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Mimesis and Mimicry in Dynamics of State and Identity Formation in Northern Somalia

  • Markus V. Hoehne

In this article, mimesis and mimicry are used as analytical concepts to explore dynamics of state and identity formation in Somaliland and Puntland since the early 1990s. Mimesis captures endeavours to imitate well-established models of social and political organization. Mimicry involves the deceptive imitation of such models in order to reach a certain aim. In the particular setting of northern Somalia, miming and mimicking in state and identity formation are also related to conflict escalation. The article first presents relevant political and legal positions on state collapse and secession. This helps to grasp the theoretical and policy implications of the empirical material. Then, the establishment of Somaliland and Puntland through mimesis and mimicry is sketched. The outline of the repeated military confrontations between both sides, particularly the last round of fighting in and around the town of Laascaanood in late 2007, indicates the relation of state and identity formation to military conflict. These localized dynamics are embedded into the continuing conflict in southern Somalia that involves a number of internal and external actors. The article concludes that miming and mimicking underlie many of Somaliland's and Puntland's internal developments and their conflictive relationship. Moreover, since the conflict in northern Somalia concerns state formation, it might have far-reaching consequences for the future of Somalia as a whole. This finally leads to the suggestion that the international norms regarding state collapse and secession have to be re-evaluated in the light of the empirical realities at hand.

Dans cet article, le mimétisme et l'imitation sont utilisés comme concepts analytiques pour explorer la dynamique de l’État et la formation identitaire dans le Somaliland et le Puntland depuis le début des années 1990. Le mimétisme traduit les tentatives d'imiter des modèles bien établis d'organisation sociale et politique. L'imitation désigne l'imitation trompeuse de tels modèles dans un but précis. Dans le contexte particulier du Nord de la Somalie, le mimétisme et l'imitation dans la formation de l’État et de l'identité sont également liés à l'escalade des conflits. L'article commence par présenter les positions politiques et juridiques pertinentes sur l'effondrement de l’État et la sécession. Ce faisant, il aide à saisir les implications théoriques et politiques du matériel empirique. Il décrit ensuite l’établissement du Somaliland et du Puntland par le biais du mimétisme et de l'imitation. L'exposé des confrontations militaires répétées entre les deux bords, notamment la dernière vague de combats dans la ville de Laascaanood et ses environs fin 2007, montre le lien entre la formation de l’État et de l'identité et le conflit militaire. Ces dynamiques localisées se fondent dans le conflit qui persiste dans le Sud de la Somalie et implique un certain nombre d'acteurs internes et externes. L'article conclut que le mimétisme et l'imitation sont à la base d'un grand nombre d’événements internes au Somaliland et au Puntland et de leur relation conflictuelle. De plus, parce que le conflit du Nord de la Somalie concerne la formation de l’État, il peut avoir des conséquences considérables pour le futur de la Somalie dans son ensemble. L'article finit en suggérant qu'il conviendrait de réévaluer les normes internationales en matière d'effondrement d’État et de sécession, à la lumière des réalités empiriques disponibles.

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