View of the Somali capital Mogadishu

Political situation State-building efforts being jeopardised by power struggles, terrorist attacks and corruption

In recent years, Somalia has made some initial progress on state-building. However, at present, this East African country still ranks second (after Yemen) on the Fragile States Index (External link). The central government in the capital of Mogadishu only has control over a small part of the country.

Conflicts over how responsibilities, funds and power are divided between the central government and the federal states, fighting between different clans, attacks by the Islamist terrorist group al-Shabaab, and the prevalence of corruption are hampering attempts to deal with urgent issues (state-building, constitution, security).

On the Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by Transparency International, Somalia ranked 178th out of the 180 countries evaluated in 2021. People have little faith in their government or in state institutions.

Because of that, political stability, security and the rule of law are among the priority topics listed in the current National Development Plan (2020-2024). The tasks listed by the government include revising the constitution, establishing a multi-party democracy with fair and credible elections, strengthening the federal system and the political dialogue on national reconciliation, and reforming the security sector and the legal system.


Somalia has not seen democratic parliamentary elections since the military coup by Siad Barre in 1969. Although a new electoral law was adopted in 2020, the organisational and technical prerequisites for free general elections have not yet been put in place.

As a result, the most recent parliamentary and presidential elections were again carried out using an indirect procedure. First of all, electoral delegates were appointed based on clan membership; these delegates then decided who would occupy the 275 seats in parliament. The 54 senators in the upper house were mainly appointed by the presidents of the federal states. The members of the upper and lower houses then elected the president.

Disputes about the election process and allegations of massive corruption plunged the country into a deep political crisis in 2021. The elections were only able to take place after a substantial delay. In May 2022, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected as Somalia’s president. He had already been the head of state from 2012 to 2017.

In the autonomous region of Somaliland the democratisation process is more advanced than in the rest of the country. Elections there were judged by international observers to be largely free and fair. The region had declared its independence in 1991, but is not recognised by either the Somali central government or the international community.

Rule of law

Somalia’s constitution envisages a separation of powers that has not yet been realised. Setting up administrative structures, the judiciary and the health and education systems has been a slow process, marked by corruption and nepotism. The state-building process has been hampered by the strong influence of the various clan families, the frequent lack of skills among administrative staff and inadequate financial resources.

Somalia still lacks a uniform court system; many people have no access to independent justice. This particularly affects women. Islamic sharia law is often applied alongside the formal system of justice, as well as customary law, which is used by clan elders to settle disputes.

Human rights

The human rights situation in Somalia is poor. Key civil and political rights, such as freedom of opinion, freedom of assembly, freedom of association and religious freedom, are not being upheld. Freedom of the press is greatly restricted, people working in the media regularly experience attacks by security forces, arbitrary arrest and intimidation.

A staff member of a women's organisation at an event informing about the consequences of genital mutilation

A staff member of a women's organisation at an event informing about the consequences of genital mutilation

A staff member of a women's organisation at an event informing about the consequences of genital mutilation

A clan-based culture with strict male hierarchies together with religious restrictions mean that there is a great degree of gender inequality. Women have very limited involvement in political decision-making and only limited access to income and assets. Domestic and sexual violence against women is widespread. Over 90 per cent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 are affected by genital mutilation. A large percentage of girls are married off before their 18th birthday.

Both the terrorist group al-Shabaab and the police, military and secret service forces of the central government and the federal states have been accused of serious human rights violations. For example, all the armed groups in the country use child soldiers – who have often been forcibly recruited. In 2019, the government made a commitment to improve the protection of children. In collaboration with the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, it is supporting the social reintegration of former child soldiers.

As at: 16/08/2022