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Spoilers in the Somali Peace Process

Since the 1997 publication by Stedman of his article on spoilers, the importance
of identifying and dealing with potential spoilers in a peace process has been
recognised as fundamental to building peace agreements less vulnerable to
collapse. Below, I will apply the accumulated insights that the spoiler literature
has provided to the specific situation of Somalia, particularly during the period
following the creation of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) since 2004,
although I will consider other examples, such as from the 2000-2003 Transitional
National Government (TNG) period where appropriate. First I will make some
general points with regard to Somalia that should be kept in mind when
considering the role of spoilers in the peace process. Next I will discuss the
position, type and locus of spoilers in Somalia. I will then consider reasons for the
existence of spoilers in Somalia, particularly with reference to the political
economy of war theory, and the respective roles of greed and grievances. I
conclude that economic incentives and risk-aversion on behalf of Somali elites
have been the most important contributing factor leading to spoiler activity in
the Somali peace process that has led the failure to produce a long-lasting and
credible central government in Somalia in recent years.
General Points
One of the notable dynamics of state collapse in Somalia is the conflation of
peace-building and state-building. The conflation of these two different, although
not mutually exclusive, attempts has tended to obscure distinctions between
different types of spoilers in Somalia1. Moreover, there has been a failure of the
international community to recognise that Somalia has never been a fully
functioning state in the Weberian sense. Even during military rule, the authority
of the central government has never extended to the whole of the country. Thus,
the attempt to create a central government in Somalia must be tempered by the
fact that Somalia has never been a nation-state in the Western sense of the
word2. Third, the state that did exist previous to the collapse of the military state
1 Ken Menkhaus, Governance without Government in Somalia: Spoilers, State
Building, and the Politics of Coping, International Security, Vol. 31, No. 3, Winter
2006/07, p. 76.
2 Ibid. p. 80.

was predatory. This has left Somalis with an inherent distrust of centralised forms
of

government

(although

attempts

to

establish

regional

or

clan-based

governance have met with less opposition) 3. Finally, the gradual erosion of the
power of warlords throughout the 1995-2006 period has made them far less
capable of spoiling the peace process than previously 4. This is salient because it
is warlords who often have the greatest financial incentive to prolong war in
order to receive rents from unofficial taxation, food aid, and plunder.
Spoilers
Spoilers are individual actors or groups that act to undermine a peace process. In
his seminal work on spoilers, Stedman notes that peace creates spoilers
because it is rare in civil wars for all leaders and factions to see peace as
beneficial5. Thus, those who may fail to benefit from peace will attempt to
sabotage the process.
Stedman discusses three dimensions of spoilers relevant to the Somali conflict:
position; type; and locus6. I will consider each of these in turn below. However,
Stedman limits his definition of spoilers to encompass internal actors only. I on
the other hand, following Menkhaus 7, I will widen the scope of potential spoilers
to include both internal (domestic) and external (international) spoilers, the latter
being made up mostly of foreign salafi groups 8 and nation-states opposed to the
re-creation of a central state in Somalia.
3 Seth Kaplan, Rethinking State-building in a Failed State, The Washington Quarterly,
January 2010, p. 83.

4 Ken Menkhaus, Governance without Government in Somalia: Spoilers, State


Building, and the Politics of Coping, p. 88.
5 Stephen John Stedman, Spoiler Problems in Peace Processes, International Security,
Vol. 22, No. 2, Fall 1997, p. 7.

6 Stephen John Stedman, Spoiler Problems in Peace Processes, p. 8-12.


7 Ken Menkhaus, Governance without Government in Somalia: Spoilers, State
Building, and the Politics of Coping, p. 77.
8 For a discussion of the role of foreign groups see Ted Dagne, Somalia: Current
Conditions and Prospects for a Lasting Peace, Congressional Research Service,
December 16, 2010, p. 6-7; and International Crisis Group, Somalia: To Move Beyond the
Failed State, Africa Report N147, 23 December, 2008, p. 14-16.

Position of Spoilers in Somalia


Stedman considers two types of spoilers in this regard, those that are within the
peace process (internal spoilers) and those that are outside it (external spoilers).
Both have played a significant role in the enduring failure to secure a long-lasting
and effective agreement. In the case of Somalia, due to the multitude of factions,
clans and sub-clans, tribal and religious leaders, and members of the criminal or
business communities, numerous potential spoilers remain outside the peace
process. Moreover, in some instances, the international community has
attempted to sideline certain groups, most notably ash-Shabaab, from the
process, meaning that these groups interests are unlikely to be met from a
process they have been excluded from. Thus, it makes sense for these groups to
sabotage the peace process9.
Internal spoilers consist of individuals such as former President Abdullahi Yusuf,
who continually undermined the Djibouti peace process between the Alliance for
the Re-Liberation of Somalia-Djibouti faction (ARS-Djibouti) and the TFG, which
he believed was a strategy to undermine him 10. Hassan Dahir Aweys has also
been a consistent individual spoiler, both within and outside the peace process,
creating or participating in various groups that have undermined the peace
process, such as Union of Islamic Courts (ICU)11, Alliance for the Re-Liberation of
Somalia-Asmara faction (ARS-Asmara), Xisbul Islam, and Ash-Shabaab 12. Internal
spoilers have also included some clans and minority groups, such as Rahanwayn
clan, the Lelkase (Darood sub-clan), and the low-caste lineages and jereer, the
9 It is possible that this strategy is rational on behalf of the international
community if it identifies ash-Shabaab as a total spoiler (discussed below)
whose interests cannot be incorporated into the peace process. However,
whether this is the case requires a correct appraisal of whether ash-Shabaab is a
total or limited spoiler. So far the international community has apparently failed
to take into account various elements within the movement, relying too heavily
on only the public statements of certain spokespersons, and foreigners, and
without taking into account the fact that ash-Shabaabs support among the local
population from which it recruits is based not on its salafist ideology or links to
foreign terrorist groups, but rather its ability to provide a modicum of security in
those areas under its control, and its important role in resisting the Ethiopian
incursion.
10 International Crisis Group, Somalia: To Move Beyond the Failed State, p. i, 45.
11 Now known as the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC).

latter being mostly Bantu-speaking groups 13. These groups have even greater
reason to fear that a central government will be dominated by other groups, and
will not protect them from predatory, numerically-superior rival clans. These
groups tend to support strong regional governments, rather than a centralised
state.
External spoilers consist mostly of groups, states or individuals that have not
been incorporated into the peace process. Groups include ARS-Asmara, Xisbul
Islam, and ash-Shabaab. These groups are generally considered to be too
extreme to bring into the peace process. The most important states include
Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the U.S. Ethiopia has been the most proactive external
spoiler, providing both shelter and arms to Somali spoiler groups 14, and by
attempting to undermine the peace accords in Cairo 1997, and again in Arta
2000. It has pursued an ambivalent policy towards Somalia by both attempting
to ensure it remains weak and divided, and thus not a military threat particularly
12 Ted Dagne, Somalia: Current Conditions and Prospects for a Lasting Peace, p.
8. It is unclear whether Aweys created Ash-Shabaab, a movement he is now at
odds with. It would seem he unintentionally initiated the group that would grow
to become independent under the leadership of his protg Aadan Hashi Ayro.
For a discussion see Roland Marchal, A tentative assessment of the Somali
Harakat Al-Shabaab, Journal of Eastern African Studies, Vol. 3, No. 3, November
2009, p. 388-390; International Crisis Group, Somalia: To Move Beyond the Failed
State, p. 11; Ted Dagne, Somalia: Current Conditions and Prospects for a Lasting
Peace, p. 4-6; David H. Shinn, Somalias New Government and the Challenge of
Al-Shabab, CTC Sentinel, Combating Terrorism Centre, West Point, Vol. 2, Issue 3,
March 2009, p. 2-3; Evan F. Kohlmann, Shabaab Al-Mujahideen: Migration and
Jihad in the Horn of Africa, NEFA Association, May 2009, p. 15-27.
13 Afyare Abdi Elmi, & Abdullahi Barise, The Somali Conflict: Root causes,
obstacles, and peace-building strategies, p. 34; Ken Menkhaus, Governance
without Government in Somalia: Spoilers, State Building, and the Politics of
Coping, p. 84-85.
14 Ethiopia has in the past provided support for Somali National Alliance (also
known as the Sodere Group, and controlled by Ali Mahdi Mohamed), Somali
Salvation Alliance (chaired at the time by Hussein Mohamed Aydiid), Rahanweyn
Resistance Army (RRA) in Baidoa, the Somali National Front in Gedo, and the
United Somali Congress in Mogadishu and Hiraan, as well as supporting then Col.
Abdullahi Yusuf and Gen. Aadan Abdullahi Nur. See Afyare Abdi Elmi, & Abdullahi
Barise, The Somali Conflict: Root causes, obstacles, and peace-building
strategies, p. 39-43; International Crisis Group, Somalia: To Move Beyond the
Failed State, p. 25-26.

to its ethnically Somali Ogaden region, whilst trying to stop Somalia becoming a
sanctuary for irredentist (such as the Ogaden National Liberation Front) and
Islamic extremist groups15. Following its invasion of Somalia in December 2006, it
has backed the TFG with both weapons and training, as well as in combat. As a
result of the invasion, Eritrea has increased its support for domestic groups
opposing Ethiopia16. It has also encouraged more hardline elements of certain
groups to spoil any agreements that might unite Somali faction to the TFG, as it
did in backing the ARS-Asmara to break away from the ARS and boycott the
Djibouti peace accords17. Finally, the US has been a somewhat reluctant spoiler.
Due to fears of terrorism, it has backed Ethiopian forces in Somalia, and used
drone attacks and Special Forces to target jihadi groups, and those with links to
al-Qaida, particularly ash-Shabaab18. However, US intelligence has repeatedly
failed to distinguish between more moderate Islamic elements and extremists 19.
This occurred both with respect to the ICU 20, and with the salafi verses antiEthiopian elements within ash-Shabaab, the former being composed mostly of

15 Ted Dagne, Somalia: Current Conditions and Prospects for a Lasting Peace, p.
27.
16 For instance, the Oromo Liberation Front and the ONLF. It has also reportedly
provided shipments of weaponry, including surface-to-air missiles to the SCIC.
Ken Menkhaus, Governance without Government in Somalia: Spoilers, State
Building, and the Politics of Coping, p. 89.
17 International Crisis Group, Somalia: To Move Beyond the Failed State, p. 2526. For a discussion of Eritreas support for ash-Shabaab see MAJ Vincent G.
Heinz, Eritrea and Al-Shabaab: Realpolitik on the Horn of Africa, Small Wars
Journal, August 29, 2010.
18 For a discussion of the rather limited links between al-Qaida and ashShabaab see Leah Farrall, How Al-Qaeda works, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 90, no. 2,
March/April 2011, p. 136-137.
19 Roland Marchal, Warlordism and terrorism: How to obscure an already
confusing crisis? The case of Somalia, International Affairs, Vol. 83, No. 6, 2007,
p. 1102-1104.
20 Ted Dagne, Somalia: Current Conditions and Prospects for a Lasting Peace, p.
18-21.

the leadership who support international jihad, as opposed to the latter who
comprise the bulk of the fighters in its battles against Ethiopian forces 21.
Type of Spoilers
Menkhaus has defined three types of spoilers specific to the Somali conflict.
These are situational, intrinsic, and risk-averse. These broadly correspond to
Stedmans three categories greedy, total, and limited spoilers, respectively 22.
Situational (or greedy23) spoilers hold goals that expand or contract based on
calculations of risk and cost. They may hold legitimate grievances, though in
most cases their motive is greed, and presumably can be brought into the peace
agreement with appropriate concessions 24. In Somalia these include clans,
factions and leaders that do not feel they have been adequately represented or
rewarded with positions in the cabinet of the TFG, and so withdrew from the
process25.
Intrinsic spoilers are actors with a vested interest in maintaining a state of
lawlessness, state collapse, and/or armed conflict 26. These include war criminals,
merchants of war, paid fighters of warring factions and their counterparts in the
security services employed by businessmen, and individuals or groups holding
valuable assets27. Stedman would also include under this category those
21 Ibid. p. 5.
22 Stephen John Stedman, Spoiler Problems in Peace Processes, p. 10.
23 Although he uses the term greedy, Stedman notes that this does not
necessarily imply that the spoiler acts out of a motivation of greed. Stephen John
Stedman, Spoiler Problems in Peace Processes, p. 11 (footnote 10).
24 Ken Menkhaus, State Collapse in Somalia: Second Thoughts, Review of African
Political Economy, No. 97, 2003, p. 415. Mohamed Qanyere Afrah is an example of a
warlord who despite being brutal and coercive towards his own clan, has also aired
legitimate concerns felt by his clan to other Somali leaders and the international
community; see Roland Marchal, Warlordism and terrorism: How to obscure an already
confusing crisis? The case of Somalia, p. 1099.

25 Ken Menkhaus, Governance without Government in Somalia: Spoilers, State


Building, and the Politics of Coping, p. 96.
26 Ken Menkhaus, State Collapse in Somalia: Second Thoughts, p. 415.
27 Ibid.

extremist Islamic groups that seek to make war with Ethiopia, and enforce a
strict interpretation of sharia law 28. He asserts that such groups pursue total
power and hold immutable preferences 29.
Finally, risk-averse spoilers are spoilers who could potentially benefit from peace,
and the establishment of stability and the rule of law. However, high levels of
uncertainty with regard to the effect it could have on their interests has led them
to choose the sub-optimal but safe route of scuttling initiatives which might alter
an operating environment which, while not ideal, is at least familiar and in which
they find some benefit30. This category is particularly associated with
businessmen, as well as some clan elders, and perhaps even the majority of the
Somali population31.
Despite the above categorisation of spoiler types, Zahar notes that these are far
from immutable32. Changing circumstances or interests can serve to change one
type of spoiler into another. Even those designated by Menkhaus as intrinsic
spoilers can be brought into the peace process with appropriate incentives. For
28 Stephen John Stedman, Spoiler Problems in Peace Processes, p. 10-11.
29 Ibid. p. 10. For a criticism of the concept of total or intrinsic spoilers see Marie-Jolle
Zahar, SRSG Mediation in Civil Wars: Revisiting the Spoiler Debate, Global
Governance, Vol. 16, No. 2, April-June 2010, p. 266-268, who rejects the notion that
spoilers are irrational and impervious to logic as the assumption of total spoilers would
imply. For Stedmans rejoinder see Stephen John Stedman, Introduction, in Stephen John
Stedman, Donald Rothchild, & Elizabeth M. Cousens, Ending Civil Wars: The
Implementation of Peace Agreements, (London: Lynne Rienner, 2002), p. 13-14.

30 Ken Menkhaus, State Collapse in Somalia: Second Thoughts, p. 415.


31 Menkhaus notes that the state in Somalia has historically been the primary
source not only of power but of wealth-as the catchment point for foreign aid, the
point of control of government contracts and parastatals, and as the coercive
instrument with which empowered clans and coalitions have expropriated the
assets of rivals. The repressive and predatory character of the Somali state
under Siad Barre has left a legacy of deep distrust among Somalis toward the
state as an institution. For that reason, although most Somalis understand the
benefits that a revived central government brings, they are reluctant to see
control of the state fall into the hands of rival clans or factions. Ken Menkhaus,
Governance without Government in Somalia: Spoilers, State Building, and the
Politics of Coping, p. 94.
32 Marie-Jolle Zahar, SRSG Mediation in Civil Wars: Revisiting the Spoiler
Debate, p. 267.

instance, the hired gunmen or mooryaan have been largely demobilised in


Somaliland, which spends most of its budget providing former fighters with an
alternative source of income 33. Moreover, warlords have periodically acted in
ways that could be considered as either greedy or total spoilers at different
times.
Locus of Spoiler
Finally, Stedman considers the locus of spoiler behaviour, that is, whether it is
the leader or the followers within a spoiling faction who are the main drivers
behind the decision to spoil. If it is the leader who drives spoiling, than it is
theoretically possible that the spoiler may be brought into the peace process
following his removal, however, if it is the followers who are the spoilers than
accommodation is far less likely. Overall, in Somalia the locus appears to be very
much with the elites. This may be because elites tend to hold the purse strings.
In those groups where religious convictions may play a part, leaders also appear
to set the tone for the group, however, finding reliable information on the locus
driving spoiler activities is particularly difficult34.
Causes of Spoiling in Somalia
To

explain

the

commentators

existence

often

rely

of

spoilers

on

within

combination

the
of

Somali
greed

peace
and

process

grievances

explanations35. Collier and Hoeffler assert that greed plays a greater role than the
33 Ken Menkhaus, Governance without Government in Somalia: Spoilers, State
Building, and the Politics of Coping, p. 91. However, a demonstration of the
limits of this approach is the case of El Maan port. The current controllers of the
port (north of Mogadishu) refused to back the TFG even after the TFG offered
that they could retain control of the port (and therefore the vital customs fees
that would serve as one of the governments few sources of funding). This
decision was probably based on the calculation that stability in Mogadishu would
result in the capital becoming the pre-eminent point for the transit of goods into
the country and thus a threat to El Maan ports revenue. Andr Le Sage,
Somalias Endless Transition: Breaking the Deadlock, p. 6.
34 Unfortunately, I have been unable to find any fieldwork that has been
conducted that examines the locus of spoiling within spoiler groups in Somalia. I
will thus avoid drawing any greater conclusions as these will be based on
speculation only.
35 Afyare Abdi Elmi, & Abdullahi Barise, The Somali Conflict: Root causes,
obstacles, and peace-building strategies, p. 38.

existence of grievances in initiating a conflict36. Two caveats exist when applying


this case to Somalia. First, since the mid-1990s Somalia, with a few exceptions,
has not been a continuous case of civil war, but one of state failure, where
violence has been limited in scale and the result of lawlessness rather than of
inter(or intra)-clan

conflict37. Second, rather than attempting to explain the

initiation of the conflict or the collapse of the state, my aim is essentially to


explain its perpetuation.
Thus, we also need to consider the political economy of war theory 38. Collier
notes that countries that have experienced civil war in the past are more likely to
return to conflict. He suggests this may be the result of changes in the economy
that war has wrought, with certain actors benefitting financially from the
existence of conflict or the lack of centralised authority 39. With regard to Somalia,
Abdi Elmi and Barise conclude that the most important factor that has created
and sustained the clan-based militias conflicts is competition for power and
resources40. Moreover, despite the role that grievances against the government
had in the toppling of Siyaad Barrs regime, the political factions who were
originally important in this event41 have virtually disappeared. Likewise, the
power of clan-based warlords has steadily declined, as these individuals failed to
36 However, they conclude that their integrated model, which includes some
aspects of the grievance model into the greed model, provides the greatest
explanatory power. Paul Collier, & Anke Hoeffler, Greed and Grievance in Civil
War, p. 2.
37 Peter T. Leeson, Better off Stateless: Somalia before and after State collapse,
Department of Economics, West Virginia University, unpublished paper, available
at http://www.peterleeson.com/better_off_stateless.pdf, p. 10.
38 For a discussion of the political economy of war theory see Paul Collier,
Economic Causes of Civil Conflict and their Implications for Policy, p. 197-218;
Bertine Kamphuis, Economic Policy for Building Peace, p. 185-210; Susan
Woodward, Economic Priorities of Successful Peace Implementation, p. 183-189.
For a discussion of the post-state collapse Somali economy see Roland Marchal,
Les frontires de la paix et de la guerre, p. 48-50; Peter T. Leeson, Better off
Stateless: Somalia before and after State collapse.
39 Peter T. Leeson, Better off Stateless: Somalia before and after State collapse, p. 2.
40 Afyare Abdi Elmi, & Abdullahi Barise, The Somali Conflict: Root causes,
obstacles, and peace-building strategies, p. 33.

build an economic base on which to build their power 42. Having previously relied
on pillage or roadblock taxes to pay their militias, the warlords have had much of
their militias brought-out by businessmen, who hired these groups to protect
their fixed assets and payed them to provide the level of law and order
necessary to do business, after the failure of warlords to provide such services 43.
The recent rise of a business elite engaged in quasi-legitimate business, has
caused interests to shift towards efforts to promote local governance, in the
absence of central authority.

Furthermore, as wages have fallen for the

44

mooryaan , the declining social status, diminishing financial incentives to join


these groups, and greater likelihood of prosecution for their crimes within their
own clans45, has diminished the supply of recruits necessary to maintain private
militias46.
It has also been noted that the likelihood of potential (legitimate) grievances as a
reason for spoiling is doubtful. Living standards during the period following the
collapse of the central government have improved considerably according to a
range of indicators. Comparing 18 different social, economic and health
41 For instance, the United Somali Congress, Somali National Front, and Somali
National Alliance.
42 Ken Menkhaus, State Collapse in Somalia: Second Thoughts, p. 414-415,
419-420.
43 In this sense, the war economy differs from those conflicts most associated with
fighting over resources such as Sierra Leone, Angola and the DRC. Ken Menkhaus, State
Collapse in Somalia: Second Thoughts, p. 416.

44 For a discussion of the mooryaan see Roland Marchal, Les mooryaan de


Mogadiscio. Formes de la violence dans un espace urbain en guerre, Cahiers
dEtudes Africaines, Vol. 33, No. 22, 1993, p. 295-320.
45 Ken Menkhaus, State Collapse in Somalia: Second Thoughts, p. 417.
46 Diaspora contributions to Islamic groups which are used to pay fighters (the
average wage of approximately $200 per month is still around 4 times higher
than the national average) have also significantly reduced due to greater policing
of this financial aid by Western governments. Ted Dagne, Somalia: Current
Conditions and Prospects for a Lasting Peace, p. 7; International Crisis Group,
Somalia: To Move Beyond the Failed State, p. 11; Lauren Ploch, Countering
Terrorism in East Africa: The U.S. Response, Congressional Research Service,
November 3, 2010, p. 20-21.

indicators between the years 1985-1990 and 2000-2005, Leeson finds only adult
literacy and school enrolment levels have fallen during the period, whilst life
expectancy, access to medical treatment, infant mortality rates and a range
other indicators have all shown improvement 47. Moreover, Leeson finds that, in
general, Somalias improvements in its development indicators compare
favourably to its neighbours between the 1990-2005 period 48. Leeson concludes
these improvements are the result of greater economic freedom, and the
absence of a rapacious state that utilised Somalias resources to maintain its
military control over the state and client networks. He also notes the greater
freedom of movement, speech and action of Somali people following the collapse
of the state, and concludes that in opposition to the general assumption that
state collapse is unequivocally bad, in the case of Somalia it has been an
improvement compared to what existed before 49. This not only discounts the role
that grievance plays in perpetuating state collapse in Somalia, but perhaps also
helps to explain why many Somali elites tend to prefer the status quo rather the
risk the recreation of a central government that could degenerate into something
as predatory as the military dictatorship that devastated the country from 19691991.
The perpetuation of state collapse resulting from spoilers rational calculations of
self-interest appears to fail, however, to explain the lack of a paper state 50.
Presumably, Somalias political and economic elite, if they were trying to
maximise economic gains, would benefit more from creating a state that
functions just well enough to achieve external recognition, thus benefitting from
aid flows, development loans, and the influx of foreign diplomatic and NGO
missions, whilst still not being strong enough to challenge their business dealings
or take control of key infrastructure such as ports and roads that provide rents to
those who control them. There are a number of explanations for this outcome.
First, it is possible that Somali elites have learnt lessons from other states that
47 Peter T. Leeson, Better off Stateless: Somalia before and after State collapse,
p. 12.
48 Ibid. p. 16.
49 Ibid. p. 27-28.
50 Ken Menkhaus, State Collapse in Somalia: Second Thoughts, p. 418.

attempted to profit from external aid flows, but which were ultimately forced to
give their control due to conditional aid 51. Second, it is possible that Somali elites
have indeed actually attempted to do this, but

ultimately failed, as the

distribution of the spoils were not adequately shared between all potential
spoilers. Menkhaus argues that this was the motivation behind the creation of
the TNG, which spent most of the Arta peace process focusing on the division of
spoils (exemplified through cabinet seats) between clans, and which subsequent
to its creation, spent the majority of its efforts seeking foreign aid rather than
attempting to establish control of the country 52. A third possible explanation is
that the failure to create a paper state is the result of risk-aversion (as discussed
above) on behalf of Somalis economic and tribal elite. These actors stand to
gain from capturing the potential rents that aid provides, however, due to risk
aversion, they have determined that backing a central government risks creating
not only a paper state, but an actual one, which could in the future threaten their
economic interests or fall under the control of a rival clan. Under these
considerations, the threat of a paper state turning into a real state is judged too
risky, and has led a number of elites to prefer the status quo.
In opposition to the model of spoilers proposed by Stedman, Greenhill & Major
consider structural factors to be the determining dynamic in whether domestic
actors engage or sabotage a peace process. Under this approach the focus is
shifted from motivations to capabilities, with potential spoilers deciding to spoil a
peace process based on their ability to do so 53. The greater the ability to
sabotage the peace process, the more likely a potential spoiler will be to
sabotage the process in order force the opposing side to concede concessions.
Whereas Stedman views potential spoilers as deciding to engage or disrupt the
peace process based on a consideration of their interests, Greenhill & Major
51 For a discussion see Alex Thomson, An Introduction to African Politics, (Oxon:
Routledge, 2004), chapter 9.
52 Ken Menkhaus, State Collapse in Somalia: Second Thoughts, p. 418-419;
Roland Marchal, Warlordism and terrorism: How to obscure an already confusing
crisis? The case of Somalia, p. 1098.
53 Kelly M. Greenhill & Solomon Major, The Perils of Profiling: Civil War Spoilers
and the Collapse of Intrastate Peace Accords, p. 8; also see Marie-Jolle Zahar,
SRSG Mediation in Civil Wars: Revisiting the Spoiler Debate, p. 266.

conclude that any would-be spoiler with the power to unilaterally alter the
precarious balance negotiated into the peace accords are likely to do so 54
therefore every real or potential spoiler will be as greedy as he thinks he can
afford to be55. Moreover, they criticise Stedmans approach for failing to take
into account latent spoilers, that is, those who are not considered important
enough to warrant inclusion in the peace process are not subsequently
considered in any deals made between the negotiating factions or individuals.
This is particularly relevant in the case of Somalia where small groups that lack
the ability to shape the process still possess the capacity to destroy it 56, or may
seek outside help in order to procure the resources necessary to become a
spoiler57.

Another cause of spoiling has been noted through utilising the internal
contestation model. Whilst, the above rely on external utility models which
assume that parties act to maximise gains vis--vis external adversaries,
the internal contestation model assumes spoilers make decisions based
on the balance of power within a faction or community58. Thus, groups
may compete with each other for domestic support by opposing what the
public sees as an outside aggressor. Pearlman notes that where
allegiances are flexible and influence is fungible, actors are likely to act in
one sphere of politics to extract benefit in another 59. With the sheer
profusion of actors in Somalia, and malleability of their interests and
alliances, spoiling based on calculations of the internal balance of power
54 Kelly M. Greenhill & Solomon Major, The Perils of Profiling: Civil War Spoilers
and the Collapse of Intrastate Peace Accords, p. 9.
55 Kelly M. Greenhill & Solomon Major, The Perils of Profiling: Civil War Spoilers
and the Collapse of Intrastate Peace Accords, p. 11.
56 Ken Menkhaus, State Collapse in Somalia: Second Thoughts, p. 415.
57 Ken Menkhaus, State Collapse in Somalia: Second Thoughts, p. 419.
58 Wendy Pearlman, Spoiling Inside and Out: Internal Political Contestation and
the Middle East Peace Process, p. 80.
59 Ibid. p. 82.

are pertinent. For instance, the decision by Hassan Dahir Aweys to


splinter from the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) in early
2008 to create the ARS-Asmara faction could be construed as such an
action. Aweys was being marginalised within the ARS (partly due to US
pressure facilitate a rapprochement between the TFG and ARS 60) thus it is
possible that his actions where an attempt to gain the support of salafist
elements within the ARS (as well as to garner resources from Eritrea which
benefitted from conflict between the ARS and the Ethiopian-backed TFG).
Conclusion
The above demonstrates that spoiling plays a considerable role in Somali
politics, and is one of the direct causes of failure of Somalis to produce a
stable and effective central government. Whilst different types of spoilers
exist in Somali society, economic factors, rather than grievances, serve as
the catalyst for the various groups and elites to continue to spoil the
peace process. Moreover, a rational risk-aversion, based on the history of
the Somalias predatory state, has led many to prefer the precarious
status quo rather than risk creation of something even worse.
For many Somalis, the state is an instrument of accumulation and domination, enriching
and empowering those who control it and exploiting and harassing the rest of the
population61.

Jeremy Rees
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