Global Policy Forum

Somalia: The End of a Failed State?

When speaking of war-torn “failed states”, Somalia is often mentioned as the archetype. Indeed, Somalia has not had a functioning central government since 1991 and it is ranked today 222th worldwide in terms of GDP per capita. Yet, on September 10th, Somalia held its first presidential elections in 40 years. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the new President, is seen as incarnating a drive for change, promoting reform and readjustment after decades of war and poverty. However, the country’s stability is still threatened by resource-driven conflicts, arms smuggling and foreign interventions, all of these worsen by a lack of viable institutions. Will these elections really be a first step on the path towards recovery?

By Konye Obaji Ori

September 11, 2012

What does Somalia's first presidential election in 40 years mean to a nation seeking to filter itself from the shadows of a war-torn failed state? 

For observers, the answer begins with the implementation of an overwhelmingly free and fair election, respectably accepted by the outgoing president.

"I am happy to see the first free and fair election happen in Somalia after 40 years.

"I want to congratulate the new president for the fair election, and I want to declare that I am fully satisfied with the results," outgoing President Sheik Sharif Sheikh Ahmed told reporters on Monday.

The war-torn, failed state of Somalia, under Ahmed, had scored poorly in the eyes of parliament, the international community and Somalis.

A report released in June by the United Nations accused Ahmed's administration of protecting a notorious pirate leader and depositing only $3 of every $10 received into state coffers.

Another report commissioned by the World Bank published in May similarly found that 68 percent of the Transitional Federal Government's revenues in 2009-10 were unaccounted for.

Analysts say Somalis wanted change and parliamentarians voted for a man they perceived as a change agent to be president.

Ahmed's defeat was at the hands of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, an academic and a political new comer. Mohamud won the election by the legislative vote of 190 to 79, according to Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Osman Jawari.

However, Abdirashid Hashi, an analyst on the Horn of Africa with the International Crisis group think tank downplayed the impact of the election and its result.

"This is a step in the right direction, but Somalia's problems are too big for a person to solve alone. They include piracy at sea, hundreds of thousands of refugees, terrorism and a lack of institutions,"  he said.

But beyond the cynicism is the hope that is projected by the legacy of the new president of Somalia.

Mohamud founded the Somali Institute of Management and Administration Development in 1999, and taught there as a professor. He trained administrators and technicians to help rebuild Somalia. Last year he founded the Peace and Development party.

Mohamud's administration begins on the back of a newly endorsed provisional constitution, which expands rights for Somali citizens.

The UN  — which helped broker the constitution and is in charge of the poll — hopes that one day all of Somalia will be able to vote to endorse or reject the constitution.

Somalia has not had a functioning central government since 1991 when warlords overthrew a longtime dictator and later turned on each other, plunging the Horn of Africa country into chaos.

As the country attempts to filter itself from the shadows of a war-torn failed state, Mohamud has asked the Somali people to collaborate with him to restore the country.


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.