State Building and Democratization in Africa: Faith, Hope, and Realities

By Kidane Mengisteab; Cyril Daddieh | Go to book overview

Chapter 11
Somalia: Problems and Prospects for Democratization

HUSSEIN M. ADAM


INTRODUCTION

The pervasive and explosive crisis confronting several African states goes beyond the need to adopt cosmetic democratic reforms. In a deeper sense, it represents historical structural factors -- a mismatch between the colonial/ neocolonial state and African civil societies. The end of the Cold War has reduced, even severely limited, in some cases, the opportunities for states "suspended" over their civil societies, extracting military, technical, and financial resources from competing external powers. Somalia became the perfect historical instrument for the implosion of this basic contradiction precisely because the Cold War had facilitated the creation of an exceedingly heavy military state over a decentralized, relatively democratic civil society surviving on meager resources.

Unlike the rest of Africa, during the 1960s, Somalia seemed to represent a "nation" in search of a "state." 1 Colonial partitions had dismembered the Somali-speaking people into British, Italian, and French ( Djibouti) Somalilands; at the same time a portion of the Somali population fell under Emperor Menelik's Ethiopia (the so-called Ogaden), and another portion became part of Britishruled Kenya -- the Northern Frontier District or NFD. British Somaliland obtained independence on 26 June 1960 and voluntarily joined Italian Somaliland to form the United Republic of Somalia on 1 July 1960. The young and fragile republic embarked on struggles to unite with the remaining three Somali territories. Somali nationalism was still in its infancy, and yet the Somali Republic manifested an aggressive brand of national consciousness.

Even though the potential for irredentism in Africa is relatively high, postindependent Somalia turned out to be the only consistent irredentist state. In 1963,

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