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The United Nations and Somalia

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Numerous scholars have provided different explanations as to why the United Nations (UN) involvement in Somalia failed. Some have searched for an explanation in the structure of the UN and have suggested that lack of resources and inefficient UN bureaucracy were to blame. Others have faulted the anarchic nature of the international system in which the UN finds itself. Still others have attributed the failure of the mission to the confusion over the respecive roles of the UN and the U.S. This article argues that the UN involvement in Somalia is better explained from the perspective of a patron-client relationship. Applying Ravenhill's collective clientelist model, the paper argues that the UN acted as a patron in a collective clientelist relationship even though all of the components that sustain such a relationship were not present. It is further argued that (i) the UN-Somalia relationship was unstable because the UN neglected the development of cooperative horizontal relationships among various Somali factions in favor of a predominantly vertical relationship between itself and the various Somali factions, and (ii) the precipitous decline of the UN-Somalia relationship was unavoidable because of the particularistic motives and varying interests of each participant.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Science, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Kearney, NE 68849, U.S.A.


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