Foreign Policy Blogs

Globalization has not reached Somalia, but ‘junglification’ has



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 recognize that it is too naïve to ignore the foreign ones — especially since the latter in their interest, resources and strategic plans present more threats.

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

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

Globalization vs. Junglification

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

Globalization has democratized communication and education, and in doing so, empowered citizens around the globe. Moreover, it 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.

Synthesizing 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.

Some nation-states consolidate their economic, political and security frameworks; others, such as 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. The first is a traumatic experience, such as historical enmity, civil war or grievances due to rampant injustice, corruption and a breakdown of the rule of law.

Second, there’s 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, there’s the natural appeal in terms of oil and gas and other mineral resources or strategic geographical location.

Fourth, there’s a lack of visionary leadership and functioning institutions. Good 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. A democratic system of governance is needed to create the necessary institutions that empower citizens and ensure that none are systematically disenfranchised.

Fifth, there’s 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 open market economy such as Turkey, political Islam often faces orchestrated indiscriminate hostilities from domestic and foreign elements.

No Exemption for Democracy

Today, more countries have embraced democratic system of governance than in any other time in history. Somalia is one of them. Out of 193 nations that are U.N. member states, 115 of them have instituted some form of democratic governance. But that’s not to say that all are bona fide democracies.

While many attribute this phenomenon to the ripple effect of globalization, 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; 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.

Most of the untapped oil and gas are in Africa, in countries, such as Somalia, that are considered anarchic, corrupt and dangerous due to clan-based hostilities. International strategic maneuvering is already in full force. In Somalia, destructive domestic elements in partnership with neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya with their relentless exploitative initiatives are on course to prove Somalia’s wealth in oil, gas and minerals as a curse.

Junglification poses a serious global threat. It is a reactionary political departure away from sovereign statehood, international laws and conventions that govern nation-states. This, needless to say, would only increase the risk of perpetual insecurity and warfare within volatile states and the para-states that they birth, creating a breeding ground for violent extremism.

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

First published by Al Jazeera




Abukar Arman

Abukar Arman is a former diplomat, serving as Somalia's Special Envoy to the US. As a widely published analyst, he focuses on foreign policy, Islam, the Horn of Africa, extremism, and other topics.
Twitter: @Abukar_Arman
or reach him via e-mail: [email protected]