State of Accountability in Somalia in 2020

With poor rule of law and non-existent institutions to hold those in power accountable, bribe paying is on the rise in Somalia, especially in areas with strong state presence. While overall bribe-paying is 14%, it is a deflated number because the state is weak or not present in most of the country. In some districts in Mogadishu, where the state is strongest, bribe-paying is as high as 50%. Demand for bribes is highest with the federal government security forces, regional security forces, and Al-Shabab. The FMSs of Southwest State and the Banadir Regional Authority (a de facto FMS) see a disproportionate bribe demand, strengthening the assessment that heavier state presence is characterised by increase in incidences of bribe paying.

Securitisation without strengthening the rule of law is leading Somalia towards having a state that is unconstrained by law and unresponsive to the will of the people. Those investing in security in Somalia have a moral obligation to demand and invest more in the rule of law and democratisation, including anticorruption, or risk creating an authoritarian state. Such a state will not fulfil the aim of Somalia’s donors, as terrorism will continue to go unchecked, and those in power will continue to misuse donor funds for their own security and not for the reason they received the funds.


Somalia’s state collapse in 1991 was preceded by 22 years of dictatorship that saw the suspension of accountable institutions and the erosion of the rule of law and the brutal use of the state’s powers to keep the ruling elite in power. Unfortunately for Somalia, it seems little was learned from that chapter in our history. In the reconstituted Somalia, the bulk of investment has gone into strengthening the state without strengthening the rule of law or building its accountable institutions. This is analogous to building a car without safety features such as breaks and airbags. Without the necessary institutions to check the power of the security forces, public trust in the state and their willingness to respect the rule of law is diminished as state power is used against political opponents and the law favours bribe-payers.

The current trajectory of the reconstituted Somali state does not inspire confidence that the end result will not be state failure if and when international support is halted. This report will show that bribe-paying is not only very high across the country, but also significantly higher in areas where the state is strongest. This suggests that the disproportionate investment in security as opposed to the rule of law and democratisation has resulted in security forces that are unaccountable except to their paymasters; justice that is sold to the highest bidder; and a disregard for state authority by the citizenry.

While Somalia’s international donors have spent a lot of their people’s taxes on supporting democratisation in Somalia, little has changed in the past nine years. Members of parliament are selected by gatekeepers that have little to no representative authority. Without an accountable government, it is impossible for the public to affect their future or trust the government as representative of their interests.

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