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African Geographical Review
Volume 30, June 2011


Special Issue
Political Violence and Armed Conflict in Africa: People, Places, Processes, Effects

State and Stateless Violence in Somalia

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.

Key words: civil war, political violence, spatial analysis, Somalia