Why Is Somalia the Most Corrupted Country in the World?

Somalia has ranked as the most corrupted country in the world, with instability and restricted press freedom as factors hindering transparency in the Sub-Saharan African nation.

Transparency International said in its Corruption Perception Index 2017 that most of the countries surveyed made very little progress in ending corruption last year.

The index ranked 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption "according to experts and business people". It found that Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen—all marred by wars and insurgencies—were the five most corrupted countries. On the other hand, New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Switzerland were deemed as the least corrupted.

World's most corrupted countries
Transparency International

"Somalia is only beginning to emerge from a long period of state collapse and is therefore faced with the typical corruption challenges that affect countries in post-conflict contexts," Paul Banoba, Transparency International's East Africa expert, told Newsweek.

Somalia was ravaged by a bloody civil war from 1986 till 1992. Rebel groups continued to fight for the hegemony of territories even after the end of the conflict. The civil war and instability provided fertile ground for the birth of Al-Shabaab, one of the deadliest terrorist organizations in Africa.

"Fighting corruption in post-conflict contexts is particularly challenging and Somalia needs all the support it can get," Banoba said.


Somalia elections
Somali lawmakers attend a voting session to elect a new president inside Mogadishu airport on February 08, 2017 Somali lawmakers were choosing a president under tight security on February 8, with roads closed and residents urged to remain indoors over fears of a strike on the capital by Shabaab militants. Mortar fire hit several neighbourhoods of Mogadishu and fighting broke out between the extremists and African Union peacekeepers (AMISOM) just outside the capital on Tuesday evening, according to police and witnesses. MUSTAFA HAJIABDINUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Last year, the country held presidential elections. Through an indirect vote, members of parliament and an upper house chose a president from 23 candidates.

The vote, hailed as a landmark for a country that hadn't had a functional government since 1991, was marred by corruption scandals. Reports claimed parliamentarian candidates bought seats and votes for anywhere between $5,000 to $30,000 dollars.

A joint statement by the U.N. mission in Somalia (UNSOM) read: "International partners strongly believe that elections must be re-run for seats where the voting outcomes were clearly distorted by violence, corruption, intimidation, the unauthorized substitution of electoral college delegates and a failure to set aside one of every three seats for exclusively female candidates."

Freedom of speech

Transparency International noted that countries with the least protection for press and NGOs were also likely to be the most corrupted.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 64 journalists have been killed in Somalia since 1992.

More recently, the organization has documented at least five cases of journalists detained in connection with their work in the autonomous region of Somaliland since September 2017.

Earlier this month, CPJ called for the release of local journalist Abdishakur Abdullahi Ahmed, also known as Shaasha, who was arrested last December after being accused "of airing false news" after he reported critically on the local administration.

Last year, the government passed a law prohibiting the spread of news deemed as false and propagandistic, without providing clear guidelines. Rights groups condemned the move, arguing it would curtail freedom of speech.

Journalists are under threat also by Al-Shabaab. Amnesty International said in its annual report on the state of human rights worldwide that the group prohibits journalists from operating in areas under its control.

"The group continued to detain, threaten and harass media workers throughout the
country," it said.


Somalia drought
A displaced Somali child sits on May 24, 2017 at a makeshift camp in the Garasbaley area on the outskirts of the capital Mogadishu, where people converge after fleeing their homes due to the dire drought that hits the country. The World Health Organization warned in April that the drought was fuelling an outbreak of cholera and acute diarrhoea in Somalia that has already killed hundreds of people. The warning came as Somalia faces the threat of its third famine in 25 years of civil war and anarchy. MOHAMED ABDIWAHAB/AFP/Getty Images

Two consecutive seasons of poor rainfall resulted in severe water shortages last year, causing a drop in food production, livestock deaths and rising costs of food that pushed the country towards the brink of a famine just six years after some 260,000 people starved to death in the East African nation.

Persisting insecurity and travel restrictions imposed because of attacks by Al-Shabaab resulted in the escalation of food prices and a drop in supplies, meaning that people do not have access to basic goods to cope with the ongoing crisis.

Somalia relies heavily on foreign aid, which can however end up in the wrong hands unless controls are tightened in the country.

"Resources going into a country with weak systems are vulnerable to misappropriation," Banoba explained.


Al-Shabaab group
Somalian security personnel look towards burning vehicles as they secure an area in Mogadishu on July 30, 2017, after a car bomb explosion in the Somalian capital. At least five people have been killed and ten wounded in Somalia's capital Mogadishu when a car bomb detonated on a busy road, the security ministry said. There was no immediate claim of responsiblity but the bombing fits the pattern of Al-Qaeda linked Shabaab Islamists, who have carried out numerous suicide bombings and raids in the capital targeting civilian, government and military targets. STR/AFP/Getty Images

Some analysts have pointed out that violence is a major driver of corruption.

Somalia has been rocked by instability and bloody insurgencies since 1992. Last year, the country's capital Mogadishu became the site of one of Africa 's deadliest terror attacks when a truck laden with explosives was detonated, killing more than 500 people.

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility. The group, whose splinters have links to both Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State terror groups, aims to overthrow the Somali government and impose its own version of Islam in the country.

"The government of Somalia is suffering from a decade-long problem that has been created by the inability of the government to have full control of the country," security analyst David Otto told Newsweek.

"Corruption is a huge driver of instability but it is also fair to say that instability creates an environment for corruption to prosper as the legitimate state loses control of its institutions and the people that it is supposed to govern.

"Groups like Al-Shabaab use public corruption and what they see as Western nations taking full advantage of the instability to radicalize young men and women to join their ranks."

Shabaab controlled the capital Mogadishu and the southern region of Somalia from 2006 until 2011, when it was defeated by African Union peacekeepers.

The group still controls pockets of the country. It also carries out attacks in Kenya, in retaliation to the Linda Nichi operation, which saw the deployment of Kenyan troops to the neighboring country to tackle terrorism.

Somalia's president, Mohamed Abdullahi "Farmajo" Mohamed, declared war on Al-Shabab terrorists last year. He offered a 60-day amnesty period to militants to surrender and vowed to help them reintegrate into society. The group dismissed the declaration of war and rejected the offer of amnesty.

"Fighting corruption in post-conflict contexts is particularly challenging and Somalia needs all the support it can get," Banoba said.

"Transparency is a good place to start. International agencies and institutions supporting Somalia should continue to enhance transparency and accountability in their own program, and call for the same from their counterparts in Somalian government," he concluded.