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Published On: Mon, Aug 10th, 2015

Somalia under Indirect Rule of the UN Protectorate without Protection

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The modern perception of the United Nations’ Trusteeship, in Somalia, seems to be that they place failed states under an indirect international trusteeship system to help them regain their self-governance. While maintaining the best interest of its people and the best interest of international peace and security. In reality, however, the UN Trusteeship Council exists merely on paper. In fact, this operation formally ended in November of 1994. After the fall of the totalitarian military regime in 1991, Somalia became a very fragile nation following the Cold War legacy and the prolonged Civil War. After that the country’s central system faced an immense scale of devastation that caused a disheartened impact on all major national government institutions and infrastructures. The collapse of the Somali State posed as a major security threat to its people and to the world. A lot of organized crime surges forced Somalia to fall into absolute dissolution, which destined the country into the disintegration of fiefdoms under the rule of ruthless warlords. The country provided a safe haven for more potential dangerous groups, i.e., Islamic extremists and jihadists, pirates, bandits, and terrorists. Those dangerous criminals launched strong hostile and lethal attacks aimed to target Somalia, neighboring countries, and the rest of the world. That hopeless predatory situation led Somalia into poverty and lawlessness, forcing millions of its inhabitants to face severe malnutrition and death. The United Nations Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, justified a mandatory UN intervention in Somalia to provide protection, deliver humanitarian aid to vulnerable civilians, and revive a functioning Somali Central government.

In fact, The United Nations Charter authorized the United Nations Security Council the power to enforce and maintain international peace and security. Since the inception of the UN involvement in Somalia, which is legally running the country in accordance with international law, the UNSC enacted hundreds of resolutions to bring Somalia back to normality, bring Somalia peacefully back into the world community, and better relations with its neighboring countries. During the course of their inter-correlations, Somalia and the UN had become mutually acquainted in a repulsive awkward partnership. In reality, the UN showed awareness of its unfulfilled promises in Somalia, noting that they experienced many exasperations since they launched a significant amount of resolutions in twenty-five years. The UN now appears to acknowledge that Somalia seems to be a primitive country with hereditary multifaceted, irresolvable issues. Conversely, Somalia seems to have an unfavorable impression of the UN’s scope, in which they self-endorsed. We believe that the gross inability of the UN to perform its sworn duties is generally blamed on the bureaucratic inefficiencies of the UN, its excessive costs due to ambitious operations of their representative envoys, and the inconsiderate leadership of the UNSC by the voracious political motivations of the five permanent members. Often, the UN envoys largely ignore to act on key issues of Somali’s political culture of disagreements and acknowledge the persistent reality of insurmountable public divisions. In spite of that, the UN envoys dedicate their time to observe, report, and make recommendations to the UNSC. Their reports are highly influenced by the perceptions of the wealthy donor countries and their desired political motivations. Somalia is likely imposed under the UN trusteeship that is complemented with dependent local and national administrations.

In accordance with the modern definition of the UN protectorate, Somalia as a protected state is provided semiautonomous civil administration and peacekeeping forces that are governed by the international laws. Mainly, the UN’s responsibilities are assumed to be protecting Somali’s territorial integrity, defending it diplomatically and militarily from third parties, and sustaining Somalia financially. In practice, Somalia is regarded as a state under the UN’s indirect rule and partially granted to exert an informal power of self-governance in its internal affairs. The moral obligation behind the UN’s intervention in Somalia includes preventing pirates, terrorists, and Islamic radical extremists to obtain the absolute control of Somalia and its neighboring region. However, the UN established its own steering transitional administrations, in Somalia, led by its especial representatives. The aim of the UN authority in Somalia is understood to ensure that Somalia gets the right help from the UN in facilitating efforts to attain its complete self-governance. The UN’s biggest Somali State building efforts are mainly targeted at creating institutions of a sustainable democratic governance, assisting in the drafting of a permanent national constitution, establishing regional administrations, laying the foundation of legal frameworks for registering multi-political parties, and preparing the country for an effective electoral process to conduct free and fair popular elections in 2016. During the course of UN’s indirect administration in Somalia, its mission changes as Somalia evolves in varying recovery stages.

Somalia entered under UN transitional administration following the deployment of the transitional body of US Central Command, led by the UNITAF US commander Lieutenant General Robert B Johnston. In December 1992, a strength of 25,000 troops, mainly from the US task forces went into Somalia to perform an Operation called “Operation Restore Hope in Somalia,” where a dreadful famine caused the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians. The UNSC authorized the United States leading forces to use all necessary force to secure a safe environment for humanitarian relief operations in Somalia. After that, the UN created the UNISOM I operation led by an Algerian diplomat, Mr. Mohammed Sahnoun, as the UN’s first special representative to Somalia. The chief military observer was a Pakistani Brigadier General Imtiaz Shaheeni who became the multinational force commander for the operation. The main aim of the UNISOM I was to pave a safe groundwork for a coalition of nations that sent troops to support the early peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Consecutively, the UNISOM II was officially established in 1993 under the leadership of US Admiral Jonathan Howe as the UN special representative and a Turkish commander lieutenant General Cevik Bir who led 37,000 troops of multinational task forces. The mandate of the UNISOM II was to restore peace and stability, law and order, disarmament and reconciliation. From the beginning of the UN intervention till now, there were successive heads of the UN political administrators in Somalia, namely Iraqi envoy, Mr. Ismat Kittani; Guinean diplomat, Mr. Lansana Kouyate; Ghanian envoy, Mr. James Victor Gbeho; Mauritanian diplomat, Mr. Ahmedou Ould Abdullah; Tanzanian diplomat, Mr. Augustine Philips Mahiga, and the current UK diplomat, Mr. Nicholas Kay. Recently, the mission of the UN in Somalia completely shifted direction towards creating a Somali state based on a democratic governance.

In the past, during the traditional electoral process, Somalia had undergone undemocratic political elections, in 2012, that brought the shift of power to an autocratic regime led by a small sectarian group. Consequently, Somalia gained more negative attention from the world, as the new Somali government failed to address focusing its efforts in compliance with the state-building institutions that are consistent with the international best practices. In disagreement with international standards of good government performance, the Somali leadership consents to the allocation of government resources being invested in privately-owned infrastructures, natural resources exploitations being benefited by the inner circle group of the current leader, disregarding reforms necessary for restructuring critical government institutions for administrative capacity building, continuing widespread security worsening, practices of human rights violations, leadership failure, senior government officials involved in high-profile cases of scandalous corruption practices. The UN chose to pretend that they were not aware of the malpractices of the Somali government; and as usual continued funding and working closely with them. That complicity makes the UN fail to live up to its responsibility of making democracy a reality in Somalia. The UN would be better off to act against its elitism of grand statements, beyond merely paying lip services to its primary responsibilities of promoting democracy in Somalia, and to stop bragging about its negligible progresses made through its recommending reports. I was among the people in support of the UN intervention in Somalia and was enthusiastic of the UN’s facilitation for a positive change in Somalia’s political leadership. However, despite my sympathetic support for the UN’s continuous efforts in Somalia, I completely disagree with the UN’s questionable decision making, in particular, to remain silent about the repressive attitude of the Somali regime. Recently, The Somali leader announced that his government would fail to hold general elections that were planned to take place in 2016, yet the UN has continued to not act against the inadequate strategy of delaying elections in favor of his hidden alternative. The senior officials of the current Somali government believe that money overrides ethical values in traditional electoral processes. And for that purpose, they want mixed arrangements of uninformed clan elder electorates and undemocratically elected regional leaders to hold votes for elections in 2016. The Somali leader officially vowed to seek re-election by using any means that enables him either to remain in power or obstruct plausible initiatives for peaceful transfer of power. He and his administration run the Somali government their own way, as though it is their private business. Such practice caused more harm to the Somali people that instigated the roots of poor leadership and the failure of the government to exercise its authority across the country. Failure to hold popular elections in 2016 would work adversely against the UN’s promise of fair democratic elections and that would expose a heavy burden to believe the UN pledges for democracy. On the other hand, retreating back from grand oaths to hold promised democratic elections would badly affect the hearts and minds of concerned Somali people and that broken promise could lead the country opening venues to greater violence with unforeseeable security challenges. The current Somali government has failed to focus on building a popular national government, instead they are too focused on deteriorating the country’s poor security situation and in turn is using the country’s poor security situation as a pretext to extend its mandates through postponing of elections in 2016. The collective leadership failure of both the UN and the Somali government in steering Somalia to become a democratic nation has led both entities serious accusations of dereliction of their duties for upholding their responsibilities.

The UN administration in Somalia is incapable of taking a strong stand against the sources of civil suffering in Somalia. Instead they choose to hold silent and provide support for violators. In that regard, The UN’s silence inadvertently promotes an increase in the number of human rights violations caused by the Somali government’s repressive practices. Beyond the failure, of international efforts, to confront the Somali government’s crimes against humanity, there is essentially an ongoing noticeable human rights abuse by the African peacekeeping forces in Somalia. Recently, the AMISOM force was accused of killing Somali civilians, at Merca town, in retaliation of a landmine attack on its convoys. Between July 21 – 31, 2015, The Ugandan peacekeepers opened fire in consecutive incidents to unarmed civilians, killing 24 people and injuring 36 others. It was observed that the Ugandan soldiers, who are a part of the African Union Mission in Somalia, went into residential houses, sport playgrounds, and on the streets of a ward in Merca and began dragging people out, going on shooting sprees, and raping women. Those incidents took place in the port town of Merca, which is 120 km South of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. Furthermore, it is more often documented that unbearable collateral damages to civilians and their properties in the areas of South Central Somalia take place, where they frequently targeted bombardments of the Kenyan or the Ethiopian military incursions and airstrikes. It appeared that the UN’s unresponsiveness to such atrocities was a clear indication for the speculations of no consequences for violating security council resolutions. The UN’s senior officials in Somalia do not strongly condemn the atrocities committed by the African peacekeepers often, due to the fear that such public slamming would badly shame those nations that contributed peacekeeping forces to Somalia. UN’s inability to protect civilians under its protectorate, strengthens impunity and encourages the escalation of crimes against humanity. In addition to that, in Somalia, there are secret prisons where suspects are detained for political motivations and those awful prisons are not accessible to the International Committee of the Red Cross. All these together proves the inability of the UN in Somalia to handle the increasing atrocities committed by the Somali government, the African peacekeeping forces in Somalia, and neighboring countries. The relevance of the UN’s presence in Somalia is highly questionable and it seems that after 25 years of UN involvement in Somalia, it is a good time to assess the effectiveness of the UN efforts in Somalia.

The promise of popular elections has been broken and both the Somali government and the UN administration in Somalia are abandoning their pledges of holding nationwide elections in 2016. The current leader and his close allies, are willing to maintain the status quo of the country and propose, with the partnership of the regional leaders, an exclusive alternative electoral process that allows Somalia to accept a system of an extended clan elder’s selection that is based on power sharing formula of 4.5. That strategy will only ensure the practice of corruption and a deceptive political culture of payoffs and kickbacks. We oppose those who are utilizing undemocratic means to prolong the continuation of the current leadership and the continuity of UN administrative terms in Somalia. We are also against the adoption of indirect elections based on the selection process led by inconsiderate clan elders. We experienced the awful futility of that system in 2012, which was infamous for unjust and liable to corruption practices. We are proposing an incorruptible alternative that allows a statistical sample of hundred thousand Somalis to elect the president and members of the parliament. The election participation of bigger number of citizens, will ensure that no corruption practices will dictate the outcome. We suggest to spilt the big number into twenty thousand electorates in each one of the five different cities, including Garowe, Dhusamareeb, Beltwein, Mogadishu, Baidoa, and Kismaio. We also recommend that candidates for office solely come from competing political parties and to be held accountable to inclusive, diverse citizens in the polling sites at the different regional administrations.


In the picture above, Victims of a Ugandan Peacekeeping force raid in Merca are covered by neighbors. They are one of many families that the Ugandan forces killed in attacks on a Friday night on July 21, 2015.


Dr. Said Mohamud


Maine, United States of America



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