence could help isolate and contain the problem, thus making it more manageable.

Although the autonomous government of Puntland itself has no desire to obtain independence, there is an independence movement brewing within the province. In fact, the Puntland Independence Movement (PIM) believes their government has wasted too many resources attempting to stabilize Somalia and support the transitional government. To the PIM, this has done nothing but harm Puntland’s local economy.


At first glance, the recent terrorist attacks in Uganda make it appear as if Al-Shabab is a new player in the global jihad.

However, says Rashid Abdi of the International Crisis Group, the recent attacks on Uganda were “probably a sign of desperation.”

After all, Al-Shabab is probably trying to draw a response that could give it momentum and public support. In recent months, Al-Shabab has been losing the support of local Somalis. Gettleman believes this is because the militants are trying to impose a harsh brand of Islam alien to the Somalis. The militants, reports Newsweek, are less popular than they have ever been.

Ken Menkhaus of Davidson College thinks this public relations problem is serious enough that the militants could be trying to attract “wider international involvement in Somalia” in an effort to drive the people back to their organization. After all, it was when Ethiopia first invaded Somalia that Al-Shabab began to grow in prominence.

Al-Shabab may even have some interest in joining Al-Qaeda, but it seems that this is nothing more than the wishful aspiration of group of militants losing its hold over the people of Somalia.

Moreover, Al-Shabab is divided. Some want to be involved in a global jihad. Others want to be involved in the local jihad. Still others, are being influenced by foreign terrorists, and others are opposed to Somali nationalism.

What’s needed now is an offensive from the federal government or AU peacekeepers. Unless someone acts soon though, Al-Shabab may find away to regain its credibility.

A Symbolic Gesture

In early 2007, Shmuel Rosner, with Slate magazine, complained that the U.S. Department of State had listed only one country on their international “Background Notes” has having no government. That country was Somalia. How demoralizing?

Rosner thought that as militants were being chased out of Somalia by the Ethiopian military the State Department could make a symbolic gesture to restore hope to some Somalis. Recognizing the presence of the transitional federal government, Rosner thought that the Somalia country profile should be updated.

Although it’s only a symbolic gesture, the State Department now recognizes Somalia as having a government—a transitional government.


Although there is still reason to hope, persistent instability in Somalia continues to breed piracy and terrorism. If these issues are not resolved, it may take generations to rebuild the war torn nation. There is good news though. Amid turmoil, pockets of hope remain.

Look for part three, coming soon.

*Dan G. Cox is an Associate Professor at the School of Advanced Military Studies at the General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.  He has a PhD in Political Science from the University of Nebraska and is one of the authors of Terrorism, Instability, and Democracy in Asia and Africa (University Press of New England, 2009).  Dr. Cox is currently writing another book, tentatively titled The Somalia Trap, with Major Christopher J. Heatherly, an Army Military Intelligence Officer.  Cox’s research has recently appeared in several peer-reviewed journals, including Congress and the Presidency, The International Journal of Public Opinion Research, and The Journal of Peace Research.  His work has also appeared in influential journals, such as The Joint Force Quarterly, the Terrorism Monitor, and the Small Wars Journal.  Cox’s work has even been cited in Foreign Policy magazine online.

**Christopher J. Heatherly is an active duty United States Army Military Intelligence Officer currently assigned to the School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He holds a Masters degree in Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma. Major Heatherly is currently writing a book, tentatively titled The Somalia Trap, with Dr. Dan G. Cox.  Major Heatherly has served on numerous deployments including Iraq, Kuwait, Nigeria and Mali. His previous work has been published in Armchair General, GreatHistory, The Center for Army Lessons Learned, The Peoria Journal Star and The Daily Review Atlas. Major Heatherly’s next assignment is with the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas.

Disclaimer:  The opinions, conclusions, and recommendations expressed or implied are solely those of Dr. Dan G. Cox, and Major Cristopher J. Heatherly, and do not represent the views of the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, the United States Army, the Department of Defense, or any other U.S. government agency.


  • Caynab 5 years ago

    this map in not really true. you must talk to Somaliland gov.. when you need information about somaliland. Sool and Sanaag go under the somaliland control

  • A.J.O. 5 years ago

    Everything I've read says that Sool, Sanaag, and one other province are disputed by Puntland and Somaliland. Moreover, there are separatist movements in each of these regions advocating a move away from Somaliland. The map may be inaccurate, but then again, the political situation in Somalia isn't entirely stable or set-in-stone.

  • Furtherdetails 5 years ago

    There are several things I wanted to point out which have either been ignored or unadressed in this article.

    Somalia was formed in 1960 from two separate countries named British Somaliland and Italian Somalialand which received their independence from their British and Italian colonisers at different times. Before 1960 there was no 'Somalia' as a country.

    However several differences remained between the two countries. (British) Somaliland was largely homogenous; its people spoke the same language, ethnicity, religion and culture. In the south the language was enormously different (in significant parts Maay and Swahili were spoken as well as Somali). The traditions and cultures of the north and south also differed. The ecnomic activites differed, the north was always a nomadic pastoralist people whilst the south was an agricultural area. The geography was different; the north was desert and the south fertile and blessed with rivers and swamps.

  • Furtherdetails 5 years ago


    Somaliland received its independence in 1960 from britains; at that time there was no Somalia and Somaliland was recognised by 35 countries as an independent state of Africa. When the union of modern day Somaliland and Somalia was proposed by its politicians it was set to a referendum. In the referendum the northern people of Somaliland unanimously rejected the union; this, however, was undone by the higher population of Somalia who voted for the union. This union was always doomed and lasted no longer than 30 years.

    During the Siyad Barre regime the Somalia government turned against the people of the north; bombing the cities, massacring hundreds of thousands and maiming countless more, poisoning the wells and hence their livelihoods as well as the people, laying mines (agricultural land as well as the cities)- this was effectively the attempted genocide of the Isaaq people (the majority of the north.Somalilanders fought the government forces and reclaimed independden

  • Furtherdetails 5 years ago

    So my main point is that;

    -Somaliland is not just another region of Somalia or a secessionist region within Somalia.

    -Somaliland was an independent country before joining Somalia, recognised by 35 countries.

    -Somaliland cannot be compared to regions of Somalia such as puntland.

    -For the twenty years that Somaliland has been independent, developing and peaceful, Somalia has been raging with war, anarchy and chaos. Somaliland has been a safe haven to the 100,000 refugees from Somalia.

    -Somaliland covers and includes all of the protectorate of British Somaliland, including Sool and Sanaag over which it has full control. The small terroist groups are funded and organised by puntland and puntland diaspora who do not represent the local population but rather their own interest.

    -Puntland will never declare independence but rather seeks a reunion of Somaliland and SOmalia becuase of its clan interets. It wants to join all 'Darood' clan in Puntland, SOmalia, Somaliland, ken

  • Furtherdetails 5 years ago

    And the Ironic part is that Somaliland has been peaceful and independent for 20 years - SOmaliland has made explicitly clear it is and has been independent and that it will not enter another union under any circumstances. When Somlia (finally) achieved peace, another conflict could occure between these countries. Casting Somalia (and Somaliland) back into the chaos, death, destruction and anarchy it is trying to escape.

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