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The security sector reform paradox in Somalia

Dribssa Beyene, Abdeta (2018) The security sector reform paradox in Somalia. . Conflict Research Programme, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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Somalia’s Federal Government (SFG) tries to assert a ‘monopoly of coercion’ in the country that is contested. Sovereignty is de facto shared with other internal actors as well as Somalia’s neighbours that are actively engaged. Moreover, a number of domestic actors contest the state’s monopoly of power. These actors have their own institutions that compete with the state institutions that challenge the latter’s governance efforts as well. The SFG came into being when the majority of the Federal Member States (FMS) were already well established and functioning beyond Mogadishu’s control. This implies that the processes of incorporating the Federal Member States back into the SFG fold will necessitate a concerted effort of elite bargaining and may well be an uphill struggle if the methodology is force. The SFG’s feeble legitimacy, as well as the existence of competing economic and political structures and its inability to obtain buy-in the capital’s constituencies makes the effort to exercise monopoly of violence even more challenging. The FMS appear to be inexorably attached to their constituencies and there is obviously complementarity in FMS governance and clan rules. Clan identity and a majoritarian arrangement play the biggest role. This in turn explains why FMS exercise coercive capacities of violence in areas that the central government has little or no control over. Non-state actors such as al-Shabaab also exercise power in areas they control directly, and virtually in areas where others, including the SFG, claim to have territorial control. This redistributed monopoly of violence places the issue of security and the security sector in Somalia under greater scrutiny. The question therefore is whether one can claim to have a security sector while the international community is involved in reforming that sector at the centre in Somalia. This paper tries to explain the inconsistencies that arise from using the security sector concept and sets out the problems of reforming it in states such as Somalia where all the assumptions that a security sector is conceived on do not apply. Moreover, the government’s monopoly of violence is contested through informal rules and the violence that other non-state actors exercise, whereby constituencies cooperate willingly or unwillingly, and with a peacekeeping framework where the UN claims that there is ‘no peace to keep.’ Hence, the existence of that monopoly of coercion or the likelihood of one emerging seems a distant possibility. All of this would require another explanation and advance a different framework—the security arena that provides an objective assessment of Somalia’s current status—that could better explain the existing reality in the country and the futile exercise of security sector reform that is consuming huge resources from Somalia itself and from elsewhere.

Item Type: Monograph (Report)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 The Author
Divisions: LSE
Subjects: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
J Political Science > JZ International relations
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
J Political Science > JS Local government Municipal government
Date Deposited: 04 Mar 2020 14:09
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 13:31

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