The three decades of conflict in Somalia are difficult and complex to understand because of the numerous parties involved. It is similar to the crisis in the Middle East as rivals compete for power, resources and influence. But unlike the Middle East, all competing factions in Somalia are Sunni Muslims and all speak the same language, Somali.
Somalis have become familiar with foreign interference. Kenya, Ethiopia and the West, mainly the US, have been actively engaged in the country’s internal affairs, backing different armed militia groups and a weak central government.
Ethiopia, the single biggest foreign player in Somalia, is on friendly terms with Kenya on the status of the Somali central government based in Mogadishu. Kenya fully backs Jubbaland, a regional administration in the south of the country which it played a key role in creating; but Ethiopia does not back Jubbaland as it does other regional administrations. Addis Ababa suspects Jubbaland of supporting the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a rebel group in eastern Ethiopia fighting to secede from Ethiopia. Both Ethiopia and Kenya support Puntland and Somaliland. Puntland is a semi-autonomous region in northeast Somalia while Somaliland is a break-away and self-declared republic in the northwest of the country.
Somaliland and Puntland are sworn enemies. They are engaged in a border dispute with sporadic fighting between the two. But they are on the same side against the central government based in Mogadishu. Puntland supports Jubbaland and they sometimes gang up against Mogadishu. Somaliland and Puntland both receive support from Ethiopia.
Somaliland supports the Galmudug administration in central Somalia because it fights Puntland.
Puntland hates the government in Mogadishu. It accuses Mogadishu of not sharing donor funds with it. It has cut ties with Mogadishu at least three times and banned the Somali government-owned Radio Mogadishu in its territory. But Mogadishu and Puntland are allies against Somaliland and are united against the Al-Shabab group. Ethiopia supports both Mogadishu and Somaliland.
There is a sufi armed group controlling parts of central Somalia called Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama’a. It is fighting the Galmudug administration. Both Galmudug and Ahlu Sunna are allies against Al-Shabab. Ahlu Sunnah sometimes fights the Mogadishu government but supports its fight against Al-Shabab.
The Somali government has the constitutional responsibility for foreign affairs and diplomacy, but regional administrations, which are like provincial or state governments, make their own foreign policy. Its leaders travel to other countries and meet foreign leaders, making deals.
All parties, foreign and domestic, are enemies of Al-Shabab. With all these players involved, the conflict in Somalia is far from over.
If you are able to understand all this, you are now qualified to advise Donald Trump on Somalia.