Somalia: The role of climate change in recurring violence

Giovanna Kuele and Ana Cristina Miola write: The deadliest blast in Somalia’s history, which killed more than 350 people, and the double car bombing in Mogadishu last October represented frustrating backslides in the country’s efforts to build stability. For almost 30 years, Somalia has been tackling a combination of civil war, famine, desertification, piracy, political fragmentation, and terrorism — even as the population struggles to rebuild and move forward. Although the conflict has many underlying causes, one factor that remains poorly understood is climate change. In a country where, alongside war, six million people currently face starvation, understanding the role of climate change and its impact on patterns of drought — and developing innovative responses — is more pressing than ever.

Since the country’s state and social resilience to climate consequences is limited, the ability of around 70% of Somalis to meet their basic needs depends heavily on a regular climate pattern. However, over the past decade climate change-related desertification has expanded in Somalia, greatly increasing the vulnerability of the local population. Climate change feeds armed conflict in Somalia by exacerbating tensions between clans; boosting the ranks and role of terrorist groups, including al-Shabaab; and increasing migratory flows.

First, climate change sharpens disputes over already-scarce resources between warlords. While Al-Shabaab has conquered large pieces of the country’s territory, clan elders still wield considerable power, dominating the political system. In this sense, the severe droughts cause disruptions to water access, high rates of malnutrition, disease outbreaks, and food insecurity, leading to tension and even open disputes between the clans. In a country facing this set of challenges, resources like food and water are not only a basic need but also a source of power. [Continue reading…]

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