Globalisation has not reached Somalia, but ‘junglification’ has

Reactionary political departure away from sovereign statehood increases the risk of perpetual insecurity.

Countries such as Somalia have untapped oil and gas reserves, but the country has suffered recent unrest [AFP]

Considering the violent political unrest in various parts of the world, many accept the claim that the 21st century will go down in history as a period of global reorder, perpetual insecurity and bloodshed. If the grim headlines of the first decade could be taken as forecasts of the storms ahead, many nation states are likely to morph into something radically different than they currently are.

While most are fixated on the domestic factors influencing the unfolding political madness in some parts of the world, few recognise that it is too naive to ignore the foreign ones. Especially, since the latter, with their interests, resources, and strategic plans, present more threats.

One would be hard-pressed to find a single troubled country in Africa or the Middle East in which foreign elements don’t play overt or covert roles to tip the balance of power in favour of one outcome or another.  

On July 8, al-Shabab carried out a deadly attack inside Villa Somalia, the presidential compound which is the seat of the government, and where its top officials live. Ironically, the heavily armed militants focused their attack on the prime minister’s residence and totally forgot about the Ethiopian Embassy across from it within the same compound. 

Globalisation vs junglification

These two concepts are merely two sides of the same coin. Stable nations get globalisation whereas “failed” or “fragile” ones get “junglification” – a bloody game of survival of the fittest. While the former is a widely recognised and studied phenomenon, the latter isn’t.

Witness – Sisters of Somalia

Globalisation has democratised communication and education, and in doing so, empowered citizens around the globe. Moreover, it has expanded markets and made many individuals, corporations and countries wealthy; but not without a hefty cost. Specific nations were lined up to play the pawns.

Synthesising with existing domestic political fault lines, junglification projects lure nations into vicious political spirals to the bottom, or to the lowest common denominator in the form of clanism, factionalism, and sectarianism. 

As some nation states, as in the EU, consolidate their economic, political and security frameworks, others, as in Somalia, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Syria are actively deconstructing or unweaving their respective social fabric and national identities. These, and others such as Nigeria and Egypt that are on a slow-moving conveyer belt, are at risk of being junglified. 

Criteria for deconstruction

There are five main criteria that candidates for engineered junglification share. First is a traumatic experience such as historical enmity, civil war, or grievances due to rampant injustice, corruption, and breakdown of the rule of law.

Second, ignorance about international affairs, and how geopolitics and energy security greatly influence foreign policy. This condition is found not only in nations with rampant illiteracy and intellectual deficiency, but in secluded or insulated nations.

Third is the natural appeal in terms of oil and gas and other mineral resources or strategic geographical location.

Fourth is lack of visionary, patriotic leadership and effectively functioning institutions. Such leadership is crucial for sustaining the state by providing essential public services, creating jobs, ensuring fair distribution of wealth between regions, and cultivating strong national identity. By the same token, a democratic system of governance is needed to create necessary institutions that empower citizens and ensure that none is systematically disenfranchised.

Fifth, is the trace, or as some would say, “the threat of political Islam”. Whether in the form of extremist militants on a quixotic adventure to conquer the world with their Kalashnikovs, suicide bombs, radical regression and isolationism, or by embracing democracy and an open market economy such as Turkey, political Islam often faces orchestrated indiscriminate hostilities from domestic and foreign elements. 

No exemption in democracy

Presently, more countries have embraced a democratic system of governance than in any other time in history. Somalia is one of them. Out of 193 nations that are UN member states, 115 of them have instituted some form of democratic governance. That is not to say that all are bona fide democracies.

While many attribute this phenomenon to the ripple effect of globalisation, others embrace it as a testimony to the inevitability of societal evolution and the broad appeal of governance by participation, balanced scrutiny, and consensus.  

That said, democracy is neither a single brand nor a one-size-fits-all, though, depending on one’s political outlook, variations within the aforementioned democratic nations are viewed differently. Some consider nations with weak democratic systems as a work in progress while others see their claims as an affront to liberal democracy.

What is our oil doing in their lands?

Contrary to the prevalent perception, terrorism is not the most influential factor of foreign policy in the developed world – energy security is. Once we face this reality, we will start to view our ever-shrinking world differently.

The 21st century is projected to divide nations into energy haves and have-nots.

Al-Shabab’s attacks in Kenya: analysis

Most of the untapped oil and gas is in Africa – in countries such as Somalia that are considered anarchic, corrupt, and too dangerous due to clan-based hostilities. International strategic manoeuvring is already in full force.

In Somalia, destructive domestic elements in partnership with neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya, with their relentless exploitative initiatives, are on course to prove Somalia’s wealth in oil, gas and minerals is a curse.

Junglification poses serious global threat. It is a reactionary political departure away from sovereign statehood, international laws and conventions that govern nation states.

And this, needless to say, would only increase the risk of perpetual insecurity and warfare within volatile states and the parastates that they bear – a breeding ground of violent extremism.

Dealing with this growing, lucrative threat starts with a broad vision that scrutinises the domestic as well as the foreign elements that instigate junglification. 

Ambassador Abukar Arman is the former Somalia special envoy to the United States and a foreign policy analyst. 

Follow him on Twitter: @4DialogSK