Where All Politics Is Local

Where All Politics Is Local

Ken Menkhaus, and â??Somaliland Goes It Aloneâ?쳌 Gerard Prunier, in Current History (May 1998), 4225 Main St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19127. Ever since the outside world gave up its efforts to re-establish a central government in Somalia three years ago, it has been widely assumed that this country in the Horn of Africa fell back into chaos and violence. This is not the case, writes Menkhaus, a political scientist at Davidson College. â??While Somalia today is stateless, it is not a...

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oving impediments to domestic and foreign private investment, in liberalizing trade, in reforming the exchange-rate system, in raising energy prices, and in promoting partnerships between private firms (Indian and foreign) and Indian stateowned enterprises in certain key sectors.â?쳌 Over the last three years, Indiaâ??s economy has grown about seven percent annually.

â??When the West views India in proper perspective,â?쳌 Manor and Segal write, â??it will focus on a wider range of reasons for the countryâ??s long-term success.â?쳌 Unlike China, India â??already has a working democracy and a federal system for governing the decentralized system necessary in large market economies. India has a well-established system of lawâ??not least commercial and contract lawâ??and (albeit slow-moving) judicial institutions.â?쳌 When McDonaldâ??s in Beijing ran into problems with local authorities in 1996, it had no recourse to a court of law; but when Kentucky Fried Chicken had similar difficulties in Bangalore that year, it eventually was able to get legal satisfaction. If India can keep up the economic reform and manage the political fallout, conclude the authors, the world before long will be beating a path to its door.

Where All Politics Is Local

â??Somalia: Political Order in a Stateless Societyâ?쳌 by Ken Menkhaus, and â??Somaliland Goes It Aloneâ?쳌 by Gerard Prunier, in Current History (May 1998), 4225 Main St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19127.

Ever since the outside world gave up its efforts to re-establish a central government in Somalia three years ago, it has been widely assumed that this country in the Horn of Africa fell back into chaos and violence. This is not the case, writes Menkhaus, a political scientist at Davidson College. â??While Somalia today is stateless, it is not anarchic.â?쳌

Local communities have moved to take up the slack. In most of Somalia today, he says, the basic political functions â??are carried out at the village, town, or (in Mogadishu, the only large city) neighborhood level. Law and order is ensured either by clan elders, by sharia [Islamic law] courts springing up in urban neighborhoods, or in a few instances, by local police forces.â?쳌

Somaliaâ??s northwestâ??which seceded in 1991 but has failed to gain international recognitionâ??â??is at peace,â?쳌 notes Prunier, of the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris. Since the end of fighting there in 1995, the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland has created a written constitution and a two-chamber assembly and other viable institutions of government. It has combined traditional Somali culture with Western democracyâ??and without foreign help of any sort. Somalilandâ??s modest progress, he believes, deserves something better than â??the international cold shoulder it has received so far.â?쳌

Somaliland president Mohammed Ibrahim Egal, notes Menkhaus, has overseen â??a revitalization of the commercial economy.â?쳌

Somalilandâ??s Red Sea port of Berbera has become â??a booming entrepôt for regional livestock exports. Profits from this commercial renaissance have brought a prosperity to the northwest region that exceeds prewar levels.â?쳌

Less spectacular but still impressive progress, Menkhaus says, has been made in Somaliaâ??s northeastern regionâ??a stronghold of the Mijerteen clan and the only part of the country spared the destruction of civil war. Another active seaport, Bosaso, has fueled an economic recovery.

In southern Somalia, from Mogadishu to the Kenyan border, however, most areas remain in political and economic crisis, Menkhaus says. â??Political authority is fragmented and contested and lawlessnessâ?? most often manifested in looting, kidnapping for ransom, and vehicle theftâ??continues to plague residents and the few remaining international organizations.â?쳌

Fighting in the area remains â??localized and sporadic,â?쳌 Menkhaus says, mostly the product of intraclan conflicts. General Mohammed Farah Aididâ??s Somali National Alliance, â??once the largest and most powerful faction in the country, has been shattered by rivalries in the Habr-Gedr clan,â?쳌 and by the death of Aidid himself from gunshot wounds in August 1996.

For the near future, Menkhaus concludes, â??Somalia is likely to remain a mosaic of localized polities that collectively add up to something less than a conventional stateâ?쳌â?? and far more than anarchy.

140 WQ Autumn 1998