Publication by DPDF 2009 “State Violence” Fellow Andrew Linke and Clionadh Raleigh.
Violent conflict has engulfed much of Somalia for decades. Marked most dramatically by the fall of Mohamed Siad Barre’s dictatorship early in 1991, southern Somalia remains in an untenable state of civil strife that amounts to a humanitarian disaster. In this article our goal is not to explain why violence occurs, but to investigate where and when it has occurred. To achieve this we employ precisely georeferenced conflict event data to analyze dynamics of Somalia’s violent political landscape from before the Ogaden wars of the late-1970s through Ethiopia’s intervention in Somalia beginning in December 2006. We utilize Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools and spatial statistical methods to characterize the distribution of violence over time and across space within Somalia. We argue that Somalia’s conflict meets some expectations of civil war violence described in the conflict studies literature, but some unexpected trends also appear. Country-wide, for instance, we show that conflict intensity is characterized by a limited degree of spatial clustering during the period of centralized state-rule in Somalia, but also during stateless years. Despite this national trend, using sub-national analyses we present evidence that spatial patterns of conflict during state tenure vary from distributions conflict after state collapse. Finally, we elaborate upon how our methodological approach can contribute to the study of other conflict-prone African states.