Somalia is stabilizing, but will be largely closed and dangerous during 2016.
Somalia has a history of war and anarchy. The current conflict, in various forms, has raged for over 25 years: the south-central region has suffered the most, while Somaliland and Puntland have been relatively stable.
Due in large part to the unceasing violence, Somalia’s people are in depressing situations. As of 2010, Somalia’s population stood at 9 million, less than half literate. Poverty and insecurity were indemic, and 10% of children died before the age of 5.
Most recently, Al-Shabaab, a violent Islamist group, emerged with the intention of controlling Somalia in 2005; in 2006 it labored to expel Ethiopian forces from the country, and aligned itself with Al-Qaeda. In 2007, ANISOM, an Africa Union peace-support operation, deployed to Mogadishu to protect the government, but Al-Shabaab grew in strength. By 2009-10, Al-Shabaab controlled most of Mogadishu and the south-central region. Then, in 2011, a massive famine struck. 80,000 died. Al-Shabaab refused to allow Western aid agencies into its territory, and this action alienated many of its supporters. This was the turning point. By August, most of its fighters were forced out of Mogadishu.
In 2012, a Somali conference was held in London where the parties agreed to establish a federal system of five to six zones of influence, which would help address the tribal conflicts (so no single tribe made up the government). The first permanent central government since the start of the civil war was installed. But the nation had been devastated: it was in a “post-war” situation. The ability of the government to actually make progress has been limited.
Outside powers (including the US, with its secret drone bases in the country) have labored to tackle security threats. ANISOM has been active for a decade. While they have made strides, clan violence and isolated terrorist attacks continue today, and the existing forces have proven powerless to prevent these.
The meager amounts of growing stability have caused many diaspora to begin returning to Somalia. In 2013, the IMF recognized the government. Daily flights to Mogadishu resumed. Livestock exports started. Remittance inflows reached over US$1.2 billion yearly. Reaching diaspora now could be quite strategic, since as the security situation improves many may very well return and be welcomed to their homeland. Returning diaspora may, for the short-term future, be the most viable way for the Gospel to enter the country. In 2016, the transitional government will likely make some progress. But the success of any plans for a free and fair election is highly improbable. The country will undoubtedly continue to see terrorist attacks on a monthly and sometimes weekly basis. It will be effectively closed to the Gospel and dangerous to Christian workers and believers. While not absolutely impossible to work within Somalia’s borders, reaching Somalis will continue to be most effectively and sustainably done outside the country.
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