Somalia (The Failed State): A Discussion Essay


Somalia Transnational Crime Final Paper For the final paper (Due Friday of Finals Week) Written (8-10 pages minimum, not including works cited page) You will focus on either an organization or a country/region Examine, in-depth, the types of transnational crimes that occur in that country/region or are conducted by the group History What historical forces […]

Somalia (The Failed State)

Transnational organized crimes (TOC) present a growing and significant danger to global and national security; it has dire consequences for economic stability, democratic institutions, public health, and public safety internationally. According to Davis (2012), an example of such an organization is Al Shabaab, which is based in Somalia and threatens the region’s stability. Since the collapse of the dictatorial regime of Muhammad Siyad Barre in 1991, the mentioned country has experienced 16 years of internal violence and warlordism. For this reason, it has provided a base where (TOC) could intersect since it has been devoid of any state authority to counter destructive external influences and impose internal order. Thus, examining the types of TOC conducted by the group in question is warranted; it would be achieved by evaluating their history, culture, social forces, and motivations.

Somalia History

Ridley (2015) argues that Al Shabaab was established in the mid-2000s due to the severe circumstances in Somalia. It is a terrorist organization affiliated with al Qaeda, initially active in the mentioned country but has since expanded its operations into East Africa. The group’s formation was possible because the nation had been riven by separatist movements and civil war for a generation. It was founded as the Islamic Courts Union’s (ICU) militant wing. The ICU was a loose establishment of an Islamic constitutional structure that successfully brought civil order after years of violent anarchy in the state. Some of its achievements include earning support from a Somali majority and opening the Mogadishu airport. In this regard, it is considered a TOC because its declared objectives are to overthrow the Western-backed moderate Islamist regime in Somalia; they intend to substitute it with an Islamic state governed by the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. Furthermore, their ultimate objective is to assist other international jihadists in attaining the great apparition of revivifying the worldwide Islamic caliphate (Lewis et al., 2008).

Furthermore, Al Shabaab has grown from a group of inexperienced and young raw volunteers into a fierce, permanent efficient fighting force from late 2006 to 2010; it has achieved this due to its centralized leadership structure. The organization has also tried to recruit foreign fighters as a sign of strength. It started a robust campaign for recruitment through the internet in 2008, where it became successful in enlisting many foreign nationalists; consequently, it swiftly emerged as an efficient fighting force (Ridley, 2015). Arguably, the group is founded as a strategic terrorist organization; the establishment, in this regard, tends to exhibit actions and behaviours informed by discrete and limited objectives. Examples of such goals include the following: the overthrow of a government, the establishment of an independent homeland for a specific population, and the liberation of particular territories (Cannon & Pkalya, 2017).

Additionally, the rebels have mostly adopted multi-casualty, indiscriminate attacks linked to universal terrorism. In this regard, it can be argued that Al Shabaab has been historically established as an abstract terrorist group. The main difference between their implemented tactic and the one for the strategic groups is that the former is renowned for highly nebulous, complex, and ambitious objectives driven mainly by ideology. To this end, they do not make any claims or ties to past histories, such as that of the ICU, in their course. The reason therein is that the attacks perpetrated by them, such as in Kenya, can be regarded as propaganda by deed since they exploit existing opportunity spaces (Cannon & Pkalya, 2017). Thus, although Al Shabaab operated as an integral constituent of the ICU, it does function on the history of their past ties, with one clear ideological difference being the hardening of their religious and political visions. For instance, while the latter only met international volunteers at Mogadishu airport and asked them to return to their nations, the former would eagerly embrace any foreign recruit.

Somalia Culture

Arguably, the Al Shabaab is founded on jihadi values, which explicitly reject and seek to destroy the global system’s foundational rules, institutions, principles, and norms. The only way they adopt in fulfilling their objectives is through conflict and violence to destabilize the current transnational order. Being a violent jihadist group, the organization in question has claimed that the Islamic world is in a period of division and occupation. Consequently, they tend to use propaganda to prove that all Muslims are under attack culturally, religiously, militarily, and economically; consequently, that is the defensive responsibility of every individual who embraces that religion. In this context, they are required to fight against the attacking forces. The point is that they are using publicity to claim that the non-Muslim troops are dividing and occupying Islam through overt and covert tactics. The latter involves wounding or killing Muslims in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan; the former entails movies, secular music, postmodernism, feminism, liberal education, and materialism (Beare, 2012).

By embracing the Jihadist culture, the Al Shabaab have often stated that they actively attempt to preserve their life as Muslims to retain their identity as defenders of the religion. The mentioned concept of thinking has shaped the kinds of crimes they have committed. For this reason, the organization has developed from being a small militia linked to sharia courts into Somalia’s most active and influential Islamist movement. By joining the al-Qaeda franchise, the rebels have claimed that they are the jihad in the Horn of Africa, which needs to be associated with the global ones (Harper, 2012). However, the movement is secretive, and it is difficult to determine their leaders and the reasons for the activities. More so, its headship and ideology seem to change regularly; it does not want to be seen as entirely homogenous. Harper (2012) further argues that the adversaries are a sprawling coalition of clan militias, business interests, and jihadists who have suffered severe internal frictions over issues such as the desirability of political dialogue and suicide bombers the role of foreign fighters.

Arguably, the Al Shabaab jihadist culture is entirely different from other groups. The reason is that the movement in question has ideological divisions compared to others, such as the Taliban. Some leaders argue that they want to extend jihad far beyond Somalia, establishing a sizeable Islamic state stretching into East Africa and up towards Egypt. In contrast, others claim they are fighting to create an Islamic republic within the country’s border (Hammond, 2013). Therefore, even though they receive support from an affiliate of their agenda with al-Qaeda, the organization in question is not a clearly-organized and defined movement; instead, it represents a network of business interests, foreign fighters, and clan militias (Harper, 2012). Moreover, their imposition of a narrow interpretation of Islamic law and use of violent tactics has spread fear in Somalia; for instance, in the territories that they control, clothing regulations are required of both women and men; they have also forbidden some public sports, musical ringtones, and television, and music.

Transnational Crime Social Forces

The continued resilience of the Al Shabaab owes as much to social and political dynamics as it does to military factors. In essence, the group has provided various arguments; for instance, they have claimed first that their country has been invaded; secondly, they assert that they are being prevented from practising their religion. Lastly, they argue that they are fighting against those who are blocking the interest of their people by preventing them from creating an Islamic regime. The organization also proclaims that the entity known as the government of Somalia is fake; they are attempting to trick people by giving some opposition members ranks in the government to diffuse their principles and objectives. Thus, the group vowed to fight the regime in question (Harper, 2012).

Various nations have further complicated the issue concerning the Al Shabaab. For example, after numerous attacks in Kenya, including tourist destination sites, the government ordered a cross-border movement to establish a security buffer area in Southern Somalia. On the other hand, the Ethiopian troops have also invaded the nation in question and expelled the terrorist group from Baidoa, a strategic town midway between them and Mogadishu. Consequently, the group has targeted government buildings in the capital and African Union soldiers through suicide attacks. In essence, due to the involvement of other countries, tension seems to have been on the rise among the rebels and foreign fighters, several hundred of whom have been deployed in the region in recent years. The rebels claim that the concept of democracy is being forced on them by other states; however, it is the Islamic government they seek to establish in Somalia (Harper, 2012).

America has also responded to the growing threat of militia groups by equipping and training the African Union troops; they have also conducted special operations raids and drone strikes. The primary interest of the USA has been to prevent Somalia from becoming refuge terrorist organizations, which would, in turn, conduct attacks on their soil; it also aims to prevent them from destabilizing the Horn of Africa. The state has also been concerned about the ability of the terrorist in question to recruit members of the Somali diaspora residing in the USA. Consequently, the group has responded in various ways. For instance, in 2014, they killed 22 people by striking a United Nations compound in Mogadishu; thus, US officials have also feared that the organization is moving towards larger-scale operations. Therefore, despite a decade-long offensive action by various groups, such as the African Union, the terrorists have remained capable of conducting massive attacks within and across the country. In essence, there needs to be political improvements in the country and the international community to strengthen their counterterrorism efforts against terrorist organizations.


The Al Shabaab organization is motivated by three significant factors: Salafi, Jihadist, and Islamist. In this regard, their primary goal is to overthrow their Somalia government and create an Islamic regime founded on a strict interpretation of Shariah law. Arguably, the group seems to be fighting for the Islamic cause with extreme measures, including dropping grenades and bombs in public places and suicide bombing. Consequently, they have focused a lot of attention on teaching the young; it achieves this by preaching jihad to the youngsters at school. The group also applies other more macabre and bizarre tactics to introduce them to violence and encourage them to use it (Harper, 2012). As a result, the boys in areas such as Baidoa can either flee the zone or join the terror organization. By becoming one of them, they are taught the conviction that their activities are right while the rest are wrong.

Different groups have also cited various motivations for the Al Shabaab activities. According to Perry and Negrin (2008), in a radical Muslim group, the participants are often promised multiple rewards, such as having their families taken care of and living in paradise. Another aspect is the Islamic teachings, which make those who do not practice the religion an enemy, regardless of imagined or real grievances. More so, being a Salafi-Jihadist group, an additional inspiration for them is to follow the Prophet Mohammed’s teachings. For this reason, they implement a strict literal elucidation of the Quran, which is the document they perceive as timeless and immutable, in contrast to the mainstream Muslims. The terrorists have also issued clear and robust signals of their rejection of loyalty to the clan; in the context of the country, such a move is critical to winning the minds and hearts of an intensely clannish society. Al Shabaab is also motivated by the concept of the irredentist movement, which involves capturing a territory governed by another state. The notion led to the recovery of Somalis’ inhabited regions, such as Kenya and Ethiopia.


Failed states, in this context, Somalia has provided a haven for transnational jihadi groups, in this case, Al Shabaab. The reason is that the country has been too weak to prevent its operations. The point is that TOC transpires from such regions as they attempt to overthrow the existing worldwide orders and replace the present nation-states configuration. To this end, the subsequent emergence of Somalia as a fragile state and its descent into total anarchy since 1991 have established the enabling political space for the terrorists in question. Furthermore, the organization has also gained a clear emergence path due to the success of the ICU’s offensive tactics against the warlords in the nation. Consequently, rebels have developed the flexibility and ability to adapt politically and militarily in their renewed terror attack in the state and across borders; the reason therein is that they perceive them as groups that are opposed to their mission. The violence by the group is now global; for this reason, the international community needs to monitor and apply practical strategies that will lead to the organization’s collapse.


Beare, M. E. (2012). Encyclopedia of transnational crime and justice. London: SAGE Publications.

Cannon, B. J., & Pkalya, D. R. (2017). Why al-Shabaab Attacks Kenya: Questioning the Narrative Paradigm. Terrorism and Political Violence, 1-17. doi:10.1080/09546553.2017.1290607.

Davis, J. (2012). Terrorism in Africa is the evolving front in the war on terror. Lanham: Lexington Books.

Hammond, L. (2013). Somalia is rising: things are starting to change for the world’s longest-failed state. Journal of Eastern African Studies, 7(1), 183-193.

Harper, M. (2012). Getting Somalia wrong?: faith, war and hope in a shattered state. London: Zed Books Ltd.

Lewis, I., Lewis, I., ASCAP, & Dwyer, M. J. (2008). Understanding Somalia and Somaliland: culture, history, society. London: Hurst Publishers Limited.

Perry, M., & Negrin, H. E. (2008). The theory and practice of Islamic terrorism An anthology. New York: Palgrave Macmillan US.

Ridley, N. (2015). Terrorism in East and West Africa: The under-focused dimension. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

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