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When considering a list of "failed" states, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Somalia are usually considered the textbook examples (see Fragile States Index, 2012).

Yemen seems to have crawled back on its own after a nasty civil war, and Afghanistan failed because it was left in a vacuum from one superpower, only to be "protected" by another.

But what is about about Somalia that caused it to fail, and, unlike the other two, seem to be stuck in such a state for so long? What factors have kept a functioning government from taking hold, or barring that, having it dissolve into smaller states that could co-exist?

  • 2
    its a dictatorship with oil to fight for, low education, no infrastructure, no cellphone network for many of them, full sharia extremism, women get beaten for taking socks off, that kind of thing. culturally it's very vulnerable. – com.prehensible Jun 28 '17 at 16:11
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Let's look at Wikipedia's characteristics of a failed state:

A failed state is a state perceived as having failed at some of the basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government. There is no general consensus on the definition of a failed state. The definition of a failed state according to the Fund for Peace is often used to characterize a failed state:

  • loss of control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein
  • erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions
  • an inability to provide public services

Given that a large chunk of Somali territory is controlled by a rebel Islamic Emirate of Somalia, and the northwest chunk by a self-declared-sovereign Somaliland, you can see that it easily fits the first criteria (see the map below), which is in practice the only one that matters (if you can't enforce your rules and laws, you won't be able to provide public services or have legitimate authority state-wide).


The main reasons it failed as a state are because of:

  1. Unwillingness of various parties who conflicted there (resulting in a civil war) to come to a compromise.

    The country is comprised from heterogeneous set of territories, as can be seen on this Wiki map:

    enter image description here

    Somaliland is in essence an independent sub-state.

    This may have something to do with the fact that as it stands, Somalia is as much of an artificial construct geopolitically as other unstable countries; that were united basically by the will of a foreign imperial power (e.g. Crymean situation in Ukraine thanks to USSR, Near-Dnestr conflict in Moldavia, India-Pakistan conflicts over Jammu and Kashmir thanks to Brits, Sudan/South Sudan thanks to Brits and to some degree Ottomans).

  2. The fact that the Southern Islamist rebels (Al-Shabaab) have support from international level (they are a regional franchise of al-Qaeda)

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