Analyzing The Risk Assessment Of Somalia: Actors, Risks, And Solutions


Somalia is a country in East Africa with a population of 14 million and GDP of $400 per capita. The country’s capital city is Mogadishu and it is surrounded eastwards by the Indian ocean. The society largely operates in a patriarchal system and the community is organized in clans. One source of the conflict in the land has been due to competition for water and grazing lands between the clans.  It has been continuously marked with political and security turmoil since 1991 as it has no effective government (Clarke, 2018, 23).  When the Said Barre regime collapsed, the northwestern part of Somalia considered itself an independent republic. Fighting ensued between the neighboring clans and Mogadishu was turned into a war zone.  Civil war has been constant in the country despite efforts by various human rights organizations to intervene over the years. In 2006, Islamist militia took control of Mogadishu, the southern and central regions of Somalia (Shay, 2017, 32). In as much as they were thrown out with the support of Ethiopian troops, the fighting has not relented.  These conditions have made Somalia a suitable area for militia to exist such as the Al Shabab and Al-Qaida which has prompted intervention from the US government, EU, Ethiopia and UN (Besteman, 2014, 4).  A number of internal and external factors contribute to the current state of instability in the country.

There are internal actors that contribute to the current risk levels in Somalia. One such actor is the Transitional Federal Government that aims to prevent insurgency by initiating talks with the opposition. The other actor is the country which has both economic problems as well as a dysfunctional government system (Peterson, 2014). The other actor is Puntland which aims to stop both piracy and corruption. The Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia works with the Transitional Federal Government in opposing the Al-Shabaab. However, the organization adds on to a complication in the political situation since the leader has political aspirations. The country’s state is also influenced by diaspora leaders that include Warlords from the Islamist militia groups who are trying to take control of the capital and some might have terrorist affiliations (Redman and Fanshawe, 2016).

In addition, there are external actors that affect the state of Somalia. For instance, Ethiopia used to provide the country with military support until it recently pulled out. It has also been accused of perpetuating war crimes in the country during its missions. Kenya has been providing refugee assistance to refugees from Somalia. Djibouti has also been providing the country with refugee assistance and acts as the home for the troops from the US and French who are fighting the terrorist groups (Shay, 2017). The piracy prevalent in Somalia has affected the incomes from the Suez Canal which is largely depended on by Egypt. Other actors include the international organizations such as the AMISOM, UN and EU that aim to prevent the escalation of violence, provide humanitarian aid, refugee assistance and the prevention of piracy and terrorism (Clarke, 2018).

Risk Identification

For this study, the risks were identified through direct observation by giving an account of the incidences of these occurrences that might lead up to a bigger problem in the future. Further through the use of the fault tree some of the risks are correlated since they lead to a significant issue or that they bring about other smaller issues. Secondary sources were also used to identify the risks such as reports concerning Somalia and other risk assessment reports.

Armed Conflict (High)

Somalia has high risk of armed conflict as armed militia members are active across the country. These individuals have perpetuated different forms of conflict to innocent parties both local and foreigners with an aim to enforce their power. The armed conflict in Somalia has since led to the death of more than 100,000 civilians killed and several others displaced. Most of this armed conflict is as a result of fighting for scarce resources (Maystadt & Ecker, 2014). When the government fell in 1991, there has been an insurgence of different criminal groups. While there have been efforts from the international humanitarian groups to reduce the threats, there still remains a lot of pushback from the groups. Armed conflict in Somalia is further enabled by the weakness of the rule of law which makes it difficult for the country to deal with it internally. One source of this civil conflict is the clan fighting which is promoted by the social fabric of Somalia (Menkhaus, 2014). The clans and tribes often fight as a move to control the domestic affairs of the society. It is from the clan that one derives identity and legitimacy through membership. Membership accords an individual privileges and access (Drysdale, 2018).  There has been clan rivalry in the fight over Jubaland where a clan is attempting to develop its own regional government in order to exert control in the region. A disagreement ensued over the leadership of the area which was partly influenced by players from Kenya and Ethiopia due to their conflicting interests in the port of Kisimayo and the country’s natural gas reserves (Breen, 2016).  

There have been attempts to stabilize the position of armed conflict in Somalia. In 2008, the Transitional Federal government signed a deal with some of the opposition groups in order to call for the deployment of the UN peacekeepers. Regardless, there have been some militia groups opposed to peace deal agreements. Overall, there situation remains complicated with both social and religious factors influencing the state of civil war in the country (Kinyoki and Noor, 2015).

Prevalent Risks

Terrorism and Piracy (High)

Somalia has a high risk of terrorism which largely targets foreigners and individuals from other religious groups. The terrorist attacks often take place in public locations and high profile or high population volume events. Terrorist activities in Somalia come in varied forms such as suicide bombings, kidnappings, murder and banditry.  In 2012, Al Shabab merged with Al Qaida and the Al Shabab group aims to recruit members which creates conflict between them and the Somali government (Seal and Jelle, 2017). The close relationship between Al Qaeda and the Al Shabab presents a warring situation for Somalia since it increases their international operation capabilities that increase their terrorist activities in East African countries.

The country also has a high risk of piracy in its shores and those in nearby areas. Piracy is quite lucrative as it provides the perpetrators revenues which fund their purchase of weapons to be used in the civil war. Nearly 180 ships have been hijacked over the last 15 years and amounts looted of up to 500 million. This money was laundered in the nearby countries through trade of khat and the operation of business ventures.

Other than peace agreements, there have been calls by the less moderate Islamists to shun the actions of the Al Shabab as well as the strict application of the sharia law. The withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops was taken in positively by civilians who were encouraged to stop supporting the Islamist militia groups. Also, governments of the neighboring countries are trying to deploy surveillance teams on the waters in order to reduce piracy occurrences. The country also receives support from the US in resolving the piracy menace (Thomson, 2015).

Governance and Political Instability (High)

Somalia has a high potential for political instability. One of the drivers for the risk is that the country has lacked a central government for the last 20 years.  The transitional federal government is quite unpopular, has little ability of enforcement if any and lacks internal unity since its leaders are often warring.  Further, the resignation of leaders in Somali often stall the peace processes initiated by the international organizations. Another driver for the situation is that the political parties are often conflicting and pushing their own independent agenda.  For example, in 2009, there was a split in the opposition party which stalled the presidential elections. Also, the neutrality position of the international humanitarian organizations is put to question when reports emerge that it supports pseudo militia groups in the name of reforms (Scafidi, 2015). Further, Ethiopia and the Transitional federal government themselves participate in war crimes which further discourage belief in a working government. The country lacks institutions to provide social amenities and the country is highly reliant on foreign aid.  Information about the country remains sparse as the local and foreign journalists are kidnapped and some even killed which hinders democratic processes.

On the other hand, the transitional government has tried to exercise control under the president through instituting the Somali constitution as well as electoral and parties law. The President is trying to incorporate individuals from the opposition parties to join the government. Despite lack of government, the country has a functioning executive and legislative offices. The media through radio and tv that are in operation in Mogadishu are providing news items as well as talk shows on the political process (Manuel and Mansour-Ille, 2017).

Militarization (Low)

Somalia has a low risk of militarization, where the government forms and funds a military force. When the government was disbanded, the military and security forces were also disbanded. This provided room for the presence of the clan militias to take force. Somalia lacks the resources to build the security forces more so after the withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops. There is selective support of the foreign military groups which causes more stability. The international organizations provide a limited scope and support to the country. The absence of an army not only facilitates the presence of the militia groups as well as the terrorist groups, it also makes it difficult for individuals to conduct business and for the country to obtain foreign investment inflows due to the high business risk (Mosley, 2015).

The presence of a moderate government allied Sunni Islamist group provides a semblance of military power against the extremist al-Shabaab group. The AU military is seen as a better alternative to the Ethiopian troops. The Union of Islamic courts provide security to the Somali community from the vacated military bases once occupied by the Ethiopian military. Legitimacy issues and the lack of a functional government are major drivers to the lack of a proper formed military and security group (Achilles, 2015).

Economic Instability (High)

Due to the civil war, the country has experienced a significant decline in its industrial sector. The economy is highly dependent on agriculture and the society being largely nomadic, most of the agricultural output is livestock which accounts for 40% of the country’s GDP. The climatic conditions and water availability have threatened the agriculture position of the country. High government taxes as well as taxes from the informal militia groups make it difficult to operate business. The civil war has increased levels of poverty in the area with nearly half the population being dependent on humanitarian assistance.  Piracy attacks make it difficult for the transportation of goods for sale (Thomson, 2015).

In the other hand, the country has a growing informal economy made up of diaspora remittances, sale of livestock and provision of telecommunication services. While the country has one of the lowest GDP in the world, it has a steady GDP growth. Also, it is difficult to get appropriate GDP data due to the civil crisis.

Environmental stress (High)

The country’s land is mostly a semi desert which means that the country experiences long spells of drought which increase food prices and lead to hyperinflation. Absence of coastal security is depleting the marine resources of Somalia especially by foreign parties. The Tsunami and other water related natural disasters have the potential of damaging the north eastern Somali coastline. This degradation of resources contributes to a high potential of drought and famine which leads to high level of food insecurity in the area (Gebrewold, 2016).

However, the country has a long coastline which could be utilized for fishing. Also, most of the land is a savanna woodland which could be used as areas for grazing as well as sources of fuel. Uncontrolled levels of deforestation result to the depletion of resources present in the savanna.

Low human development

The country suffers from high disease levels that are facilitated by lack of food and absence of medical facilities in the country. It is also difficult to send medical supplies in the country due to inaccessible roads and security concerns. The country has reported polio, cholera, tuberculosis and acute diarrheal syndrome cases which not only affect the country but also spread to neighboring countries as well. Some of the driving factors for this risk is the presence of contaminated water as people in Somali lack sufficient access to safe and clean water. Lack of proper nutrition affects the country due to displacement and food scarcity which contributes to the high maternal and infant mortality rates. Also, the aid workers are often attacked by the Islamist militia groups which makes it difficult to provide aid in Somalia.  NGOs are still trying to provide humanitarian aid to the country. Regardless, this situation rids the country of a healthy workforce to contribute to the economy productivity (Burbridge, 2015).

Population Heterogeneity (Low)

While the country has little religious diversity since most of the population are Sunni Muslims, there is still an issue of clan and tribe affiliation which fuels civil conflicts in the country.  The ethnic minorities are often targeted in attacks which have their lands and livestock stolen. There is no significant risk of ethnic clashes in the country. Most of the issues result from clan based conflicts in the area.

Demographic Heterogeneity (Medium)

The country has nearly 12% internally displaced individuals in the country who are largely dependent on humanitarian aid. The high population growth rate stimulated by societal dynamics and polygamy increases the risk of the country becoming one of the most populous countries in the world. This situation increases the level of economic and resource strain of the country and the neighboring countries.  It also increases the risk of hyperinflation and the increase in food prices which may further fuel internal conflict and unrest (Osman, 2017).

International Interests (High)

While Somalia is a member of a significant number of international organizations and it has been able to get international support in combating some of its risks, some of this international support comes with strings attached.  For instance, the intervention of the civil war by the Ethiopian troops came with perpetuation of war crimes against humanity and increased insurgence by civilians.  Also, some of the international organizations lack faith in the situation of the country and therefore refuse to send peacekeepers o the country. Further, the attacks on the staff from humanitarian organizations have restricted the access to humanitarian aid in certain areas of the country either due to individual interests or because the organization decides to stay away as a negotiation tactic. Also, some of the Somali militia disrupt the food aid provisions from arrival by the sea through piracy. Also, some of the neighboring countries are seen to support leaders who can push for their self-interested agenda which makes it difficult for the country to arrive at a successful democratic process. Overall, it is clear that the international organizations and countries have been ineffective in their approaches to dissolve the situation in Somalia due to unclear interests. Also, the situation in Somalia becomes significantly complicated by the day that external forces have limited ability in its resolve (Stremlau and Osman, 2016).

It is clear that Somalia suffers a significant level of national loss due to the risk factors present in the country. Lack of a functional government supports political instability risks which make it possible for the country to make any significant developments. Security is also a high risk issue in the country since several militia groups exist and there is absence of a military in the country to quell the situation (Abdi, 2016). The crisis has also led to a humanitarian situation where the members of Somalia lack sufficient access to food rations and clean water which affects their health. It is necessary that there be a collective move by Somalia actors, that is, its inhabitants, the government, the neighboring countries and the international organizations to collectively look into the situation in Somalia and find effective means to resolve the issue before it further gets out of hand. Presence of the Al Qaeda through the Al-Shabaab make it quite difficult since the interests become more external than internal that makes the issue quite hard. The humanitarian crisis in Somalia not only creates a national loss but also a loss to the neighboring countries hence the need for urgency in resolving the situation.

Risk Matrix










































Budget allocation of risk mitigation

GDP of country in USD   6.2 Billion

1% of 6.2 Billion USD   –  6.2 Million



Budget allocation

Political instability



Armed conflict



Terrorism and piracy



Economic Stability



Human Development



Environmental stress






Demographic heterogeneity



Population heterogeneity



International interests




From the risk assessment, it is clear that Somalia is a high-risk country. It is exposed to a number of internal and external factors that affects its potential to its citizens, prospective investors and the neighboring countries. The government should prioritize on the  solution of armed conflict in Somalia as a way of reducing some of the risks because primarily, the situation of anarchy emanates from having the citizens heavily armed without the presence of a military or functional government. Overall, the nation results to a general national loss if the current risks manifest into actual outcomes.


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Maystadt, J.F. and Ecker, O., 2014. Extreme weather and civil war: does drought fuel conflict in Somalia through livestock price shocks?. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 96(4), pp.1157-1182.

Menkhaus, K. (2014). Somalia has been the site of an extraordinary political drama. For more than twenty years, the central government there has been in a state of complete collapse. An estimated eight million people have been living without a state for two decades. For Somalis under the age of thirty, or 73 percent of the total population, state collapse is the only political order they have ever known. Failed States and Fragile Societies: A New World Disorder?, 142.

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