Population: 14,3 (World Bank, 2017)
Languages: Somali (official), Arabic (official, according to the Transnational Federal Charter), Italian, English
Major Ethnic Groups: Somali 85%, Bantu and other non-Somali 15%
GDP per Capita: last recorded at 6,2 billion USD in 2016 (World Bank, 2017)
Security Sector Stats
Active Armed Forces: 20,000 (Military Balance, 2014)
Small Arms: the estimated number of firearms held by civilians is at least 550,000; the defence forces of Somalia are reported to have 106,750; and Police in Somalia are reported to have 14,672 (Gun Policy, 2015)
Military Expenditure: 0.9% of GDP (Global Security, 2011)
Table of Contents
Somalia is located in the Horn of Africa at the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. It borders Ethiopia in the East and Kenya in the South. Somalia’s estimated population is 14,3 Million inhabitants, although projecting exact numbers remains difficult due to part of the population’s nomadic lifestyle, as well as high numbers of internal displacement after years of warfare and dire economic circumstances. The population is composed of approximately 85% ethnic Somalis and 15% Bantu and other ethnicities, including around 30,000 Arabs. The majority of the population is Sunni Muslim. The country’s GDP was estimated at $6.2 billion in 2016. Over half of the population, 51.6 %, live below the poverty line. Remittances are an important source of income for the country and contribute to roughly 20% of its GDP.
Somalia has been marked by over two decades of warfare and political instability following President Siad Barre’s overthrow in 1991. The breakdown of state structures and a dire security situation have led to multiple humanitarian emergencies including famines, forced displacement and the death of up to one million people, limiting prospects for economic development. At the heart of the conflict are rivalries over resources and power, including clan-based disputes and contestations over the size and function of a federal state, aggravated by the presence of armed groups such as Al-Shabaab and criminal networks that profit from Somalia’s condition of instability.
In 1960, British and Italian parts of Somalia merged, ending colonial administration and becoming independent as the Somali Republic. Aden Abdullah Osman Daar was elected first president, succeeded in 1967 by Abdi Rashid Ali Shermarke. Following Shermarke’s assassination, Muhammad Siad Barre assumed power in a coup in 1969, declaring Somalia a socialist state and nationalising most of the economy.
The 20 years of Barre’s rule were characterized by an aggressive foreign policy with continuous attempts to overtake areas inhabited by ethnic Somalis in Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia. Internally, Barre practiced a dictatorial rule, allegedly committing systematic human rights abuses. In the beginning of the 1980s, opposition to Barre began to form alongside growing influence of warring clans on the country side, ultimately leading to his demise in 1991. The country plunged into civil war among feuding clans and their militias, aggravated by a dire economic situation.
Up until this day, Somalia is splintered into regional blocks along the lines of major clans, although the population in the respective areas is largely a mix of different clans. Somalia’s political organisation is clan-based, inciting a strong sense of collective identity and mutual obligation. Clan identity provides the basis for customary law (xeer ), which forms an essential source of physical and legal security alongside complex systems of obligation based on lineage. These social mechanisms have provided protection in the absence of a Somali state and therefore are paramount to the political landscape.
Regions have evolved differently since the collapse of Barre’s regime and have faced disparate levels of stability, development and governance. While state structures broke down in the south-central region, the north-western part of Somalia unilaterally declared its independence as Republic of Somaliland in 1991. In 1998, Puntland declared itself an autonomous state. Somaliland and Puntland have gradually been able to re-establish relative peace and stability in their areas of control and have operated autonomously from the federal government. However, the presence of the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab and the emergence of an Islamic State (ISIL) Faction have recently destabilised Puntland, with ISIL being able to briefly seize control over parts of Puntland’s Gulf of Aden coastline in October 2016. Furthermore, borders between Somalia’s Federal States remain contested as minority clans voice grievances over local power-sharing arrangements. This has repeatedly led to violent clashes, for example between the Galmudug Interim Administration (a Federal Member State bordering Puntland in the South) and Puntland, because frameworks for the peaceful settlement of disputes between federal states are missing.
Al-Shabaab’s presence across Somali territory remains the primary security challenge for the country, hindering access for humanitarian actors to the population struck by famine. Somali clans are too fragmented to organise opposition although Al-Shabaab has weakened in recent months, among other reasons due to continued air strikes and the killing of key figures. The group has also launched cross-border attacks into Kenya, inciting the Kenyan government to build a wire fence along its border with Somalia. Moreover, the long-standing absence of authority in the country led Somali pirates to become a major threat to international shipping in the area and prompted NATO to take the lead in an anti-piracy operation. While international efforts had significantly reduced attacks since 2012, the number of incidents has again increased sharply since early 2017. This is most likely due to the fragile situation in Puntland and Galmudug. Both states have been struggling to fight local Islamist militias whilst suffering from a devastating drought. Governance issues aggravate the situation: Galmudug was without a president until May 2017, and Puntland authorities are continuously struggling to pay their security forces.
Multiple attempts at peace processes, and local and international efforts aimed at building a stable government have been unsuccessful for many years. The presence of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM, in its current form established in 2013), now including the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), is currently complemented by the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). AMISOM, created by the African Union Peace and Security Council in 2007, is supported logistically by the UN Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS). Although weakened in the face of Ethiopia’s recent withdrawal of troops from AMISOM over an alleged lack of funding, the mission is envisioning complete withdrawal from Somalia by 2020.
During 2011 and 2012, important steps were taken in the process of ending Somalia’s so-called transition period. During this time, despite a number of violent clashes, governance arrangements agreed in a Transitional Federal Charter in 2004 were implemented. In August 2012, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) handed over affairs to Somalia’s first elected and internationally recognised central government, the Somali Federal Government (SFG). From 2012 to 2017, under the presidency of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the country saw efforts to advance the building of a federal state. A Provisional Federal Constitution of Somalia was agreed upon in 2012, following a consultative process including different sectors of society, clan leadership and regional administrations. While this seemed to be the first window of opportunity for a real peace process in the past 20 years, progress was slow under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, whose government was plagued by political paralysis, clannism and corruption.
The most recent elections of February 2017 have brought President Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmajo’ Mohamed into office, who enjoys cross-clan support. The new parliament is the youngest and most demographically diverse of Somalia’s history, with half of the 283 members younger than 50, and 63 female parliamentarians (roughly 22% of parliament). While positive change may be possible on these grounds, Farmajo’s room for manoeuvre is yet to be determined. The current Provisional Constitution is due to undergo a process of revision in 2017, to which regional administrations, the National Federal Parliament and civil society will be associated. The new Federal Constitution is supposed to set a framework for the national elections in 2020.
The Somali National Security Forces are comprised of the Somali National Army (SNA), the Somalia Police Force (SPF) and the Somalia National Intelligence and Security Agency. Furthermore, a plethora of security providers exist within each Federal Member State (FMS), often with overlapping or unclear functions. A number of instruments have laid the foundations for the development of security and justice institutions, including the Provisional Constitution currently in place. The Constitution provides for the development of a federal army, an intelligence service, police and prison forces, as well as the development of police for each FMS, and includes general principles that all security forces must abide by.
The year 2016 and early 2017 saw a number of developments for SSR. In June 2016, a National Security Policy was adopted based on a national threat assessment that sets the framework for security institutions and decision making. Furthermore, the Federal Government and the Member States reached a historical political agreement on Somalia’s National Security Architecture on 16 April 2017, which was endorsed by the country’s National Security Council. It sets out to integrate regional and federal forces into a coherent National Security Architecture and defines four key areas of reform:
- The numbers of Somali security forces, military and police, as well as the civilian oversight role of the executive over the armed forces;
- The distribution of Somali security forces at the Federal and State level, and a realignment of Somali National Army sectors to reflect the new political dispensation and integration of Somali Security Forces;
- The command and control of Somali Security Forces to ensure greater clarity in the division of roles and responsibilities between the Federal and state level;
- An outline of fiscal responsibilities for respective Somali Security Forces at the Federal and state level.
The document clearly sets out the vision to transfer the responsibility for the provision of security from AMISOM to Somali security forces, defining milestones until the year 2027. In the long-term, the goal is for Somali security forces to play a stabilising role in major towns, have the capability to open central supply routes and to be able to provide security for the 2020 elections. The agreement furthermore details key tasks and responsibilities of different security actors, their distribution and composition. It installs National and Regional Security Officers to increase coordination and collaboration between State and Federal-Level security actors, and establishes a National Security Council and National Security Office. The National Security Council, chaired by the President of the Federal Government, will include all Presidents of the Federal Member States, as well as SFG Ministers. It handles policy and strategic matters, whose implementation is subsequently enforced by Regional Security Councils.
The year 2016 also saw the birth of a National Strategy and Action Plan to Counter Violent Extremism. It provides guidance to support communities vulnerable to radicalisation and recruitment efforts and sets out a plan of action involving a broad range of actors, including civil society. In line with a National Programme for the Treatment and Handling of Disengaged Combatants, a fourth rehabilitation facility for low-risk disengaged combatants became operational in early 2017. Further programs in partnership with UNSOM target disengaged Al-Shabaab fighters in Mogadishu. Furthermore, since the beginning of Farmajo’s presidency, clan diversity within police and army are increasing and the security forces seem on track to increase their combat effectiveness.
International support to Somalia’s security sector development has increased further in the past two years. In 2016, in order to better work towards a common approach to enhance coordination in security assistance, the main donors to Somalia’s security sector formed the ‘S6 Group’, composed of Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the European Union, the United States, United Kingdom and United Nations. In May 2017, the country’s international partners gathered at a Conference in London that resulted in an agreement on a Security Pact and a New Partnership for Somalia. The Security Pact sets out a vision of affordable, acceptable and accountable Somali-led security institutions and forces, with a view to transferring the primary responsibility for the provision of security from AMISOM to Somali security forces. The National Security Architecture further details how the international community and Somalia will work together to respond to the most pressing political, economic, security and development challenges facing the country.
Somalia’s political and security environment remains marked by fluidity and fragility. Non-state security providers stay central to the Somali political landscape and enjoy important levels of local legitimacy, given the current inability of state actors to provide holistic security. Organised based on clan lines and militarised since the collapse of the Barre regime, non-state provision of security has long substituted for the state, making it a private good. Alongside, a political economy of protection has evolved: security providers demand a fee, protecting their clients from insecurity that in many instances they create themselves. Consequently, there is economic interest in preserving the status quo, which presents a major challenge to state building. Lastly, also due to the large number of weapons openly circulating in the country (an estimated 550,000 to 750,000), lines between formal and informal security actors are easily blurred.
The composition of the Somali National Army (SNA) dates back to 2004, when a number of warring factions agreed to integrate their militias into a national army. As such, it is composed of a host of splinter groups and continues to be fragmented, falling short of representing all of Somalia’s regions. International assistance has largely followed an approach to develop a centralised, Mogadishu-based army. Thereby, it is possibly neglecting more decentralised actors such as the Darawish , local paramilitary forces, which often enjoy greater local support than the SNA. Currently, the SNA is having difficulty leading the fight against Al-Shabaab without the 22,000 AMISOM peacekeeping forces. However, Somalia’s newly agreed Security Architecture sets out the vision to reduce the SNA’s force at 18,000 members by the end of 2017 (excluding the Special Forces, Air Force and Navy). Under the agreement, regional forces will be integrated into the national army. Furthermore, it seeks to redraw the SNA sectors to align with Federal Member States’ boundaries. Each SNA sector is to be assigned 500 Danab , which is a mixed-clan special force (as opposed to other Somali army units that stay mostly clan-based).
Recent estimates count roughly 20,000 armed forces personnel currently active, although the SNA remains difficult to quantify since a substantial number of these troops are not firmly under the government security architecture, but operate relatively independently or with the support of external actors such as Ethiopia. Furthermore, a UN Monitoring Group on Somalia has pointed to the issue of ghost soldiers: troop numbers have likely been inflated to secure greater funding, leading to non-existing individuals registered on the pay-roll. While the introduction of biometric databases has reduced the issue, it is yet to be addressed completely.
Although the training of more than 3,000 soldiers and officers by the European Union Training Mission (EUTM) has contributed considerably to their capability, the SNA continues to lack operational capacity in terms of skills and equipment. In this vein, Somalia’s president Farmajo has recently called for a lifting of the UN arms embargo on Somalia to enable the government to acquire more modern supplies for the fight against Al-Shabaab. While the embargo was partially lifted in 2013 to ease arms supply to Mogadishu, the current provisions remain valid until November 2017.
Another challenge facing the SNA is to ensure regular pay to the armed forces. An automated payroll system was instituted in 2016 to overcome this, with a view to making it a more attractive career opportunity for young Somalis. However, recent protests over an alleged lack of payment erupted in Mogadishu as well as Puntland and Galmudug, showing that the issue needs to be addressed more systematically. As a consequence of irregular pay, SNA members have tended towards criminal or predatory behaviour.
Generally, the challenges facing SNA in controlling the security situation has contributed to a continued influence of non-state security providers such as local militia or clan-elders, which remain central to Somalia’s political landscape and who often enjoy greater trust by the local population than the SNA. Relatedly, as many SNA members were previously associated with clan militias, their loyalty to official state-command is often challenged by the continued influence of their former command structures. Some SNA units are suspected of working for private security providers in parallel, increasing the complexity and fluidity of the situation.
The EU’s EUTM has been involved in training the Somali National Army since 2010, cooperating closely with UNSOM and AMISOM, and is currently mandated to continue its activities until 31 December 2018. It follows a three-pillar approach of training, mentoring and advising and targets capacity and capability development in Somalia’s defence sector. In February 2014, EUTM began its first “Train the Trainers” programme at the Jazeera Training Camp in Mogadishu. With the support of the European Union Training Mission (EUTM), AMISOM and other bilateral partners, 5,400 soldiers have been trained. Other actors involved in training include Turkey, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Uganda through cooperation and coordination with UNSOM and AMISOM. Under the new National Security Architecture, training for all forces is to be harmonised under one Somali curriculum. The UN Country Team supports the SFG in its efforts at donor coordination, channelling international assistance into the Somali New Deal Compact. This framework for international assistance expired in 2016 and is due to be updated in 2017 as a Somali National Development Plan.
The Somali Police Force (SPF) has lost its operative capacity throughout the years of conflict. Currently, the SPF’s presence in areas outside of Mogadishu is very low. Their rebuilding has been underway for many years and achieved some progress, with AMISOM building the capacity of the SPF and other international partners covering police stipends. In terms of the number of serving police personnel, reports indicate that Somalia has around 6,000 police officers, with over half being recruited since 2005. Reform efforts have picked up speed in the past two years, in parallel to efforts targeting the SNA.
In 2016, a New Policing Model for the development of the Somalia Federal Police was endorsed by the Federal Minister of Internal Security and the ministers responsible for policing in Puntland, Jubbaland, the Interim South West Administration, the Galmudug Interim Administration and the Banadir, Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle regions, following a four-day consultative conference on police reform. The model reforms the formerly centralised police command and establishes both federal and state-level police components, of which the latter ensure the normal policing role. Each entity reports to the respective federal and state-level ministries of internal security and is responsible for recruitment and training of police personnel. It entails a shift from a military approach to a rule of law-based approach to security. As of now, police and military often take over the same functions of providing static security and counterinsurgency, whereas police is intended to now take over ‘traditional’ functions such as assuring public order, preventing and investigating crime.
Key goals include an increase in police presence, as well as building capacity to deliver services at the local community level. The stipulations of the New Policing Model are implemented by Technical Committees in the respective federal member states, responsible for developing policing strategies for 2017-2025. So far, Committees have been created in South-West Somalia, Jubaland, Galmudug and Puntland. In May 2017, Somali police chiefs from the federal government and member states have also approved a new standardized police recruit curriculum.
The New Policing Model is based on a Heegan Readiness Plan for the development of the Somali police force, originally developed in 2015. The initial plan was requested by the Security Council (SC res. 2232/2015) and outlined the establishment of basic policing services across Somalia. Under the New Policing Model, the plan is transformed into an inclusive long-term strategic planning document for the period from 2017 to 2025. The new National Security Architecture sets out for the Somali police force to number 32,000 in total (including both federal and state-based police) by the end of 2017. It also stipulates the strengthening of the Coastguard at the federal level and envisions employing Darwish, a mobile rapid-reaction police force, as a reserve to state-level police to be activated when necessary.
UN police, embedded in UNSOM’s Rule of Law and Security Institution Group, and AMISOM police provide training in support of the New Policing Model. AMISOM has started to recruit and train candidates for the state-level police force. In alignment with the New Policing Model, police training is harmonised across all federal member states. Recently, police teams in several member states have also received trainings in mine action activities. With the support of UNSOM, the Somali police have furthermore been active to build capacity on the incorporation of gender issues. Currently, SPF’s Gender Unit is working to build a Specialised Women and Children Protection Unit in addition to existing gender desks, which offer psycho-social support, medical assistance and legal aid for victims of sexual and gender-based violence. Complementing the official police force, Mogadishu is trying out different forms of community policing in order to increase security. Most successful so far is a project in Mogadishu’s district Wabeeri. Supported by the UK, a neighbourhood watch observes the area and systematically directs information to the SPF.
Despite these positive developments, a number of issues persist. Firstly, irregular pay as well as a lack in equipment weaken the police’s capacity. The delivery of significant quantities of vehicles, logistics and communications equipment was completed in 2012, followed by the development of a mechanism for effective use and up-keep of these assets by the SPF. A project to rehabilitate existing Police stations in Mogadishu and in recovered areas is still underway. The biometric registration of SPF personnel for improving transparency and accountability in the payroll system is also under progress. Secondly, while the New Policing Model is a significant political agreement, it remains fragile. Its success will depend on local willingness for vertical integration and decreasing the influence of local armed protection for the sake of state-led security provision.
As opposed to military and police, Somalia’s justice sector has a limited amount of fiscal resources at its disposal and its reform has been given comparatively little attention. It suffers from a lack of legal coherence and does not have full capacity to provide for citizen’s security and justice, essentially mirroring the divisions in Somali politics. Somali courts often serve long sentences while prison space is very limited; and the judiciary tends to lack legal expertise.
The judiciary is defined by the Provisional Constitution of Somalia, stipulating that the national court structure is organised in three levels: the Constitutional Court, Federal Government level courts, and Federal Member State level courts. The Judicial Service Commission is composed of nine members and may appoint any federal tier member of the judiciary, and select and present potential Constitutional Court Judges to the House of the People of the Federal Parliament for approval. Puntland and Somaliland have established their own court systems that so far remain completely separate from the system. All of these formal structures operate alongside informal justice mechanisms. These continue to play a crucial role, and arbitration by clan elders is often given greater legitimacy than formal courts. This is also due to the formal court system’s inaccessibility and susceptibility to political pressures, which leads to a lack of trust among Somalis. Judges and conflict parties are frequently threatened by opposing parties or perpetrators, and there have been numerous assassinations of judicial personnel.
Somali law originates from a multiplicity of sources including common and civil law, customary principles and the Shari’a. In practice, there is no clear delineation of which law applies under which circumstances, rendering a formalisation of justice mechanisms extremely difficult. The system is furthermore marked by competition around responsibilities, as both the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Court have claimed control over the appointment of judges, which often manifests along economic and clan-based interests. Aggravating these challenges, the district courts suffer from a reputation of corruption. Furthermore, the application of international standards for fair trial is questionable, and the UN continuously suspects children to be on the death row.
A Somali Joint Rule of Law Programme led by UNSOM, the UN Country Team and nine other UN agencies, is in place to support the SFG in building rule of law support to police, justice and corrections with a view to establishing unified, independent, accountable and rights-based Somali federal security institutions. This programme is in line with the Somali Compact, which sets out basic peacebuilding and state-building goals for the country. It generally features goals such as capacity building and extension of the justice system to recovered areas and regions. A new annual work plan was agreed in March 2017 that targets the creation of a justice and corrections architecture involving all Somali stakeholders, planned to be finalised in 2017. It is supported by a multi-partner trust fund of around $8 million.
Given the increasing speed of the process of state formation as well as the complexity of security threats, demands on the justice institutions to establish law and order will grow, therefore necessitating comprehensive reform. Since late 2016, justice delivery has managed to increase its geographical reach through the employment of mobile courts in Jubaland and South-West Somalia. Furthermore, different training processes are underway, supported by UNSOM and EUTM. To respond to the need for higher numbers of qualified staff to serve in the justice and corrections system, UNDP has sponsored a program for formal legal education.
With respect to the state of the Somali prison system, personnel are not well trained and educated to manage prison environments appropriately. Currently, a Mogadishu based prison is the only one that serves both men and women prisoners. However, the prison has no provisions for juvenile services, meaning that children and adults are all detained in the same facility. It is worth noting that a high security prison has been opened in April of 2014, aimed at facilitating the process of transferring Somali pirates so that they serve their sentences in the country. Moreover, the Custodial Corps is currently working to develop a strategic plan for the corrections service, the Onkod Plan. Discussions are therefore underway regarding a legal and regulatory framework, location of prisons, resources and staffing. UNSOM is contributing to strengthening the Somali Custodial Corps’ capacity to develop, maintain and manage a viable, safe, secure and humane prison system.
Security sector oversight and accountability mechanisms face a variety of challenges that restrict institutional capabilities. The civilian government does not have full control over the public security forces as they remain under the influence of clans. This also significantly reduces the accountability of these security forces towards the government and citizens.
According to the current Provisional Constitution, the armed forces are to be integrated under civilian political control, while the Ministry of Defence (MoD) should play an important role in providing oversight and managing the defence forces. MoD management of the security sector, however, remains limited given both restricted resources and an unclear distribution of roles and responsibilities. While EUTM supports an internal reorganisation, a reform plan for the Ministry remains unfunded so far, leaving it understaffed and limiting its ability to exercise control over the SNA. The Ministry of Internal Security is responsible for the SPF, facing similar challenges as the MoD. Each state is to have its own Ministry of Justice, and some subnational entities such as Puntland and South West have a Judicial Services Commission. The distribution of responsibilities between these institutions remains largely unclear.
The Constitution also envisions an Office of the Ombudsman, who is tasked with investigating alleged abuses by the security forces and initiate corresponding legal action before the courts. However, this Office has not yet been established. A parliamentary Defence Committee operates to exercise parliamentary oversight. There is no mechanism for civilian oversight as Parliament has not enacted the relevant legislation. The New Partnership for Somalia, agreed upon on the London Conference in 2017, defines the establishment of civilian oversight of all security sector institutions as one goal.
Somalia is going through a critical phase, moving from the end of a political transition to stabilisation and transformation phases. The end of the transition period and the nomination of a Parliament and a new President are positive signs and generate opportunities for further development of security and justice institutions. New national policy frameworks have been created, and necessary international support for the development of the Somali security and justice sector institutions has increased over the past years.
Yet, there are a number of challenges which may have strong implications for security and justice sector development. Tensions between Somaliland, Puntland, and the new Somali authorities are likely to persist, and president Farmajo’s cross-clan support is not a guarantor that deep-running trenches can be overcome. Somalia’s humanitarian crisis is also worsening during 2017, with a widespread food crisis and more than one million internally displaced people.
While Al-Shabaab has been losing ground in south-central Somalia, it is still a strong force in the country and the Somali authorities, despite support by AMISOM, do not control the entire territory. Piracy and terrorism also remain significant security issues, as well as other transnational organised crime activities. Currently supported by the international community, the financial cost and expenditure of the Somali security, justice and corrections institutions will not be sustainable unless viable solutions are found.
2016 and early 2017 have seen important developments, including significant political agreements, for a new security architecture that sets out pathways for reform both on the Federal and the Member State level. The impact of these developments is yet to be seen. Given the restricted fiscal capability of the Somali authorities, a balance needs to be struck between ‘right-sizing’ the security forces while at the same time building their efficiency, effectiveness and accountability.
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The International Security Sector Advisory Team (ISSAT) provides practical support to the international community in its efforts to improve security and justice, primarily in conflict-affected and fragile states. It does this by working with a group of member states and institutions to develop and promote good security and justice reform practices and principles, and by helping its members to build their capacity to support national and regional security and justice reform processes.