Intra-state wars are commonly accepted and have increased in Africa since a ceasefire was brought on the Cold War in the early 1990s (Jackson 6). Seemingly Africa is more vulnerable to conflict as compared to other continents as warring factions and countries use unconventional and irregular warfare strategies in waging and prolonging conflicts. Moreover, African various government forces have been provoked with enemies of belligerents utilizing irregular warfare with a specific purpose of overthrowing the governments, which they term as illegitimate. The primary causes of these conflicts are attributed to domestic circumstances or grievances that prompt irregular warfare (Jackson 6). Somalia broke into factional conflict in 1991 after the oppressive regime of President Siad Barre and it is claimed that the conflict was irregular. Somalia slid into a chaotic state coupled with civil war in which regional belligerents used the population as assets to be expended by starving them (Potgieter 5). Therefore, this paper explores on the causes of conflicts and the use irregular warfare strategies in Somalia and argues that these strategies are harmful and outdated.
The conflict of 1991in Somalia led to serious humanitarian problems due to banditry, lawlessness and mass starvation since no organized government existed. Muslim extremists, otherwise known as Al-Shabbab and various warlords fought against each other for spoiling and the Somali’s coastline policy disappeared (Potgieter 8). Since then, several attempts or efforts supported by United Nations (UN) in restoring stability and peace have terribly failed and so have numerous ceasefire agreements (Potgieter 8). The humanitarian interposition by the UN mission (UNISOM) between 1992 and 1993 in Somalia was considered as the first failure in peacekeeping strategy (Jackson 7). This marked the first time that the U.S. troops interposed in war condition in the African continent. The UNISOM had a well-defined and specific objective of protecting humanitarian aid supplies into end starvation which was prevalent in Somalia, but according to Jackson (5), the strategy was an asymmetric or irregular approach in ending warfare in Somalia.
The U.S under the banner of UNISOM used helicopters for insertion and also used sophisticated weapons that only made the operation to be sour. The U.S force helicopters were unexpectedly shot by the Muslim extremists and the troops ended up being trapped in urban mazes where it was quite difficult in exploiting technological advantages, while the belligerents continued to put human lives at stake. The 24-hour fight, unfortunately, resulted in the death of 18 U.S Army forces and hundreds of Somalis (Jackson 10). Failure in knowing the enemy and understanding the power addictions of powerful Somali warlords to deal effectively and efficiently with social, political, and economic aspects relevant to the Somali situation resulted in unintended and tragic consequences. All these aspects are part and parcel or irregular warfare strategies that were employed by the US troops. Moreover, the high modern precision and sophisticated weaponry are irrelevant in use especially in African asymmetrical and unconventional situations: the Muslim extremists and warlords only waited for an opportune moment to spring a surprising and a lethal attack (Jackson 15). As a consequence, the incident culminated the all the peacekeeping participations by the West and U.S in Africa. They withdrew their support in 1994 and since then have been sending specialists and observers to African troubled or hot spots.
Since 2006, Somalia is still plagued by ever and renewed inter-state conflict between the Mogadishu government and the Muslim extremists. Numerous mediation efforts have failed since the Union of Islamic Courts grabbed Mogadishu and most part of the south in 2006 (Jackson 20). By 2008, the African Union (AU) deployed about 2,500 peacekeepers’ troops in Mogadishu, however, the peacekeeping mission was and had never been successful since the underlying political causes of the conflicts have not been addressed. The recent intervention by Kenyan forces have just destabilized the situation since as much as they have succeeded in seizing most of the towns that have been residing grounds for Al-Shabbab, these Muslim extremists have retaliated attacks in Kenya.
Despite of the bad effects of irregular warfare strategies, some positive aspects are prevalent. Somalia was and had been characterized by closed political system in which democratic transition has failed and human rights restrictions have deprived Somalis the opportunity of electing a democratic government. The Al-Shabbab, Muslim extremists, have recognized the government as legitimate, and thus the necessity to overthrow the Somali government (Potgieter 10). Economic conditions are also pathetic in Somalia as there is high unemployment rate and people extremely poor. Sometimes the citizens are involved in smuggling in sustaining themselves (Potgieter 20). Therefore, the Muslim extremists view the Mogadishu government as a failed state and no longer useful to rule, and hence should relinquish power, which is only possible through irregular warfare strategies.
In conclusion, the African continent in general and especially Somalia has experienced the negative effects of irregular warfare strategies. The irregular warfare strategies have been employed by both the UNISOM and the Muslim extremists and Somali warlords. The U.S troops under the banner of UNISOM engaged an irregular warfare approach by not knowing and understanding the enemy and as a result, some of them perished as well as hundreds of Somalis. In addition, the Muslim extremists used and have been using their unique and irregular warfare strategies not understand by their attackers. Since 1991, Somalia has not had a stable democratic government and the humanitarian conditions are wanting due to irregular warfare strategies. Though the Al-Shabbab’s irregular warfare strategy of overthrowing the government due to bad humanitarian status and being non-democratic, their actions are not justified as they worsen the already bad situation.
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