Most countries in Africa faced different stages of colonialism with distinct policies in the process of colonial state construction (Young, 1994). Like other African countries, Somalia experienced different stages of European colonialism based on the geopolitical interests of the nineteenth century. Somalia is “perhaps best identified today as a country without a viable central government” and the current situation of Somalia need to be understand through the historical context of colonialism in Horn of Africa (Njoku, 2013, p.14). In this paper, I will shed light on the historical context of pre-colonial Somalis and the different stages of colonial state construction in Somalia that reflects the geopolitical interests of Western powers in the nineteenth century. In the process, I will examine the features of colonial rule in Somalia and the distinct approaches the British and Italians followed to establish the relationship between the colonial state and the population. Thus, I will argue that the colonial legacy of geopolitical interests in the Horn of Africa and the policy of indirect rule may explain the collapse of post colonial state institutions in Somalia in 1991 and the unfolding history of Somalia as a failed state, which currently is being represented as a battle ground of war on terror in Horn of Africa.
Feierman (1993) suggests that the analysis of African history should go beyond the historical narrative in which Europe is the center of the world because there are many different narratives of history in Africa. Historically, Somali people inhabit large areas of Horn of Africa that is “ bounded by the Republic of Djibouti in the northeast, The Amhar mountains in the northwest, and the Tana River in the South” ( Abdi, 1993, p.4). Linguistically and culturally, Somali people belong “ethnically to the Cushitic-speaking family” (Lewis, 2008, p.1). The Horn of Africa strategically located as it connects the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden (Abdi, 1993). According to the “written records of the Middle Ages” Somalis had trading connections with Arabs who converted Somalis to Islam, the only religion Somalis practice today. More over due to trade connections with Arabs and Persians, Somalis established coastal commercial centers such as “Zeila in the north and Mogadishu in the south” while Merca and Brava were similar commercial coastal cities in the south (Lewis, 2008, p.2). Furthermore, these commercial cities reinforce “the Islamic identity of Somali people” and also act as centers, where Somali and Arab cultures intersect and interact (Lewis, 008, p.2). Read More