U.S. and UN Humanitarian Intervention in Somalia Term Paper

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¶ … UN humanitarian intervention in Somalia

Conflict management and the U.S. And UN humanitarian intervention in Somalia

Situated on the horn of Africa, Somalia is a country that has been described as one of the most dangerous and underdeveloped areas on the continent. The country has been immersed in various degrees of violent conflict since its establishment as an independent country. It is also a region that has seen various attempts by the United Nations at conflict management. These efforts and operations have not met with any long-term success. For instance, while a United Nations arms embargo has been in place in the country since the early 1900s, the region is awash with weapons, which exacerbates and contributes to the almost incessant violence and internal conflict. (Somalia: path to recovery)

The situation in this region obviously begs the question, why have these efforts by the U.N., the United States and other countries and organizations not been successful? This paper will go some way to answering this central but very complex question. To this end, the present study will attempt to provide an overview of the history of the region with regard to humanitarian efforts and conflict management.

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A central thesis that will be explored is that conflict management is an extremely important aspect of the modern political and regional landscape. This is due to fact that in the complex and globalized world in which we live no single country is isolated from others in terms of the influence and international impact that all countries have on one another. This is especially the case with regard to the African continent, where violence, humanitarian suffering and conflict have become an almost endemic part of the political and regional milieu; and where one conflict can affect the often-delicate stability of surrounding countries. In this context, conflict management and humanitarian aid towards peaceful solutions are extremely important.

Term Paper on U.S. and UN Humanitarian Intervention in Somalia Assignment

Related to this is the social and political composition of the Somali situation, which is characterized by intense clan divisions and loyalties. This aspect suggests that part of the reason for the lack of success in peacekeeping efforts is due to inadequate attention being given to the interwoven and complex clan and tribal affiliations within the country. It is often the case, as many contemporary studies posit, that the internal dimensions and facets of the county have been the main cause for the lack of progression towards stability and peace in the region. (Briefing of SRSG a. Ould-Abdallah to the United Nations Security Council, UN Somalia).

There are a number of concomitant factors and variables that also need to be included in the analysis of the Somali situation and its conflict management requirements. A cardinal issue is the way in which international politics and agendas have shaped the Somali situation and have impinged upon and often derailed negotiations and efforts towards peace. It is a central contention of This paper that in order to achieve adequate conflict management, the historical and cultural past has to be taken into account - particularly with regard to the way that the internal politics of the country have been manipulated and distorted by the colonial and cold war influences.

This is also related to a further complicating factor in ascertaining the reason for the failure of management and conflict resolution efforts. This refers to the thesis that, geographical and cultural proximities are not necessarily positively contributing assets, rather they often contribute to the complication of the situation. This is because they inhabit long-standing incompatibility of interests that are the main driving motives of regional actors in involving themselves in or undertaking regional initiatives of conflict management.


It should also be noted at the outset that this paper will not attempt to elucidate and discuss in detail the complex and intricate evolution of agreement and disagreement that constitutes the tapestry of negotiations and counter negotiations over time in this country. While an overview of the central political events will be discussed, the focus will be rather on the humanitarian and conflict management efforts that have been initiated by various bodies and organizations. This focus is because the details of these negotiations would take much more space than allowed and would lead beyond the set parameters of this paper.

The history of Somalia in terms of conflict management has not been a success story. Menkhaus (1997) outlines the general perception of the country in term of aid and conflict resolution.

Few topics inspire more cynicism among seasoned observers of international politics than foreign assistance to Somalia. By some reckonings, no other country save Israel has received such high levels of military and economic aid per capita; certainly no country has less to show for it. Even before its collapse into protracted civil war and anarchy in 1990, Somalia had earned a reputation as a graveyard of foreign aid, a land where aid projects were notoriously unsuccessful, and where high levels of foreign assistance helped to create an entirely unsustainable, corrupt and repressive state.

Menkhaus 124)

The above is quoted at length as it provides a clear if rather damning assessment of the country in this context. The country was in a state of disarray after the Second World War. The victorious allies were in disagreement about the future of the region and this issue was put to the newly established United Nations. This resulted in a ten-year UN trusteeship of Italian Somaliland under Italian administration. (Ghebremeskel) However, this did not take into account the other areas that Somalia laid claim to and this omission was to result in a great degree of dissention in the years that followed. This refers particularly to the Haud and Ogaden territories. This issue became the subject of debate between Ethiopia and Britain until Ethiopia regained its sovereignty over the territories. (Ghebremeskel)

Central to the development of the present situation in the country and to the conflict was the growing sense of nationalism. This was to lead to a greater demand for the unification of the various areas in the desire for integral nationhood. Another related issue is that throughout the contemporary history of the country, clan and tribal rivalries were to play a major role and this aspect was to be one of the most problematic areas for conflict management and resolution.

For almost ten years after independence, there was relative peace in the country. In 1969 General Mohamed Siad Barre took power after a coup d'etat. The motivation behind this action was that the government at the time had failed to unify Somalia. This led to the formation of the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) and the movement of Somalia towards to the influence of the Soviet Union. Somalia received extensive aid and assistance, as well as military assistance, from the Soviet Union during this period. This situation helped Barre in the re-unification of Somalia.

In summary, the involvement of the superpowers in the Cold War era had a telling and pervasive effect on the development of conflict in the country.

It should also be borne in mind that the Soviet Union, as well as the United States, was interested in aiding Somalis because of certain political and strategic objectives during this period. When the Soviets later changed allegiance to Ethiopia, the United States began to support and aid Somalia.

The issue of clan affiliation in the conflict in Somalia can be seen for example in 1978, when after the Ogaden War a mutiny took place with the army supported by members of the Mejerteen sub-clan who formed an armed opposition group, the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF). (Ghebremeskel) Another resistance movement was later formed by the Issaq clan in the northern part of the country. These group and clan affiliations and oppositions created division in the country as well as protracted conflict and resulted eventually in a failed or collapsed sates

Post-Barre Somalia is a phenomenon commonly known as "collapsed state" in the current political discourse" (Ghebremeskel)

The civil war in the country therefore was a result of the collapse of the Somali government. Another facet that added to the conflict was the end of the Cold War in the 1980s. As a result of these historical events, the strategic importance of the county was diminished and this led to a reduction of aid and a change in policy on the part of the United States, which will be discussed later. Barre was rejected by the warlords and the northern part of the country declared independence. This was to lead to further division and conflict; for example, the split in the southern United Somali Congress, which had led efforts to unseat Barre, caused an escalation in violence, especially in the Mogadishu area. (Somalia: Things Fall Apart.1993.)

The civil war led not only to widespread conflict but also affected the economy and led to famine. There was intense competition and conflict for resources between the various clans and groupings. As a result of this escalating and disturbing situation the United Nation acted. In 1992 United… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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