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Political economics of war and peace in Somalia

Djama M.. 2007. Montpellier : Agropolis international, 19 p..

The economic aspects of civil wars must always be taken into account for the implementation of measures to resolve conflicts. In the Somali situation, where a salient feature is the absence of a functional central government since the fall of the Siyad Barre regime in 1991, the economic stakes are one of the driving forces in armed violence, as witnessed by the struggles to gain access to and control of resources. These stakes have however evolved over the course of sixteen years of warfare. In the years after the fall of the Siyad Barre regime in 1991 and the intervention of United Nations forces (UNOSOM 1 and 2), military subdual of warring factions and the division of the country into a multitude of fiefdoms redrew the political stakes so that the aim of fighting was not so much to take supremacy by controlling the machinery of government as to gain control of national resources and trade networks. For some of those in the "war business", the aim was to uphold a situation of lawlessness. In the second half of the 1990s, circumstances to which we shall return enabled "traditional" sectors of activity (and sometimes innovating ones as in telecommunications, financial trading and air transport) to develop in spite of the lack of government institutions. Those who promoted the revived economy managed to subdue the warlords and set up original coordination systems to compensate for the inconveniences caused by the lack of government. A third phase which began in the last few years resulted in the setup of groups of firms which were particular in that they were able to combine many different types of business: mixing legal and illegal business; trading beyond the frontiers of Somalia between the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa and, more widely, in the global market. The players in the Somali war economy do not all have the same profile and nor do they have the same expectations from the establishment of a central government. While some of them want to prevent a return of government, others have a more ambiguous outlook: it is not government per se the businessmen mistrust so much as the reappearance of a partisan collegiate government. This "government at arm's length" strategy adopted by the warlords and certain businessmen began to be seriously undermined in 2006 with the advent of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and even more so in 2007 when the Ethiopian army established the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Accounts by Somali businessmen in Nairobi in July 2007 describe the brief period (June to December 2006) of the UIC administration in Mogadishu as a golden age for running businesses, even though not all of them subscribe to other aspects of the movement (notably ideological). They did not mention any serious interference to regulate business, apart from the fact that the UIC leaders had restored real security to Mogadishu and most of south central Somalia (especially by getting rid of a lot of checkpoints), so legal and illegal trade could carry on (particularly the Bakaara-Mogadishu arms trade). The return to security and freedom to do business is obviously the best situation Somali businessmen and entrepreneurs could hope for. When the Transitional Federal Government came to power in January 2007, they seem to have lost on both scores. The victory of the TFG army and their powerful Ethiopian allies over the Union of Islamic Courts militias undermined the ententes built up between the most powerful cartels and upset the positions established by some of the militias and businessmen operating in south central Somalia. The first measures the TFG introduced in the defeated areas awarded to warlords who had joined it the running of revenue collecting points (airports, ports, towns and villages where taxes and trading licence duty are levied, trade routes, etc.). This did not happen smoothly and, at the time of writing, some has still not been levied, for example in Mogadishu, Kismayo and Merca where hostilities p...

Mots-clés : politique économique; somalie

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