al-Shabaab’s Inception and Insurgency

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Theoretical Framework

Fragile States

According to Albertson and Moran the literature defining fragility of states has introduced many approaches investigating what makes a state fragile, from focusing on the consequences these states have on the global security due to the threats caused by the existence of armed militias, as well as focusing on the conditions that makes a state fragile such as; illegitimate power and incapability of a government to deliver basic services to its citizens, which leads to precipitating triggers that sinks the state deeper into fragility, these are observed in such further economic shocks and inter-communal violence.17 There is also approaches that focuses on fragility in relation to conflict and clustering the study of fragile states between countries at risk of conflict and those already involved in one.18 Ultimately, fragility indicates the presences of factors that compromise the structures and institutions of a state, and the consequences that challenge not only the legitimacy of a state but also the experiences of its citizens.19
Although terms like ‘fragile’, ‘failed’ and ‘failing’ are very often used interchangeably, however ‘fragile’ and ‘failing’ states are recognized as states that are at risk of collapsing, whereas ‘failed’ states have already reached total breakdown. 20 The terms are hardly indistinguishable and often states that have failed by definition (e.g. Syria or Yemen) still carries out basic services in a few territories. The Fragile State Index is one of the literatures that discarded the term ‘failed state’ for ‘fragile state’ as it defines fragility at the “opposite side of stability and on a continuum between a well-functioning and completely absent state.”21 ‘Fragile state’ as a term then offers a way to assess and study fragility of states based on symptoms that are experienced within institutional levels which weakens, compromises or damages the functions of a state.22
Fragility is often experienced in three overlapping areas; authority failures, services entitlements failures and legitimacy failure.23 According to Stewart and Brown, ‘Authority failures’ begins when the state lacks the authority or power to grant protection to its citizens, from violence of civil wars, communal violence and criminality. ‘Service entitlement failures’ is observed in the inability of a state to provide basic services to its citizens from health services, education, access to water and sanitation, basic transportation, energy infrastructure and reducing of income poverty. 24 Lastly, ‘legitimacy failures’ is when a state has limited support from its citizens; this is a facet of no experienced democracy or a strong involvement of military authority in domestic affairs, also the existence of a regime that was founded by force, this is observed in silencing of opposition, control of media, exclusion of certain ethnic groups from power, absence of civil and political liberties with silence of free speech, suppression and arbitrary arrests.25
There are two areas to highlight that are overlooked by the above premise, according to Albertson and Moran (guided by the work of Jeremy Weinstein and Milan Vaishnav) Geography plays a large part as mountainous terrains increases a state’s fragility by increasing the feasibility of insurgencies as armed groups find ways to infiltrate territory and hide, also territories with natural resource deposits are often impacted by conflict as different non-state actors compete for control of these resources.26 Societal Divisions also plays a part in increasing a state’s fragility as deficits in social harmony and cohesion that result from institutions excluding certain ethnic groups leads to states becoming ruled by one ethnic group at the expenses of others, this creates conflicts which results in more fragility.27 Another important area to highlight (related to the work of Stewart and Brown) are Economic Welfare and Institutions, causes such as poverty and income inequality increases the risks of internal conflict, this is also seen as a motive for individuals joining armed groups, also institutions in partial democracies (i.e. states that have adopted policies for democratic reforms but struggle to execute these policies; a great example are countries ruled by transitional governments) tend to be plagued by institutional deficiencies that weaken the performance of the new (or transitional) government leading to fragility.28 It is important to note that fragility of a state is often the result of a number of causes that directly influence each other and contribute to fragility.
The attention on conflict is reminiscent of the prominent work of Paul Collier as he mentions in his book the ‘Bottom Billion’ the plight of countries that’re caught in traps beyond development and poverty, he explains that there are four traps; the conflict trap, mismanagement of natural resources trap, trap of weak governance, and economic isolation among other poor economies otherwise coined as being landlocked with bad neighbors.29 Collier primarily bases his research on African countries as he argues how they have fallen in one or two traps throughout time. If we take a closer look at the conflict traps Collier argues that although conflict is unavoidable in politics, countries of the bottom billion are trapped within seemingly endless patterns of violent challenges with their governments, he goes on to cite civil wars as a main cause of poverty hindering any country’s potential for growth and resulting in its fragility.30 The next section will examine the link and consequent impact of fragility on citizens and their perceived sense of security.

Human Security

A break from the traditional state-centric understanding of security, this concept emerged to look at the security of people in relation to the state that has failed to fulfil its responsibility to ensure their protection. According to the Commission on Human Security it was during the 17th century that the common understanding of security was solely focused on protecting the state and its interests expanding everything from order to peace.31 Mijalković and Man čević explain that state-centric security was conceptualized as an important field of study after the adoption of the Westphalian sovereignty and emergence of sovereign states after the Cold War, but it was primarily concerned with military security as well as negotiation of political and diplomatic ties, security then was a form of self-preserving practice in order to assert territory. 32
The 21st century transformed the understanding of security according to the Center for Security Studies, this was experienced with an altered international environment that brought forth increasing complexity, decreasing predictability and changes in geo-graphical spaces, and with the growing number of independent, international and transnational actors, this led to an increase in complexity due to their impact on national, regional and global dynamics, this also led to increasing levels of uncertainty with threats becoming more and more unpredictable caused by different actors (e.g. armed, non-state and insurgent groups) as opposed to the past understanding of one common enemy of state. 33
Human Security is a people- centered concept as it aims to investigate all the possible circumstances that could threaten the livelihood and survival of human life from; violence, aggression, displacement, pandemics, transnational terrorism and oppression.34 First popularized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as part of its Human Development Report, it was identified in seven dimensions that play an impact on people’s lives and their perceived or experienced sense of safety in the following areas; Economic, Food, Health, Environmental, Personal, Community and Political Security.35 Threats to the security of persons often fall under these dimensions which are deeply interlinked and are mutually reinforcing, with threats faced in one of them often means existing or potential risks in others.
A statement made by Kofi Annan on human security offers a bigger frame to view this concept; “It encompasses human rights, good governance, access to education and health care and ensuring that each individual has opportunities and choices to fulfil his or her own potential. Every step in this direction is also a step towards reducing poverty, achieving economic growth and preventing conflict. Freedom from want, freedom from fear and the freedom of future generations to inherit a healthy natural environment-these are the interrelated building blocks of human and therefore national, security.”36
Human security complements state security where the latter is focused externally (threats perpetrated by other states) working to empower its territorial boundaries, power and military. Human Security is concerned with empowering individuals to become proactive as it seeks to protect and enhance human rights, as well as provide opportunities for human development especially after violence and conflict, this strengthens not only the trust between individuals and the state but also the connection as both sides form a powerful alliance that focuses on improving institutional policies and performance. 37 Whereas the state acts as the principle actor ensuring state security, with human security many actors are involved in the security process from; International Organizations (IOs), Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs), and grassroot community and civil society as well as citizens. 38
Taking a closer look into human security within the context of war and conflicts, the field looks at the threats compromising people’s chances for survival and rebuilding their livelihood after war. It looks at how life is impacted by violence, from physical risks to feelings of insecurity and hopelessness as a result of war, according to Deng war-torn countries suffer from a crisis of national identity that terribly impacts its victim population who are left prosecuted and neglected in a lack of moral responsibility and accountability, this population is often forcibly relocated as part of counter insurgency activity, confined in warzones and deprived of the basic necessities from shelter, food, water, medicine, education and employment. 39
Nelson Mandela has once said: “when a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in; he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”40 Conflict is a vicious cycle and the detrimental impact of violence is observed not only on the systems and structures of a state, but also on the citizens who are directly or indirectly impacted according to Pilbeam citizens can be directly impacted by conflict when they experience killing, torture or rape, and they can be indirectly impacted by structural and systemic inequalities that do not cater for the needs of those living under pains of impoverishment, this often results in people searching for their security in anguished and desperate ways to ensure their survival. 41 The following section will explore human insecurity within Africa as it’s examined through the lens of war and conflict.

Human Insecurity in Africa

Many studies investigating human insecurity in contemporary Africa have followed an expansive approach according to Cilliers where human security as a concept has been broadly explored in five overlapping levels of security such as personal/individual, local/community, national, regional and international security. 42 When studied separately each level appears closely linked to the other, for example, local/community security relies on the presence of stable national security which cannot exist without regional security first. Several regions in Africa are often dependent upon different actors for security as these actors control the regions, the likes of local militias, warlords or wealthy politicians with heavy armed forces, whereas security in urban areas is dependent upon the traditional structure of local government and police, this leads to a lot of friction as two different providers of security fall into conflict that results in state security becoming very unstable43, here security threats are not usually a result of attacks by other countries but rather by actors that challenge the state’s structures and its inability to control territory.44
In other cases, the state could go to extreme measures to restore its control and power against all forms of opposition resulting in further conflict and insecurity, according to Cilliers this is observed as insecurity triggered by internal challenges like cases of domestic rebellion, foreign invasion and predatory governance, the last of which is observed in several African states equating governance with governing and furthering the interests of the elites often at the expense of the security of citizens, when this happens a government can exhibit an aggressive and repressive regime resulting in magnified threats of human security of which the government is the main perpetrator. 45
In the book ‘The Horn of Africa: Intra-State and Inter-State Conflicts and Security’ Bereketeab argues that the origin of conflict is broken down into objective and subjective where the first explains the origin of conflict by examining the socio-political fabric of a society, and the latter argues that conflict happens when there is incompatibility of opinions, values and goals that generate conflict. 46 Intra-state conflict is the most prominent example of conflicts in Africa that includes civil wars of the government of a state and non- state armed groups, as well as inter-communal conflicts that involve two or more non-state actors.47 To expand on this further it was Malawian historian Zeleza who studied conflicts in Africa to note the long list of complicated histories that uncovers multidimensional causes and consequences to conflicts48, and it is these overlapping causes that guide scholars in different paths of research when it comes to studying human insecurity in Africa. There is no one cause of insecurity in Africa and usually the perceived causes of insecurity are in fact consequences of deeper issues, Zeleza argues with an example of conflict and poverty as consequences driven by other issues, for example tribalism which results in ethnic rivalries, polarization, economic underdevelopment and discrimination in opportunities, adding to this the rule of an authoritarian regime that is backed by poor governance, political instability and manipulation can all lead to conflict that result in deeper poverty.49
Conflicts in Africa are then deeply intertwined with the weakening of the state’s structures as fragility causes political tensions and social deficits that result in compromising the security of a community.50 Tufekci explains that the wars that emerge from the disintegration of states have certain characteristics that are seen in the types of actors (i.e. criminals, paramilitary groups, warlords) that emerge and work within illegal ground and activities in order to finance and sustain their expansion, these actors are also described to be fighting to assert a certain identity, secondly, there is a clear absence of a single authority as armed groups work to completely erase the rule of state this is also described as ‘state un-building’ to indicate the breaking down of state’s power and control, lastly in these types of wars there is no distinction between combatant and non-combatant violence thus resulting in horrific human rights violations from genocide, ethnic cleansing and community expulsion, Tufekci argues that fear and intimidation is used as a tactic of war and this is often manifested in systematic crimes of sexual violence, civilian casualties and an alarming presence of child soldiers.51
The rise of terrorist and armed group is a result of the spread of small arms and technological advancement that introduced destructive machine guns, landmines and other lethal weaponry and made them accessible to armed groups. 52 According to Adeyemi-Suenu these weapons have intensified intra-state conflicts as the population becomes increasingly militarized hence exposing weaknesses in the structure of security in African countries.53 Illicit arm trade between rebel and armed groups is a serious source of insecurity, as argued by Schroeder and Lamb this is often a result of unauthorized production of firearms by unlicensed gunsmiths who produce guns in increasing rates to be sold in the black market, this then leads to cross-border arms trafficking and smuggling between armed groups, and in reaction governments in neighboring states often play a role in magnifying conflicts by supporting the state’s government with small arms which is often done illicitly.54
The presence of small arms and conflicts in Africa has also created a ‘gun culture’ where ownership of guns is linked to esteemed social status and even identity, this is observed in regions where states are very fragile. 55 Small arms are also a source of inter-community conflicts that erupt from the lack of resources, this leads many groups in rural areas to fight over resources or land as they rely on weapons to assert control.56 The proliferation of small arms according to the Human Development Report is both a cause and a consequence of mass poverty57 where illicit small arms are usually intensifying violent conflicts and impacting the economy and institutions of a state, this results in the disruption of the services of these institutions, for example food production and distribution are completely interrupted in times of conflict resulting in extreme hunger and malnutrition.58
Lastly it is important to reflect on a devastating consequence of conflict in Africa and a source of many insecurities which is the crisis of internal displacement. The World Bank presented a study in 2019 which details that the risks driven by Fragility, Conflict and Violence (FCV) undermines all progress towards development and stability.59
The organization found that violent conflicts in recent years has increased tremendously and as a result the world is now facing the crisis of forced displacement at unprecedent rates.60 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are essentially citizens of a country that cannot guarantee their safety nor protection of their rights, so they move only to remain exposed to further violations due to their displacement, displaced persons are excluded from opportunities that exists in an otherwise functioning society.61
When it comes to forced displacement Africa is considered an epicenter, it hosts over one-third of the world’s forced displacement population, in December 2018 Africa had an alarming 17.8 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)62 compelled to fleeing for factors of human insecurity that are very persistent and chronic they are ultimately structural in nature.63 In his book ‘Exodus within Borders: An Introduction to the Crisis of Internal Displacement’ Kom follows the observations of Francis M. Deng who studied the impact of forced displacement on different groups from regions all around the world to conclude with a common thread he called “a crisis of national identity”64 which indicates the isolation felt by the displaced population at the hand of a majority, this is seen in a dominant group exercising control and intimidation over the displaced population.65 The identity factor plays an important role in the crisis of displacement, where it’s not just the mere differences in identity amongst ethnic groups that is the cause of conflict (i.e. language, culture, religion) but rather it is the politicization of these differences and the consequences of that which leads to conflict due to refusal in sharing power, resources and opportunities.66 A working definition proposed by Francis M. Deng according to Kom states that a displaced person or group are those:
“Who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence in particular as a result of, or in order to avoid the effects of, armed conflict situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border.”67
Two of the defining characteristics of the displaced population Kom argues is the low economic status and background where the majority of displaced groups are often from the poor rural population, secondly (especially during civil wars) is the overwhelming numbers amongst the displaced are women and children, due to the men being either drafted into fighting, killed when fighting, or have fled to avoid being recruited. 68 The conditions in displaced persons camps are negatively impacting these two groups, women face harassment and crimes of sexual violence, and the children experience extreme malnutrition, family separation and lack access to proper health care or education, the latter of which is a preventive measure that could keep children away from the fighting ranks.69 There is a strong correlation between displacement and child recruitment where it is often perceived that the risk of child recruitment increases during displacement and the numbers of displaced children increases as an outcome of recruitment, the case is no different for former child soldiers as they’re observed to be the most vulnerable to being displaced, they carry a fear of recruitment which often leads them to deeper displacement and constant relocation in order to avoid being re-recruited.70 The following section will examine in details the different ways in which children are recruited and led to armed groups.

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Human Insecurity and Child Recruitment

The international community has introduced numerous laws condemning the use of children in combat. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child is a widely adopted treaty that came into inception in February 2002 and places responsibility on states to ensure that all measures are taken to prohibit the use of children in conflict, condemning the recruitment of children under the age of 18 (voluntary or not) to any warring side.71 Many of the literature on child soldiers stresses on the inherit vulnerability of children and the many ways it is exploited. P.W. Singer was one of the prominent scholars who linked the proliferation of small weapons and influence of technological advancement to the recruitment of children, he argued that ‘light weapons’ and ‘child-portable’ inexpensive weapons such as rifles, light machine guns, land mines are some of the most used weapons in conflict, and because they do not require great physical strength or grueling training to operate they are very accessible to children, some weapons can even be broken down to a simplified form enabling a child under the age of 10 to carry and shoot it.72
In his paper ‘Children and Armed Conflict: Looking at the Future and Learning from the Past’ Roos Haer divided the existing literature on child recruitment into four distinct areas (that share interrelated factors) to better simplify the routes scholars have paved to understand the phenomenon of child soldiers. According to Haer the literature either explain the general and systematic factors, or analyze the demand and supply of child recruitment, or lastly focuses on investigating the impact and consequences of child recruitment. 73 The systematic factors describe (along with Singer’s argument of the proliferation of light weapons) the globalization problem as argued by Alcinda Honwana that globalization has pushed under-developed countries to the edge of poverty and inequalities which resulted in increasing inhumane conditions that led to the unfortunate use of children in warzones, this is seen in the commodification of children by any means including soldiering.74 Globalization has strained what Honwana refers to as the ‘social fabric’ of communities that are struggling with insecure livelihoods and lack the ability to sustain their households or protect their families and children, in such families child labor (by any available option) is considered a vital source of income.75
The supply argument introduces the idea that voluntary participation in conflict can be hardly believed to be voluntary. According to Peters children in conflict zones have very limited options to choose from, and even though they might’ve chosen to join an armed group they did so with the notion of picking the ‘best out of worse’ course of action, as children are influenced by economic, educational, political constraints that pushes them to join armed groups which they view as a means to secure employment.76 This argument aligns with the ‘push and pull factors’ introduced by War Child where the ‘push factors’ are the circumstances within the environment that drives the child to join armed groups, these are seen as any circumstances that act as threats to the child’s sense of safety like poverty, hunger, tribalism and conflict, mistreatment at home to name a few.77 The ‘pull factors’ however are the rewards or incentives the child imagines to receive upon joining armed groups that they wouldn’t acquire or have otherwise such as food and steady meals, money, protection, prestigious and feared social rank and status.78
The demand argument on the other hand, looks at the other side and examines the logic by which armed groups and warlords recruit children, this branch of research attempts to investigate why children are being actively recruited to fight in different wars when there is an obvious weakness they possess due to their young age and frail bodies, and according to Haer and Böhmelt armed groups take advantage of the mental immaturity of young children as it makes them more obedient, easy to manipulate and control, it also makes them daring in combat because they cannot accurately assess risks, they also provide a logistical advantage as children are considered to be cheap labor.79
Lastly, investigating the consequences of child soldiering and recruitment is the effort of scholars who examine the long-term impact of the exposure to wars and participation in violence. This line of research investigates the mental and psychological health of former child soldiers, as well as the challenges children face when re-entering society which are proven to be largely educational and economic, according to Blattman and Annan this is witnessed in education and earning which are severely affected by the time the child has spent in armed group and away from school.80 Another terrible impact is observed in the physical wounds and disabilities that children endure in conflict and the psychological impact the war has on them as Schauer and Elbert articulate that children who grow up in an environment with severe examples of violence suffer from chronic and traumatic stress, ill mental health and severe changes in personality due to an impaired and unhealthy childhood development, children are also more prone to commit cruelties due to the constant exposure to violence surrounding them.81
Another line of research focuses on expanding the literature to investigate the connection between internal displacement and the recruitment of children. The work of Achvarina and Reich examines the vulnerability of children concentrated and located in Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps. They argue that it’s the supply of young children rather than demand for young fighters that explains the recruitment of children and that despite of the circumstances that led children to these camps, their mere presence in large quantities and numbers is considered an attractive manpower to armed groups.82 Hence, the likelihood of a child being kidnapped and recruited increases the more vulnerable the camp is to infiltration or raids, this is proposed as a ‘relative robust relationship’ between the capacity to access refugee and displacement camps and the rate of children’s participation in conflict, Achivarina and Reich argue that children in protected camps are not as susceptible to recruitment as children who are left unprotected83, this is also known as ‘Refugee Manipulation and Militarization’ where children become potential targets for parties in conflict by instances of incursions and attacks against camps.84
A term that describes the condition of overcrowding is also known as ‘warehousing’ where refugees or displaced persons are often living in camps for years and become entirely dependent on international aid for survival as Cohen and Deng argue that even if there are no immediate threats to the physical security of the population in camps, their economic and social needs are neglected completely as they can spend years without employment, land or a permanent home.85 Political scientist Sarah K. Lischer further expanded the literature to propose two casual paths to the recruitment of children; militarization and insecurity.86According to Lischer the term ‘militarization’ refers to the presence of non-civilian attributes in refugee camps such as, inflow of small arms, recruitment, and the participation in military training from refugees while depending on the support of international organization for aid; this in particular creates an environment for a militarized refugee population as refugees who engage in military training, return to the camps for their family, food, or medical assistance, and might become a source of influence on others.87 As observed in Figure (1) this is an environment with a mobilized and vulnerable population that lacks not only the protection of international law but also a civilian character that the government rushes to protect, this is ultimately a population that is exposed and vulnerable in regions where warlords and militant exiles are found nearby. 88

Table of contents :

1. Introduction
1.2 Aim and Research Questions
1.3 Disposition of Study
2. Theoretical Framework
2.1 Fragile States
2.2 Human Security
2.2.1 Human Insecurity in Africa
2.2.2 Human Insecurity and Child Recruitment
3. Methodology
3.1 Data; Type, Collection and Analysis
3.2 Limitations in the Research Process
4. Empirical Review
4.1 Background of Study
4.1.1 Fragility in Somalia
4.1.2 al-Shabaab’s Inception and Insurgency
4.2 Methods of Recruitment (2017 – 2019)
4.2.1 Child Recruitment in 2017
4.2.2 Child Recruitment in 2019
5. Conclusion
6. References

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