Country Post #6: Foreign Actors

The classification of Somalia as a failed state has dramatically affected its relation with foreign nations. A general inability, to maintain secure borders, monopolize state violence and suppress serious oppositional forces all directly contribute to Somalia’s position within the international community. In terms of what countries matter most, the focus will be on countries that have played an integral role in the sustained sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Somalia.


Its northwestern neighbor, Ethiopia exists as the regional hegemony in the Horn of Africa and has served as both an invader and protector of Somalia’s land and interests. Points of similarity between the two nations include a bilateral trade relation, shared languages and a shared ethnic population of Somalis that inhabit a large part of Ethiopia’s southern-most region. Their shared history begins at the end of WWII when Western powers attempted to establish acceptable boundaries for the newly consolidated Somali state. This has inevitably led to conflicts, such as the Ogden War and the smaller border skirmishes that have continued into the modern era. The threats of expansion have largely arisen from Ethiopia because despite it being the regional dominant power it lacks access to the Red and Arabian Sea. Its role however as protector has since developed in the last decade, an example being the joint intervention during the conflict in 2006-2009. This period was when Ethiopian forces interceded in cooperation with the Somali TFG and Puntland militants to seize control of the country from the extremist ICU. Without Ethiopian and foreign assistance Somalia’s current government could not have reclaimed control of the state and would be unable to resist non-state actors like Al-Shabaab.

United States

The US has also been another state, with almost direct influence on Somali statehood since its inception. Through both economic and military means, the United States has proven in a contemporary sense as a substantial contributor to Somali sovereignty. For example, the US has played an active role in both the removal of extremist power in 2006 and an abusive autocracy in 1991. Although these interventions occurred because of primarily US interests, the investment of US resources into the African state has immensely helped progress within the failed state. These interventions allowed for the greater security of not just the Somali people but also of the state itself. Humanitarian aid has also served a crucial role in existing Somali government. Various programs coupled with US-led initiatives have accumulated to billions of dollars (USD) being invested in the overall betterment of the Somali state.


China’s developing relation with Somalia has been an additional venture tied to the overall interest of the Chinese developing new diplomatic relations with African states. Due to its inability to maintain a general security, Somalia has yet to enjoy the economic benefits of Chinese partnerships. However, there is a definite desire by the PRC to expand its military presence in the Red sea and greater Middle Eastern area that coincides with Somalia’s strategic geographical location. An example of current Chinese action within Somalia includes its naval operations to stem the threat of Somali piracy that once dominated the maritime region. This is but one of the few examples of China deliberately cooperating with the international community, and although motivated through self-interest has a direct beneficial impact on the Somali state.


Hansen, S. J. (2013). Al-Shabaab in Somalia: The history and ideology of a militant Islamist group, 2005-2012.

Bruton, B. E., Center for Preventive Action., & Council on Foreign Relations. (2010).Somalia: A new approach. New York: Center for Preventive Action, Council on Foreign Relations.

This entry was posted in Country Post. Bookmark the permalink.