Thursday, May 24, 2012

SOMALI PEACE MAKING PROCESS PAPER





60

| Accord | ISSUE 21





On 18 May 1991, a few months after the collapse of

the Siyad Barre regime, the Somali National Movement

(SNM) declared the people of the northern regions were

ceding from Somalia to form the Republic of Somaliland.

Over the next three years, clan elders steered the new state

through a series of reconciliation conferences that laid the

basis for the stability that exists in Somaliland today. This

interview with Hajji Abdi Hussein, a prominent Somaliland

elder, explores his role in peacemaking and unifying a

divided society.





How and when did you become an elder? What was the

process of nomination and how it was conducted?





My elder brother passed away in 1940 and I was nominated

by our clan as his successor. This followed the Somali

tradition that when either your father or your elder brother

passes away, you will be nominated as his successor by

clan elders.

I initially refused the offer and only accepted once the clan

agreed to three conditions: to protect and keep the peace;

to abide by the government’s rulings; and not to be envious

or jealous of what other clans have. I was consequently

inaugurated as the chief (

aqal) of my sub-clan.





The role of Somaliland

elders in making and

keeping peace





a conversation with Hajji Abdi Hussein Yusuf





Haji Abdi Hussein Yususf ‘Abdi Warabe’ is one of oldest and well known genuine traditional leaders in Somaliland. He is the second deputy

chair of the Elders House (

Guurti) of the Somaliland bi-cameral parliament. He is known for his tough positions and strong voice in both





traditional conflict resolution issues and peacebuilding and political challenges. He was one of the few elders who were instrumental in

the 1993 Borame conference where the successful social contract was agreed among the Somaliland clans and from there the Somaliland

Administration was given a solid basis to take incremental growth to date. His traditional title is ‘chief Aqil’.





Haji Abdi attending the 10

th





anniversary celebrations of the

establishment of the Academy

for Peace and Development

in Hargeisa, Somaliland, 12

October 2008. © APD





Somali peace processes

| 61





What was your role during the insurgency against the regime

of Siyad Barre?





During the war, I retreated to a small village in Ethiopia, from

where I was active in gathering together elders, military leaders

and sheikhs, to discuss the future of the SNM.

One of the disputes I helped to resolve was the transfer of power

from one chairman of the SNM to another. This change of

leadership was instrumental in restoring the strength and unity

of the movement and averting a potential conflict among its

members. Later on I was involved in the transfer of power from

the SNM military leaders to the Somaliland council of elders

(

Guurti), which enabled Somaliland’s traditional elders to play a





role in building peace and coexistence among Somaliland’s clans.





What was the specific role that you played in the Somaliland

inter-clan reconciliation process?





After the SNM defeated Siyad Barre I returned to Somaliland

and worked with other elders to defuse conflicts between

different clans

. I played a leading part in the various Somaliland





national reconciliation conferences, which discussed the future

of Somaliland and how to incorporate people from clans that

had previously supported the Barre regime. These issues were

ultimately resolved through dialogue.

During the insurgency I had argued that if the SNM proved

successful, it should accommodate clans who supported

the former government. This policy has been followed. It has

maintained the unity of Somalilanders, fostered trust among

people, and defused inter-clan conflict. It has enabled us to

establish a central government and parliament that could

represent the entire people of Somaliland.





What is the role of the

Guurti in conflict resolution?





The main role of the council of elders has been to maintain

peace. They have been able to resolve conflicts in ways that

are familiar to them and to avoid military intervention. Somali

culture provides that elders are representatives of the clans.

They speak on behalf of their clan and also have full authority

to make decisions on its behalf. They have enormous power

that they can exert on two conflicting parties.





Have you played a role in the statebuilding process?





During the 1993 Borama National Reconciliation Conference,

where the Somaliland clans came together to decide upon the

future system of government, I was involved in discussions on

deciding what political systems we should adopt.

I suggested that the best political structure is the presidential

system. I argued the presidential system had three

advantages for the peace and security of the country. Firstly,

a directly elected president would not create tension among

the clans. Secondly, the president needed to be given full

power in order to maintain a strong and effective central

government. And finally, the president could only be removed

from office through an impeachment process and not by

violent means.





During the Borama Conference it was agreed that the

government must draft a constitution to make Somaliland a

constitutional democracy. Have you played a role during the

democratization process of Somaliland?





After adopting a presidential system, the interim government

began drafting a national constitution, which would provide a

baseline for the peace and stability of Somaliland. This took a

long time. During the constitution-making process I helped to

resolve disputes between the executive and the legislature on

the adoption of the constitution. This was achieved through

compromise, dialogue and a vision to rebuild the country

together.





What was your role in the institutionalization of the

Guurti?





On my return to Somaliland I had helped to establish an

informal group of the

Guurti to help defuse conflicts. At the





Borama conference, I lobbied for the

Guurti to be incorporated





into the new political system. This enabled us to preserve

the traditional methods of managing conflict for use when

new conflicts arise. In this way we played a crucial role in the

institutionalization of the

Guurti.





Why have internationally sponsored national peace

conferences for Somalia failed?





During the colonial era, southern Somalia was colonized by

Italy, which destroyed the traditional conflict management

systems, rendering the elders ineffective. So their role in

conflict management and peacebuilding disappeared.

But Somaliland, which was colonized by Britain, kept its

own traditional conflict management mechanisms in place

and these values and norms were not disrupted. These

have ultimately enabled us to reconcile our people and have

nurtured mutual trust and dialogue.





Interview by Mohamed Farah, the Academy for Peace and

Development.


http://www.c-r.org/sites/c-r.org/files/Accord%2021_18The%20role%20of%20Somaliland%20elders%20in%20making%20and%20kepping%20peace_2010_ENG.pdf



68
| Accord | ISSUE 21

Bakaaro market lies in the heart of Mogadishu. As the

economic powerhouse of Somalia it has shown a remarkable

capacity for survival and revival during two decades of

protracted civil conflict. Bakaaro’s story shows the resilience

of the Somali business community and the role it can play in

building peace, or in fuelling war.

History of Bakaaro

The name Bakaaro comes from the underground kilns that

are used to produce lime for construction. In 1950s there

were many such kilns in the current Bakaaro area. The first

makeshift shacks appeared at the northern edge of Bakaaro

in the late 1950s selling meat, milk, dates, salt, tobacco and

other small items. Bakaaro market grew in the 1960s when the

government settled people on a large tract of land to the south.

In the early 1970s Bakaaro market became part of Howlwadaag

district where government employees – civil servants

and military and police officers – were allocated land to

construct houses. By the end of the decade the settlement of

relatively wealthy people in Howl-wadaag, and improved access

due to the construction of four tarmac roads around Bakaaro

encouraged expansion of the market to the east.

The first big food stores, shops, restaurants and hotels in

Mogadishu were constructed in the vicinity of Bakaaro.

Because Mogadishu’s larger markets in Via Egitto, Via Roma,

and the more recently established cloth and electronic

market of Ba’adle in Hamar-weyne district, had little room

for expansion, Bakaaro began to attract well-established

businesses. In 1983 another wave of businesspeople moved to

Bakaaro after fire engulfed Ba’adle market.

The collapse of Siyad Barre’s regime in 1991 unshackled

the creativity of the private sector from constrictive state

regulations. New businesses flourished including
hawala

(money transfer agencies
), telecommunications (particularly

cheap telephones) and new transport and media companies.

In the big cities and towns, particularly Mogadishu,

businesspeople established privately owned hospitals,

schools, electricity generators, drinking water companies and

even a Coca Cola factory. Somali traders started exporting

livestock, skins and hides, fish, and fruits and sesame oil, and

importing all manner of goods: food, construction materials,

petrol and medicines. The vast majority of these economic

activities were based in Bakaaro market. Bakaaro grew to

become one of the largest and busiest markets in East Africa,

supplying a wide variety of imported and locally produced

goods to much of Somalia and the Somali speaking regions of

Ethiopia and Kenya.

Bakaaro also functions as the ‘Wall Street’ of Somalia. Somali

shillings and foreign currency both circulate in the market.

In the absence of a Somali central bank, exchange rates in

many parts of the country are pegged to rates set in Bakaaro.

It houses the main
hawala, such as Dahabshiil, Amal and

Qaran, as well as the major telecommunications companies

– Hormuud, Telecom Somalia and NationLink – and airline

ticketing offices. The most popular media houses, HornAfrik,

Radio Shabelle and Radio Simba also have their headquarters

in Bakaaro.

This bustling market is also an arms bazaar servicing all parties

to the conflict. The weapons market is a notorious feature

of Bakaaro and has earned it the nickname
Cir Toogte (‘Sky

Shooter’), based on the practice of allowing customers to testfire

on the spot all sorts of light weapons, including AK47s.

Imported weaponry ranging from small arms to anti-aircraft

missiles can all be bought there.

Challenges to Bakaaro

Bakaaro market and the people who work there have

overcome many challenges in the last 40 years, including the

oppressive political and economic system of the Barre regime

and recurrent fires. Because of its wealth it has attracted the

attention of warlords, bandits, militias and soldiers. It has

suffered attacks, extortion and looting.

One of the most serious challenges to Bakaaro occurred in

2007-08 as a result of the military alliance between Somalia’s

Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Ethiopian troops.

Some members of the TFG were convinced that, as the

economic hub of Mogadishu, Bakaaro was a source of funding

for insurgent forces that were operating against it. The former

Mayor of Mogadishu at that time, Mohamed Omar Habeb,

described Bakaaro as a hub for ‘anti-peace elements’. Indeed,

the market did become militarized, with insurgent forces taking

control of the strategic junctions in various districts, including

Howl-wadaag, Blacksea and Bar Ubah.

Business

as usual

Bakaaro market in war

Somali peace processes
| 69

Gaining control of Bakaaro market became one of the

priorities of the TFG and its Ethiopian allies. They used all

means at their disposal to achieve this, from threats and

blackmail to full-scale attacks, causing many casualties and

massive destruction of property (
see box 3).

The TFG did not succeed in bringing Bakaaro under its control.

When Ethiopian troops left Somalia in January 2009 there was a

collective sigh of relief in the market. However it has continued to

be a war zone between the government and insurgents. On several

occasions it has come under intense shelling by the African Union

Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and by insurgent forces.

Market forces: private sector contribution to

peacebuilding

People who own and manage big businesses wield enormous

power in Somalia. This can be used in two ways: either to build

peace for the benefit of all; or to collude with warlords and

other elements who gain from instability. In the early 1990s

when clan rivalry was at its peak in Mogadishu there were

many examples of businesspeople who became warlords or

financiers of warlords.

However from the second half of the 1990s animosity among

clans gradually decreased. Many businesspeople started

arming themselves and, more importantly, recruiting staff

from other clans to defend their businesses. Thereafter, mixed

ownership of businesses by people from different clans and

different geographical areas became standard practice.

Today businesspeople from south-central Somalia have booming

businesses in Somaliland and Puntland, and vice versa.

Entrepreneurs are becoming bolder in setting up inter-clan

businesses because they are more profitable. This contributes to

overcoming clan hostilities and to promoting stability.

The private sector has contributed to peacebuilding in Somalia

by paying for the disarmament, rehabilitation and employment

of thousands of former gunmen, although not in an organized

or coordinated fashion. In Mogadishu, many telephone

repairmen, petty traders, drivers and company or business

guards are former gunmen. Business also finances clan elders

in peacemaking processes and usually pays the costs of interclan

meeting venues, transport and lunches.

The business community helps to mitigate the consequences

of conflict by paying for fuel for hospitals regardless of their

location, assisting the victims of drought, paying school fees

regardless of students’ clan affiliation and supplying food and

clothes to internally displaced people in and around Mogadishu

and surrounding areas.

With more organization the role of businesspeople in building

peace could be enhanced still further, even twisting the arms of

the politicians to reach political settlement.

The author is a Somali writer. Author’s identity withheld.

Box 3

Bakaaro Market protection initiative

Between December 2006 and January 2008 local

security forces nominally attached to the TFG

targeted businesses in the Bakaaro district and looted

substantial amounts of money, causing the death of

many traders, labourers, and bystanders. As the fights

against the TFG and Ethiopian occupation intensified

insurgents established a foothold in the market. From

February 2008 attacks on the market increased with

government forces raiding and looting the market on

multiple occasions under the pretext of security sweeps.

Civic activists, representatives from the business

community, human rights activists and religious

leaders undertook an initiative to address the

escalating insecurity. After several discussions they

concluded that the solution was to demilitarize the

market area and establish a community police force.

To achieve this, civic actors created committees to

engage the TFG and the insurgents in dialogue. The

committees increased pressure on the parties, using

both the local and international media to showcase

the plight of the market.

After tough negotiations the committees managed

to broker a Memorandum of Understanding with the

parties. This agreed to:

􀁴􀀁
Demilitarize the market zone

􀁴􀀁
Deploy a 450 person community police force in

the market

􀁴􀀁
Establish a Peace Fund for the protection of the

market and humanitarian services

􀁴􀀁
Establish a coordination committee to monitor

the implementation of the agreement.

All of this was to be achieved within 30 days. The

MOU was implemented and businesses were able to

resume their activities with greater security.

By Mohamed Ahmed Jama, see p. 66
6
| Accord | ISSUE 21

For two decades Somalia has defied all foreign diplomatic,

military and statebuilding interventions. None of the

governments that have emerged from internationally

sponsored peace processes have been able to establish their

authority or deliver security and law and services to the

Somali people.

Since 2001 international engagement has served to deepen the

humanitarian and political crisis in southern Somalia, leaving

more than three million people in urgent need of humanitarian

assistance in 2009.

In the absence of government, however, Somali people have

employed their own resources and traditions of conflict

resolution to recreate security in many communities. Somaliled

initiatives have succeeded in establishing political and

administrative arrangements that in some places are proving to

be stable.

The northern polities of the Republic of Somaliland and the

Puntland State of Somalia are evidence of what Somalis can

achieve. Even in volatile south central Somalia, there has been

evidence of the positive impact that Somali approaches to

reconciliation and security management can have.

Somalia’s protracted crisis has received intermittent

international attention. In the early 1990s a major humanitarian

and peacekeeping intervention – the UN Mission in Somalia

(UNOSOM) – was mounted. When it failed to revive the

state the wider international community largely lost interest

and Somalia’s neighbours – Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya –

increasingly led the search for solutions.

After 9/11 international attention inevitably swung back to

Somalia because of the perceived link between failed states

and international terrorism. The brief emergence of an Islamist

administration in the capital Mogadishu led to Ethiopian

military intervention in 2006 and the subsequent deployment

of African peacekeeping forces that have been trying to protect

the transitional government. Regional involvement by the

Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) is now a

permanent feature of efforts to restore peace to Somalia.

This publication examines the multiplicity of international

and Somali-led peace initiatives of the past two decades. It

has been a challenge to produce a study of Somali peace

processes against a backdrop of continuing conflict. Violence

has intensified in south central Somalia during the lifetime

of this project, begging the question whether there has been

any peace to study. It is a reflection of the pernicious violence

that three authors in this publication requested anonymity.

But we believe there are important lessons to be drawn

from experiences of Somali peacemaking. We hope that

this publication can help to inform the development of more

complementary and effective peacebuilding strategies.

A collaborative project

This issue of Accord has been produced in collaboration with

Interpeace, whose Somali partners have undertaken pioneering

work on recording, analyzing and supporting Somali-led

peace processes. The insights gained from the work of the

Center for Research and Dialogue (CRD) in south central

Somalia, the Puntland Development Research Center (PDRC)

in Puntland, and the Academy for Peace and Development

(APD) in Somaliland are integral to this study. It draws on

their work in 2007 in mapping Somali-led and internationallysponsored

peace processes. www.interpeace.org, situating

it within a broader comparative field of international conflict

resolution approaches in Somalia. In doing so it brings Somali

perspectives on conflict resolution to a wider international

Introduction

Whose peace is it anyway? connecting Somali and international

peacemaking

Mark Bradbury and Sally Healy

Somali peace processes
| 7

audience and deepens the debate about how endogenous

peacemaking methods can be better aligned with international

conflict mediation.

Structure of the publication

The publication is divided into four main sections. In the

introductory section we trace the history of the crisis, from a

civil war in the 1980s, through the period of state breakdown,

clan factionalism and warlordism in the 1990s, to a globalized

religious and ideological struggle in the new millennium.

The second section covers internationally-led peace processes,

the third deals with Somali-led peace processes and a fourth

section looks at efforts to build local structures of government. A

final section draws policy lessons for the future. We have sought

throughout to include the views of Somalis and practitioners and

participants in developing a critique of the various processes.

Lessons of international engagement

The first article by Ken Menkhaus asks why intensive

diplomatic interventions have failed to end the Somali crisis.

His critique of six Somali peace conferences identifies lack

of political will, misdiagnosis of the crisis, confusion between

statebuilding and reconciliation and poor mediation skills as

factors that have contributed to failure. It concludes with some

constructive lessons, above all the need to ensure greater

Somali ‘ownership’ of the peace process.

Jeremy Brickhill develops the critique of international

involvement. He explores how security arrangements have

been handled, arguing that the habitual international strategy

of building a state with a monopoly of violence has not worked.

Brickhill points out that security arrangements are central to

endogenous Somali peace processes and demonstrate that,

given the right conditions, Somalis are capable of managing

security outside the framework of the state.

Another intractable problem that international mediators have

faced is who has the right to represent the Somali people in

formal peace talks and in government. As Abdulaziz Xildhiban

and Warsan Cismaan Saalax discuss, political factions have

multiplied at every international peace conference since 1991

creating a recurrent dilemma of how to determine legitimate

and authoritative representation.

In Somali society political representation is a complex issue

related to notions of descent and perceived and self-ascribed

power, size and territorial control of clans. Markus Hoehne’s

article examines Somali notions of ‘belonging’ and reviews

representation in internationally-mediated peace conferences,

and local political representation in Sool region. He concludes

that a delegate’s legitimacy is tied to their ‘accountability’ to the

people who select them.

Lee Cassanelli’s contribution deepens the critique of

international engagement further with an emphasis on

economic factors. He identifies in private sector-led

economic recovery the potential to alter Somalia’s current

political trajectory through entrepreneurship and economic

development. He questions the international focus on politics

and statebuilding as prerequisites for economic recovery and

suggests focusing instead on Somalis as economic actors

and building on what they do best — namely, responding to

economic opportunities.

To provide an international perspective on the Somali conflict

and how to resolve it, we are pleased to have secured four

contributions from international practitioners. Three are senior

diplomats from international organizations whose mandates

charge them with responsibility for managing the Somali crisis.

Charles Petrie, UN Deputy Special Representative of the

Secretary-General (SRSG), reflects on the changing character

In the absence of government,

Somali people have employed

their own resources and

traditions of conflict resolution

to recreate security in many

communities”


Erigavo reconciliation conference 1993 © APD

8
| Accord | ISSUE 21

of UN intervention and the importance of partnership with

Somalis and with other international organizations. H.E. Mahboub

Maalim, Executive Secretary of IGAD, explains how and why

Somalia’s neighbours have shouldered responsibilities to restore

a functioning government and calls for more international support

for IGAD’s initiative. Nicolas Bwakira, Special Representative of

the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, discusses

the role that the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is playing in

support of Somalia’s transitional government.

A fourth article by Meredith Preston McGhie describes the

tactics employed by the UN as mediators in the 2008 peace

talks in Djibouti between the Transitional Federal Government

(TFG) and the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS).

Owning the peace: learning from Somali

peace processes

In part three of the publication we present a series of

articles that explore how Somali communities have achieved

reconciliation, managed their security and reconstructed

viable ways of life. Several of these articles draw on studies

by Interpeace’s partners in south central Somalia, Puntland

and Somaliland. Although little known beyond their immediate

setting, more than 90 local peace processes have been

catalogued in south central Somalia since 1991, more than 30

in Somaliland between 1991 and 1997 and eight in Puntland.

As Pat Johnson and Abdirahman Raghe explain, these

locally-managed processes have proved more effective than

internationally-sponsored national reconciliation initiatives.

In Somaliland and Puntland they have led to the creation of

government structures that enjoy more public consent and are

less predatory than the highly contested ‘national’ authorities

produced by internationally-sponsored processes.

Articles by Ibrahim Ali Amber ‘Oker’ and Abdulrahman Osman

‘Shuke’ describe how local peace processes draw on traditional

practices of negotiation, mediation and arbitration conducted by

clan elders using customary law as a moral and legal framework

[
see glossary for a description of clan, elder and customary law].

This section includes interviews with three senior Somali elders

from south central Somalia, Puntland and Somaliland who are

practitioners in reconciliation. The authority of elders is derived

from being delegates of their communities and accountable to

them. Hajji Abdi Hussein Yusuf, Sultan Said and Malaq Isaaq

discuss the qualities that Somali elders are expected to possess

and the role they play in maintaining peace.

Formal public peace processes are only one way in which

Somalis manage conflicts. Articles by Faiza Jama on women

and peacebuilding and Jama Mohamed on ‘neighbourhood

watch’ and on security schemes for Mogadishu’s Bakaaro

market demonstrate that peacemaking is not the sole preserve of

elders. Civic activists have mobilized groups in Mogadishu and

elsewhere to reduce violence and create conditions for dialogue

by demolishing checkpoints, demobilizing militia, monitoring

human rights and interceding between belligerents.

Women in particular, who have very limited opportunities to

participate in formal peace processes, have provided critical

leadership in such civil society peace initiatives. Another ‘non

traditional’ actor is the decentralised local authority of Wajid,

whose endeavours to manage competing clan interests and

maintain access for humanitarian assistance in the midst of

violent political changes in south central Somalia are described

in a further article.

A final contribution in this section explores how social and

cultural components of Somali life can impact on peace and

security. Maxamed Daahir Afrax’s article discusses how Somali

poets, singers and actors have responded to the long crisis. He

explains the importance of understanding war and peace in the

Somali regions through a cultural lens and the power of culture

in influencing attitudes to both.

Frameworks for stability

The fourth section of the publication discusses some of the

efforts, successful and unsuccessful, to create more enduring

systems for the maintenance of peace and order.

Ulf Terlinden and Mohamed Hassan chart the history

of Somaliland’s political development from indigenous

grassroots peacebuilding processes in the early 1990s to the

development of a democratic political system from 2002.

Not withstanding the issue of contested sovereignty over the

eastern regions and the stalled presidential elections in 2009,

Somaliland has emerged as one of the most peaceful polities

in the Horn of Africa.

Hassan Sheikh’s article on Mogadishu describes the many

attempts made since 1991 to establish an administration in the

capital, ranging from political deals between faction leaders to

community initiatives on local level security. The brief authority

of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) in 2006 that brought security

to the streets of Mogadishu for the first time since 1991 gave

a glimpse of what could be possible. But external interests

prevented this from developing further.

The challenges of constitution-making illustrate the contested

nature of statehood. Three linked articles by Kirsti Samuels,

Ibrahim Hashi Jama, and Ahmed Abbas Ahmed and

Somali peace processes
| 9

Ruben Zamora explore the varying experiences of drawing

up constitutions in Somalia, Somaliland and Puntland. In

Somaliland and Puntland this has helped to consolidate

peace and create structures of government, but the lack of a

political settlement in south central Somalia has made progress

impossible.

Islam is a fundamental pillar of Somali society and provides

an important moral compass in Somali peace processes.

An article on Islam explores this, discussing the rise of the

Islamic Courts and the impact of Islamic militancy with which

Somalis are currently grappling. The violence perpetrated by

militant Islamists in Somalia obscures the fact that peace and

reconciliation are fundamental tenants of Islam.

The Somali diaspora has been one of the most important

drivers of economic recovery in Somalia. Khadra Elmi’s

article explores the complex ties of Somali diaspora youth

in Britain to their home country. Their social milieu in the

UK, compounded by generational issues and events in

international politics, has ‘radicalized’ some of these young

people although many more are constructively involved in

responding to humanitarian needs in Somalia. This positive

engagement is something that can be harnessed to bring new

and fresh approaches to Somali peacebuilding.

Somalia has one of the largest internally displaced populations

in the world. Anna Lindley observes that while Somali elite in

the diaspora do exert an influence on Somali politics, the voices

of the displaced and other marginalized people in the country

and overseas need to be heard.

Peacebuilding and statebuilding

The name Somalia remains synonymous with conflict, violence,

warlordism, famine, refugees, terrorism,
jihadism, and piracy.

As this report shows, despite this image, it is not a lawless and

ungoverned land, but one where Somali people over the past

two decades have forged systems of governance to manage

conflict and provide security and law.

With minimal international assistance, Somalis have also rebuilt

their cities and towns, built new schools, universities, medical

facilities, developed multi-million dollar enterprises, created

efficient money transfer systems and established some of the

cheapest and most extensive telecommunication networks in

Africa. It is this Somali talent and capacity that the international

community needs to foster and tap into.

At the heart of the Somali crisis is an unresolved problem

over the nature of statehood. Since the collapse of the

state, power and authority has been fractured and radically

decentralized among the clans and political elites. While

international diplomacy continues to adopt a statebuilding

approach aimed at restoring a sovereign national

government, Somalis themselves have been re-establishing

systems of governance.

What sets Somali and internationally-sponsored peace

processes apart is that they are locally designed, managed,

mediated and financed; in other words ‘Somali-owned’. They

work with the grain of the clan system, are based on consensus

decision-making and focus on reconciliation and the restoration

of public security.

Somaliland and Puntland demonstrate the potential and

sustainability of ‘home-grown’ peacemaking and reconciliation.

They show the desire among Somalis for government and a

capacity for self-governance given the right conditions.

Local reconciliation has proved much more difficult in south

central Somalia, where a combination of local structural

inequalities and greater international attention has made

conflict more intractable. Even here local initiatives have

achieved a great deal, but they are vulnerable to national and

international dynamics. The demobilization exercises organized

by women, the neighbourhood security arrangements that

flourished in Mogadishu and the security brought briefly by the

ICU to parts of south central Somalia all foundered as a result

of national and international pressures.

No single factor can explain the causes of the conflict and there

is no consensus among Somalis on how it should be resolved.

The nature of the crisis has mutated and efforts to resolve it

have been frustrated by a host of domestic and external actors.

Islamist militancy has brought a new dimension to the twentyyear

conflict and has become one of the most pressing issues

for international actors. Somalis are themselves grappling with

how to respond to this as much as the international community.

It is time for the international community to find more effective

ways to move the country out of this protracted crisis and to

develop methods that are more responsive to Somali realities.

Mark Bradbury is a social analyst who has worked extensively in

Somalia and Somaliland with Somali and international organizations.

He is the author of
Becoming Somaliland (James Currey) and is the

Chair of the Board of Conciliation Resources.

Sally Healy is an Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of

International Affairs (Chatham House) and has worked as a Horn of

Africa analyst for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.



10
| Accord | ISSUE 21

Over the past two decades the nature of the Somali crisis and

the international context within which it is occurring have

been constantly changing. It has mutated from a civil war

in the 1980s, through state collapse, clan factionalism and

warlordism in the 1990s, to a globalized ideological conflict

in the first decade of the new millennium.

In this time the international environment has also changed,

from the end of the Cold War to the ‘global war on terror’, which

impacts directly on the crisis and international responses to

it. This poses a problem for Somalis and international actors

working to build peace. Initiatives that may have appeared to

offer a solution in earlier years may no longer be applicable and

there is a risk of fighting yesterday’s war or building yesterday’s

peace. This article traces the evolution of the Somali conflict

and some of the continuities that run through it.

From Cold War to civil war 1988-91

The collapse of the Somali state was the consequence of a

combination of internal and external factors. Externally there

were the legacies of European colonialism that divided the

Somali people into five states, the impact of Cold War politics

in shoring up a predatory state, and the cumulative effect of

wars with neighbouring states, most damagingly the 1977-78

Ogaden war with Ethiopia. Internally, there were contradictions

between a centralized state authority, and a fractious kinship

system and the Somali pastoral culture in which power is

diffused.

Next came the Somali National Movement (SNM) formed in 1982

that drew its support from the Isaaq clan. The SNM insurgency

escalated into a full-scale civil war in 1988 when it attacked

government garrisons in Burco and Hargeisa. The government

responded with a ferocious assault on the Isaaq clan, killing some

50,000 people and forcing 650,000 to flee to Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Somalia’s collapse was hastened by the ending of the Cold War.

As Somalia’s strategic importance to the West declined, the

foreign aid that had sustained the state was withdrawn. Without

the resources to maintain the system of patronage politics,

Barre lost control of the country and the army. In January 1991

he was ousted from Mogadishu by forces of the United Somali

Congress (USC) drawing support from the Hawiye clans in

south central Somalia.

State collapse, clan war and famine 1991-92

Somalis use the word
burbur (‘catastrophe’) to describe the period

from December 1991 to March 1992, when the country was torn

apart by clan-based warfare and factions plundered the remnants

of the state and fought for control of rural and urban assets. Four

months of fighting in Mogadishu alone in 1991 and 1992 killed an

estimated 25,000 people, 1.5 million people fled the country, and

at least 2 million were internally displaced.

In the midst of drought, the destruction of social and economic

infrastructure, asset stripping, ‘clan-cleansing’ and the disruption

of food supplies caused a famine in which an estimated 250,000

died. Those who suffered most came from the politically

marginalized and poorly armed riverine and inter-riverine agropastoral

communities in the south, who suffered waves of

invasions from the better-armed militia from the major clans.

External responses to Somalia’s collapse were belated because

other wars in the Gulf and the Balkans commanded international

attention. The Djibouti government tried unsuccessfully to broker

a deal in June and July 1991. UN diplomatic engagement began

only in early 1992, when a ceasefire was negotiated between the

two main belligerents in Mogadishu, Ali Mahdi Mohamed and

General Mohamed Farah Aideed. A limited UN peacekeeping

mission – the UN Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) – was unable

to stem the violence or address the famine.

Signs that war was radically restructuring the state came in May

1991 when the SNM declared that the northern regions were

seceding from the south to become the independent Republic of

Somaliland (
see box 1).

Endless war

a brief history of the Somali conflict

Mark Bradbury and Sally Healy

Somali peace processes
| 11

Humanitarian intervention

The Somali civil war erupted at a time of profound change in the

international order, as global institutions, with the US at their helm,

shaped up to managing an era of ‘new wars’ and ‘failing states’.

Somalia was to become a laboratory for a new form of engagement

when the international community responded with a humanitarian

and military intervention on an unprecedented scale.

In December 1992 the outgoing US administration authorized

the deployment of US forces to support the beleaguered

UN mission in Somalia. Under US leadership, UNOSOM

mustered a multinational force of some 30,000 troops.

Ostensibly launched for humanitarian reasons, the intervention

also responded to the challenge that the collapsed Somali

state posed to a supposed ‘new world order’, proclaimed by

President George Bush at the end of the Cold War. UNOSOM

dominated Somali politics for the next three years.

UNOSOM turned world attention to a neglected crisis and assisted

in saving lives by securing food supplies. It facilitated some local

agreements that improved security, reopened Mogadishu airport

and seaport, and supported the revival of key services and the

creation of local non-governmental organizations. It also provided

employment and injected huge resources into the economy to the

benefit of a new business class.

However, the mission failed to mediate an end to hostilities or

disarm factions. UN-facilitated peace conferences in Addis Ababa

in 1993 and Kenya in 1994 did not engender a process of national

reconciliation and state revival. The mission has been criticized for

fuelling the war economy, causing a proliferation of factions and

shoring up warlord power structures. Before long UNOSOM itself

became embroiled in the conflict with General Aideed, leading

to the infamous shooting down of US Black Hawk helicopters in

Mogadishu and the subsequent withdrawal of US forces.

Some argue that the seeds of militant Islamist movements were

planted in this period. Osama bin Laden, then based Sudan,

denounced the UN mission as an invasion of a Muslim country.

Governance without government

UNOSOM’s humiliating departure from Somalia was followed

by international disengagement and a decline in foreign aid. Its

departure in March 1995 did not lead to a revival of the civil war,

however. Local political processes that had been ‘frozen’ by the

intervention resumed and clans and factions consolidated the

gains they had made during the war.

In some areas communities drew on traditional institutions, such

as elders and customary law (
xeer), to end violent confrontations,

renegotiate relations between groups and establish local

Box 1

The Republic of Somaliland

On 18 May 1991, at the ‘Grand Conference of

Northern Clans’ in the northern city of Burco, the

SNM announced that the northern regions were

withdrawing from the union with the south and

reasserting their sovereign independence as the

Republic of Somaliland.

The declaration, made under public pressure, has

left a deep rift in Somali politics that has yet to be

resolved. In 1991, however, the move insulated

Somaliland from the war and famine in the south and

enabled people to begin a process of reconstruction

and statebuilding.

That process has not been easy. Between 1992

and 1996 Somaliland experienced two civil wars.

Embargoes on imports of Somali livestock by Gulf

countries, the return of refugees, urban drift, and

contested territorial claims over the eastern regions

have presented challenges.

Yet today Somaliland has all the attributes of a

sovereign state with an elected government that

provides security for its citizens, exercises control

over its borders, manages some public assets,

levies taxes, issues currency and formulates

development policies. This has been achieved

through the resourcefulness and resources of people

in Somaliland and the diaspora, with minimal

international assistance.

Acknowledgment of what has been achieved in

Somaliland has been growing, but no country has

formal diplomatic relations with it and it therefore

has no international legal status or representation in

international forums.

And yet a generation has grown up in Somaliland

that knows no other country than the one they

have been educated in, and no other government

than the one that they are now able to vote for.

Continuing international ambivalence over the status

of Somaliland entrenches the vulnerability of the

new state and ensures that it remains, in essence, a

‘fragile state’.

12
| Accord | ISSUE 21

governance structures as a transitional step to developing public

administrations and regional and trans-regional polities.

The most successful and sustained of these processes

took place in the secessionist Somaliland state. Elsewhere,

the Rahanweyn clans of Bay and Bakool region created a

Governing Council to administer their regions. Although this did

not survive for long after UNOSOM, it established a precedent

for the decentralized administration of those regions.

In 1998 Puntland Federal State of Somalia was established

in the northeast as an autonomously governed region (
see

box 2
). In 1999 the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA), with

Ethiopian backing, won control of Bay and Bakool regions and

also established an administration.

In southern Somalia a variety of institutions emerged,

including two ‘governments’ in Mogadishu, councils of

elders, district councils and
Shari’a courts, which provided

forms of ‘governance without government’. While fragile and

uncoordinated, these structures produced an incremental

improvement in security, so that by the late 1990s the situation

in much of Somalia was described as ‘neither war nor peace’.

These developments were driven by a convergence of internal

and external interests. There was an internal demand for security,

regulation and order from businesspeople, civil society groups

and people in the diaspora. This was underpinned by economic

recovery, stimulated by diaspora remittances, and renewed interclan

cooperation and the resumption of inter-regional trade.

Somalis took advantage of the lack of government and the

global deregulation of trade to establish successful businesses,

including money transfer and telecommunications. Their

participation in
Salafi commercial networks, and an increase

in Islamic charitable funding, spurred the growth of Islamic

organizations including welfare charities,
Shari’a courts and

Islamist movements.

Building blocks and regional initiatives

The disengagement from Somalia of Western governments

resulted in the diplomatic initiative passing regional states and

in particular Ethiopia. Addis Ababa’s engagement was driven

as much by geo-political, security and economic interests as by

concern to end Somalia’s political turmoil.

Ethiopia was especially concerned by the growth of an armed

Islamist group in Somalia, Al Itihad Al Islamiya, with regional

ambitions. Ethiopian forces attacked and destroyed Al Itihad

camps in the border areas during 1997. At the same time,

Ethiopia brought Somali factions together at Sodere and

attempted to broker an agreement.

Egypt, Libya and Yemen and the Arab League also made

endeavours to broker settlements, but reconciliation in Somalia

was actively hindered by competition between these initiatives.

After 1998 the breakdown in relations between Ethiopia and

Eritrea gave a new impetus to the destabilization of Somalia.

Eritrea supported Somali factions opposed to those aligned with

Ethiopia, introducing a new element of proxy war to an already

crowded arena.

In the late 1990s regional rivalries were reflected in different

approaches to statebuilding. The model favoured by Ethiopia

and briefly supported by Western donors was the so-called

‘building-block’ approach. Taking a lead from developments

in Somaliland and Puntland, the RRA administration in Bay

Box 2

Puntland State of Somalia

In 1998 political leaders in northeast Somalia,

frustrated at the lack of progress from internationallymediated

talks in Ethiopia and Egypt, decided to wait

no longer for a national government to emerge.

A series of consultative conferences led to the creation

of Puntland State of Somalia in August 1998, as a

self-governing state in Somalia’s north eastern regions.

Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf, military leader of the SSDF, was

selected as Puntland’s first president. He later became

president of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government.

As a non-secessionist state, Puntland epitomizes

a ‘building block’ for a future federal Somali state

within the 1990 state borders and was duly supported

as such by the international community.

Puntland is a form of ‘ethno-state’, founded on the unity

of the Harti clan. Along with the Majeerteen, this includes

the Dhulbahante and Warsengeli clans of Sool and

Eastern Sanaag regions over which Somaliland also claims

sovereignty. The territorial dispute between Puntland and

Somaliland has at times escalated into violent clashes and

remains a deep fault line in Somali politics.

Puntland has experienced acute internal divisions and

more recently has become internationally known as

the home of Somali pirates. However it has remained a

relatively stable polity and is in the process of reviewing

its constitution and democratizing its political systems.

Somali peace processes
| 13

and Bakool regions and an all-Hawiye peace conference in

Beletweyn in 1999, the approach sought to encourage the

emergence of regional authorities as a first step towards

establishing a federal or confederal Somali state.

Donor and development organizations hoped to encourage

the process by rewarding the areas of stability with ‘peace

dividends’ of aid. Critics of the approach contended that it had

limited applicability in the south, encouraged secessionism

and was designed by foreign states to keep Somalia weak

and divided. The alternative approach, supported by Arab

countries, advocated reviving a centralized Somali state through

a process of national reconciliation and the formation of a

national government.

Competing regional interests led to rival peace conferences

sponsored by Ethiopia in Sodere in 1996, and by Egypt in Cairo

in 1997. These produced two regional administrations: the shortlived

Benadir Administration supported by Egypt and Libya; and

the government of Puntland Federal State of Somalia.

The Benadir Administration collapsed when its leadership failed

to agree on modalities for reopening Mogadishu seaport, while in

Puntland a combination of a community-driven political processes

and strong leadership produced a functional administration.

Somalis were also divided over the right approach. As the

multiple clan-based factions merged into larger regional and

transregional polities in the late 1990s, they also mutated

into broader political coalitions. One such coalition centred

on Mogadishu and the sub-clans of the Hawiye clan-family.

Although the Hawiye had failed to reconcile with each other

and Mogadishu remained a divided city, but political, business,

civic and religious leaders supported the revival of a strong

central state in which they would dominate the capital. The

other coalition, backed by Ethiopia and led by Puntland

President, Abdullahi Yusuf, was dominated by the Darood clan,

was anti-Islamist and favoured a federal state.

In 1999 international support for the building block approach

ended when the government of Djibouti initiated a new national

peace process.

The return of government

Arta process

International diplomatic efforts were re-energized in 2000 when

the Djibouti government hosted the Somalia National Peace

Conference in the town of Arta. The ‘Arta process’ achieved an

important political breakthrough in August 2000 by producing

a Transitional National Government (TNG) that commanded

some national and international support.

This was due, in part, to an innovative peace process that

consulted with Somali society beyond the usual faction leaders.

It also adopted a system of fixed proportional representation of

Somali clans in the conference and in government based on

the so-called ‘4.5 formula’: an equal number of places were

allotted to each of the four major Somali clan-families, and a

‘half place’ to ‘minorities’ and to women.

The TNG became the first authority since the fall of Siyad Barre

to fill Somalia’s seat at the UN and regional bodies. It was

supported by the UN and several Arab states but it failed to

win the backing of Ethiopia or the confidence of major donor

governments. In Somalia the TNG did not follow through on

the reconciliation efforts begun in Arta and became associated

with the powerful Mogadishu clans and the business class,

which included Islamists. The TNG was opposed by a coalition

supported by Ethiopia, called the Somali Restoration and

Reconciliation Council (SRRC) in which Abdullahi Yusuf had a

leadership role.

In the climate of international insecurity that followed

the 9/11 attacks on the US, the failed state of Somalia

attracted renewed interest as a potential haven and breeding

ground for international terrorists. The TNG’s reputation

suffered as the growing influence of Islamic Courts and

Islamic charities increased suspicions about its links with

militant Islamists.

To some Somalis the return of government provided the best

opportunity for Somalia for a decade, and they criticized

Western governments for failing to adequately support it. The

experience of TNG also demonstrated the difficulty of securing

a lasting agreement in Somalia that does not address the

interests and needs of both internal and external actors.

The IGAD initiative

The mandate of the Inter-Governmental Authority on

Development (IGAD) was revised in 1996 to include the

promotion of peace and security, in addition to fostering regional

cooperation and economic development. IGAD had supported

past Somali reconciliation efforts by Ethiopia or Djibouti.

In 2002 IGAD took up the challenge of reconciling the TNG

and the SRRC, each supported by an IGAD member state. The

influence of external actors was apparent during the two-year

reconciliation conference facilitated by Kenya. The Transitional

Federal Government (TFG), which succeeded the TNG in

November 2004, saw Somalia’s leadership shift from the

Mogadishu-centred, Hawiye and Islamist dominated coalition

to the federalist, Darood and Ethiopian backed coalition, with

Abdullahi Yusuf chosen as the transitional president.

14
| Accord | ISSUE 21

Substantial financial support for the TFG was anticipated with

the inauguration of a World Bank and UNDP Joint Needs

Assessment of the country’s rehabilitation and development

requirements. But like its predecessor the TFG fell short of

being a government of national unity.

Power was concentrated in a narrow clan coalition and

Abdulahi Yusuf was viewed as a client of Ethiopia. His

immediate call for a military force from the African Union (AU)

to help him establish his authority in the capital alienated

his slender support base in Mogadishu. Without dogged

international financial and military support the TFG would

not have survived either its internal divisions or the rise of the

Islamic Courts Union (ICU) in 2006.

The Islamic Courts Union

An important feature of the past two decades has been

the emergence of a variety of Islamist movements seeking

to establish an Islamic state in Somalia. These range from

traditionalist
sufi orders, to progressive Islamist movements

like
Al Islah, and Salafi and Wahhabi inspired groups like

Al Itihad Al Islamiya pursuing a regional or global agenda.

Their significance came to the fore in April 2006 when a

coalition of Islamic Courts, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), in

alliance with other clan militia, ousted a coalition of warlords

(the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter

Terrorism) from Mogadishu that had been backed by the US

government.

The ICU won public support for creating an unprecedented

degree of security in the capital and quickly established a

presence across most of south-central Somalia. It seemed to

offer an alternative political system that could deliver services

and security to the population, in sharp contrast to the failing

authority of the TFG.

When mediation efforts by the Arab League failed to forge an

agreement between the parties, Ethiopian forces, with implicit

backing from Western governments, entered Somalia in

December 2006. They forced out the ICU and installed the TFG

in Mogadishu. The US air force attacked retreating ICU forces

in an unsuccessful effort to kill Al Qaeda operatives allegedly

harboured by the ICU. The ICU leadership took refuge in Eritrea

where, with other opposition figures, they established the

Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somali (ARS) that mobilized

support against the Ethiopian occupation.

In early 2007 a small contingent of AU peacekeepers (the AU

Mission in Somalia – AMISOM) was deployed to Mogadishu

to protect the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs). But over

the next two years efforts by the TFG and Ethiopia to impose

a ‘victor’s peace’ provoked violent resistance from a mixture

of clan militia and remnants of the militant wing of the ICU –

Harakat al Shabaab
(‘the youth movement’).

During 2007 alone fighting between the TFG and the

insurgency resulted in the displacement of up to 700,000

people from Mogadishu, and the economic base of the Hawiye

in the city was weakened. The Ethiopian occupation rallied

support to the resistance within Somalia and in the diaspora,

helping to radicalize another generation of Somalis.

Djibouti talks

During his four years in power, Abdullahi Yusuf’s government

failed to implement any of the transitional tasks of government.

By inviting Ethiopia to intervene militarily against the ICU, it

lost all semblance of legitimacy and was unable to establish its

authority over the country.

When UN-mediated talks between the ARS and the TFG in

Djibouti agreed a timetable for Ethiopian withdrawal in late

2008, Abdullahi Yusuf resigned paving the way for the creation

of a new TFG under the presidency of the former Chair of the

ICU, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

The withdrawal of Ethiopian forces and the establishment

of a new ‘unitary’ TFG created an opportunity to establish a

moderate Islamist government in Somalia that had considerable

backing from Somalis and the international community. Nine

months later Somalia finds itself in even greater turmoil. Al

Shabaab denounced the Djibouti agreement as a betrayal

by the ARS. Under the leadership of Ahmed Godane, who

is widely held responsible for organizing suicide bombs in

Hargeisa and Bosasso in October 2008, Al Shabaab has

declared its support for al Qaeda. The TFG has to date proved

itself incapable of building a coalition to combat Al Shabaab

and Hizbul Islamiya forces that control much of south central

Somalia. The international community has responded by

increasing support for the TFG, including the provision of arms

by the US government.

The three years from 2006-08 were catastrophic for Somalis.

Military occupation, a violent insurgency, rising
jihadism and

massive population displacement has reversed the incremental

political and economic progress achieved by the late 1990s

in south central Somalia. With 1.3 million people displaced by

fighting since 2006, 3.6 million people in need of emergency

food aid, and 60,000 Somalis a year fleeing the country, the

people of south central Somalia face the worst humanitarian

crisis since the early 1990s.




10
| Accord | ISSUE 21

Over the past two decades the nature of the Somali crisis and

the international context within which it is occurring have

been constantly changing. It has mutated from a civil war

in the 1980s, through state collapse, clan factionalism and

warlordism in the 1990s, to a globalized ideological conflict

in the first decade of the new millennium.

In this time the international environment has also changed,

from the end of the Cold War to the ‘global war on terror’, which

impacts directly on the crisis and international responses to

it. This poses a problem for Somalis and international actors

working to build peace. Initiatives that may have appeared to

offer a solution in earlier years may no longer be applicable and

there is a risk of fighting yesterday’s war or building yesterday’s

peace. This article traces the evolution of the Somali conflict

and some of the continuities that run through it.

From Cold War to civil war 1988-91

The collapse of the Somali state was the consequence of a

combination of internal and external factors. Externally there

were the legacies of European colonialism that divided the

Somali people into five states, the impact of Cold War politics

in shoring up a predatory state, and the cumulative effect of

wars with neighbouring states, most damagingly the 1977-78

Ogaden war with Ethiopia. Internally, there were contradictions

between a centralized state authority, and a fractious kinship

system and the Somali pastoral culture in which power is

diffused.

Next came the Somali National Movement (SNM) formed in 1982

that drew its support from the Isaaq clan. The SNM insurgency

escalated into a full-scale civil war in 1988 when it attacked

government garrisons in Burco and Hargeisa. The government

responded with a ferocious assault on the Isaaq clan, killing some

50,000 people and forcing 650,000 to flee to Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Somalia’s collapse was hastened by the ending of the Cold War.

As Somalia’s strategic importance to the West declined, the

foreign aid that had sustained the state was withdrawn. Without

the resources to maintain the system of patronage politics,

Barre lost control of the country and the army. In January 1991

he was ousted from Mogadishu by forces of the United Somali

Congress (USC) drawing support from the Hawiye clans in

south central Somalia.

State collapse, clan war and famine 1991-92

Somalis use the word
burbur (‘catastrophe’) to describe the period

from December 1991 to March 1992, when the country was torn

apart by clan-based warfare and factions plundered the remnants

of the state and fought for control of rural and urban assets. Four

months of fighting in Mogadishu alone in 1991 and 1992 killed an

estimated 25,000 people, 1.5 million people fled the country, and

at least 2 million were internally displaced.

In the midst of drought, the destruction of social and economic

infrastructure, asset stripping, ‘clan-cleansing’ and the disruption

of food supplies caused a famine in which an estimated 250,000

died. Those who suffered most came from the politically

marginalized and poorly armed riverine and inter-riverine agropastoral

communities in the south, who suffered waves of

invasions from the better-armed militia from the major clans.

External responses to Somalia’s collapse were belated because

other wars in the Gulf and the Balkans commanded international

attention. The Djibouti government tried unsuccessfully to broker

a deal in June and July 1991. UN diplomatic engagement began

only in early 1992, when a ceasefire was negotiated between the

two main belligerents in Mogadishu, Ali Mahdi Mohamed and

General Mohamed Farah Aideed. A limited UN peacekeeping

mission – the UN Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) – was unable

to stem the violence or address the famine.

Signs that war was radically restructuring the state came in May

1991 when the SNM declared that the northern regions were

seceding from the south to become the independent Republic of

Somaliland (
see box 1).

Endless war

a brief history of the Somali conflict

Mark Bradbury and Sally Healy

Somali peace processes
| 11

Humanitarian intervention

The Somali civil war erupted at a time of profound change in the

international order, as global institutions, with the US at their helm,

shaped up to managing an era of ‘new wars’ and ‘failing states’.

Somalia was to become a laboratory for a new form of engagement

when the international community responded with a humanitarian

and military intervention on an unprecedented scale.

In December 1992 the outgoing US administration authorized

the deployment of US forces to support the beleaguered

UN mission in Somalia. Under US leadership, UNOSOM

mustered a multinational force of some 30,000 troops.

Ostensibly launched for humanitarian reasons, the intervention

also responded to the challenge that the collapsed Somali

state posed to a supposed ‘new world order’, proclaimed by

President George Bush at the end of the Cold War. UNOSOM

dominated Somali politics for the next three years.

UNOSOM turned world attention to a neglected crisis and assisted

in saving lives by securing food supplies. It facilitated some local

agreements that improved security, reopened Mogadishu airport

and seaport, and supported the revival of key services and the

creation of local non-governmental organizations. It also provided

employment and injected huge resources into the economy to the

benefit of a new business class.

However, the mission failed to mediate an end to hostilities or

disarm factions. UN-facilitated peace conferences in Addis Ababa

in 1993 and Kenya in 1994 did not engender a process of national

reconciliation and state revival. The mission has been criticized for

fuelling the war economy, causing a proliferation of factions and

shoring up warlord power structures. Before long UNOSOM itself

became embroiled in the conflict with General Aideed, leading

to the infamous shooting down of US Black Hawk helicopters in

Mogadishu and the subsequent withdrawal of US forces.

Some argue that the seeds of militant Islamist movements were

planted in this period. Osama bin Laden, then based Sudan,

denounced the UN mission as an invasion of a Muslim country.

Governance without government

UNOSOM’s humiliating departure from Somalia was followed

by international disengagement and a decline in foreign aid. Its

departure in March 1995 did not lead to a revival of the civil war,

however. Local political processes that had been ‘frozen’ by the

intervention resumed and clans and factions consolidated the

gains they had made during the war.

In some areas communities drew on traditional institutions, such

as elders and customary law (
xeer), to end violent confrontations,

renegotiate relations between groups and establish local

Box 1

The Republic of Somaliland

On 18 May 1991, at the ‘Grand Conference of

Northern Clans’ in the northern city of Burco, the

SNM announced that the northern regions were

withdrawing from the union with the south and

reasserting their sovereign independence as the

Republic of Somaliland.

The declaration, made under public pressure, has

left a deep rift in Somali politics that has yet to be

resolved. In 1991, however, the move insulated

Somaliland from the war and famine in the south and

enabled people to begin a process of reconstruction

and statebuilding.

That process has not been easy. Between 1992

and 1996 Somaliland experienced two civil wars.

Embargoes on imports of Somali livestock by Gulf

countries, the return of refugees, urban drift, and

contested territorial claims over the eastern regions

have presented challenges.

Yet today Somaliland has all the attributes of a

sovereign state with an elected government that

provides security for its citizens, exercises control

over its borders, manages some public assets,

levies taxes, issues currency and formulates

development policies. This has been achieved

through the resourcefulness and resources of people

in Somaliland and the diaspora, with minimal

international assistance.

Acknowledgment of what has been achieved in

Somaliland has been growing, but no country has

formal diplomatic relations with it and it therefore

has no international legal status or representation in

international forums.

And yet a generation has grown up in Somaliland

that knows no other country than the one they

have been educated in, and no other government

than the one that they are now able to vote for.

Continuing international ambivalence over the status

of Somaliland entrenches the vulnerability of the

new state and ensures that it remains, in essence, a

‘fragile state’.

12
| Accord | ISSUE 21

governance structures as a transitional step to developing public

administrations and regional and trans-regional polities.

The most successful and sustained of these processes

took place in the secessionist Somaliland state. Elsewhere,

the Rahanweyn clans of Bay and Bakool region created a

Governing Council to administer their regions. Although this did

not survive for long after UNOSOM, it established a precedent

for the decentralized administration of those regions.

In 1998 Puntland Federal State of Somalia was established

in the northeast as an autonomously governed region (
see

box 2
). In 1999 the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA), with

Ethiopian backing, won control of Bay and Bakool regions and

also established an administration.

In southern Somalia a variety of institutions emerged,

including two ‘governments’ in Mogadishu, councils of

elders, district councils and
Shari’a courts, which provided

forms of ‘governance without government’. While fragile and

uncoordinated, these structures produced an incremental

improvement in security, so that by the late 1990s the situation

in much of Somalia was described as ‘neither war nor peace’.

These developments were driven by a convergence of internal

and external interests. There was an internal demand for security,

regulation and order from businesspeople, civil society groups

and people in the diaspora. This was underpinned by economic

recovery, stimulated by diaspora remittances, and renewed interclan

cooperation and the resumption of inter-regional trade.

Somalis took advantage of the lack of government and the

global deregulation of trade to establish successful businesses,

including money transfer and telecommunications. Their

participation in
Salafi commercial networks, and an increase

in Islamic charitable funding, spurred the growth of Islamic

organizations including welfare charities,
Shari’a courts and

Islamist movements.

Building blocks and regional initiatives

The disengagement from Somalia of Western governments

resulted in the diplomatic initiative passing regional states and

in particular Ethiopia. Addis Ababa’s engagement was driven

as much by geo-political, security and economic interests as by

concern to end Somalia’s political turmoil.

Ethiopia was especially concerned by the growth of an armed

Islamist group in Somalia, Al Itihad Al Islamiya, with regional

ambitions. Ethiopian forces attacked and destroyed Al Itihad

camps in the border areas during 1997. At the same time,

Ethiopia brought Somali factions together at Sodere and

attempted to broker an agreement.

Egypt, Libya and Yemen and the Arab League also made

endeavours to broker settlements, but reconciliation in Somalia

was actively hindered by competition between these initiatives.

After 1998 the breakdown in relations between Ethiopia and

Eritrea gave a new impetus to the destabilization of Somalia.

Eritrea supported Somali factions opposed to those aligned with

Ethiopia, introducing a new element of proxy war to an already

crowded arena.

In the late 1990s regional rivalries were reflected in different

approaches to statebuilding. The model favoured by Ethiopia

and briefly supported by Western donors was the so-called

‘building-block’ approach. Taking a lead from developments

in Somaliland and Puntland, the RRA administration in Bay

Box 2

Puntland State of Somalia

In 1998 political leaders in northeast Somalia,

frustrated at the lack of progress from internationallymediated

talks in Ethiopia and Egypt, decided to wait

no longer for a national government to emerge.

A series of consultative conferences led to the creation

of Puntland State of Somalia in August 1998, as a

self-governing state in Somalia’s north eastern regions.

Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf, military leader of the SSDF, was

selected as Puntland’s first president. He later became

president of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government.

As a non-secessionist state, Puntland epitomizes

a ‘building block’ for a future federal Somali state

within the 1990 state borders and was duly supported

as such by the international community.

Puntland is a form of ‘ethno-state’, founded on the unity

of the Harti clan. Along with the Majeerteen, this includes

the Dhulbahante and Warsengeli clans of Sool and

Eastern Sanaag regions over which Somaliland also claims

sovereignty. The territorial dispute between Puntland and

Somaliland has at times escalated into violent clashes and

remains a deep fault line in Somali politics.

Puntland has experienced acute internal divisions and

more recently has become internationally known as

the home of Somali pirates. However it has remained a

relatively stable polity and is in the process of reviewing

its constitution and democratizing its political systems.

Somali peace processes
| 13

and Bakool regions and an all-Hawiye peace conference in

Beletweyn in 1999, the approach sought to encourage the

emergence of regional authorities as a first step towards

establishing a federal or confederal Somali state.

Donor and development organizations hoped to encourage

the process by rewarding the areas of stability with ‘peace

dividends’ of aid. Critics of the approach contended that it had

limited applicability in the south, encouraged secessionism

and was designed by foreign states to keep Somalia weak

and divided. The alternative approach, supported by Arab

countries, advocated reviving a centralized Somali state through

a process of national reconciliation and the formation of a

national government.

Competing regional interests led to rival peace conferences

sponsored by Ethiopia in Sodere in 1996, and by Egypt in Cairo

in 1997. These produced two regional administrations: the shortlived

Benadir Administration supported by Egypt and Libya; and

the government of Puntland Federal State of Somalia.

The Benadir Administration collapsed when its leadership failed

to agree on modalities for reopening Mogadishu seaport, while in

Puntland a combination of a community-driven political processes

and strong leadership produced a functional administration.

Somalis were also divided over the right approach. As the

multiple clan-based factions merged into larger regional and

transregional polities in the late 1990s, they also mutated

into broader political coalitions. One such coalition centred

on Mogadishu and the sub-clans of the Hawiye clan-family.

Although the Hawiye had failed to reconcile with each other

and Mogadishu remained a divided city, but political, business,

civic and religious leaders supported the revival of a strong

central state in which they would dominate the capital. The

other coalition, backed by Ethiopia and led by Puntland

President, Abdullahi Yusuf, was dominated by the Darood clan,

was anti-Islamist and favoured a federal state.

In 1999 international support for the building block approach

ended when the government of Djibouti initiated a new national

peace process.

The return of government

Arta process

International diplomatic efforts were re-energized in 2000 when

the Djibouti government hosted the Somalia National Peace

Conference in the town of Arta. The ‘Arta process’ achieved an

important political breakthrough in August 2000 by producing

a Transitional National Government (TNG) that commanded

some national and international support.

This was due, in part, to an innovative peace process that

consulted with Somali society beyond the usual faction leaders.

It also adopted a system of fixed proportional representation of

Somali clans in the conference and in government based on

the so-called ‘4.5 formula’: an equal number of places were

allotted to each of the four major Somali clan-families, and a

‘half place’ to ‘minorities’ and to women.

The TNG became the first authority since the fall of Siyad Barre

to fill Somalia’s seat at the UN and regional bodies. It was

supported by the UN and several Arab states but it failed to

win the backing of Ethiopia or the confidence of major donor

governments. In Somalia the TNG did not follow through on

the reconciliation efforts begun in Arta and became associated

with the powerful Mogadishu clans and the business class,

which included Islamists. The TNG was opposed by a coalition

supported by Ethiopia, called the Somali Restoration and

Reconciliation Council (SRRC) in which Abdullahi Yusuf had a

leadership role.

In the climate of international insecurity that followed

the 9/11 attacks on the US, the failed state of Somalia

attracted renewed interest as a potential haven and breeding

ground for international terrorists. The TNG’s reputation

suffered as the growing influence of Islamic Courts and

Islamic charities increased suspicions about its links with

militant Islamists.

To some Somalis the return of government provided the best

opportunity for Somalia for a decade, and they criticized

Western governments for failing to adequately support it. The

experience of TNG also demonstrated the difficulty of securing

a lasting agreement in Somalia that does not address the

interests and needs of both internal and external actors.

The IGAD initiative

The mandate of the Inter-Governmental Authority on

Development (IGAD) was revised in 1996 to include the

promotion of peace and security, in addition to fostering regional

cooperation and economic development. IGAD had supported

past Somali reconciliation efforts by Ethiopia or Djibouti.

In 2002 IGAD took up the challenge of reconciling the TNG

and the SRRC, each supported by an IGAD member state. The

influence of external actors was apparent during the two-year

reconciliation conference facilitated by Kenya. The Transitional

Federal Government (TFG), which succeeded the TNG in

November 2004, saw Somalia’s leadership shift from the

Mogadishu-centred, Hawiye and Islamist dominated coalition

to the federalist, Darood and Ethiopian backed coalition, with

Abdullahi Yusuf chosen as the transitional president.

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Substantial financial support for the TFG was anticipated with

the inauguration of a World Bank and UNDP Joint Needs

Assessment of the country’s rehabilitation and development

requirements. But like its predecessor the TFG fell short of

being a government of national unity.

Power was concentrated in a narrow clan coalition and

Abdulahi Yusuf was viewed as a client of Ethiopia. His

immediate call for a military force from the African Union (AU)

to help him establish his authority in the capital alienated

his slender support base in Mogadishu. Without dogged

international financial and military support the TFG would

not have survived either its internal divisions or the rise of the

Islamic Courts Union (ICU) in 2006.

The Islamic Courts Union

An important feature of the past two decades has been

the emergence of a variety of Islamist movements seeking

to establish an Islamic state in Somalia. These range from

traditionalist
sufi orders, to progressive Islamist movements

like
Al Islah, and Salafi and Wahhabi inspired groups like

Al Itihad Al Islamiya pursuing a regional or global agenda.

Their significance came to the fore in April 2006 when a

coalition of Islamic Courts, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), in

alliance with other clan militia, ousted a coalition of warlords

(the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter

Terrorism) from Mogadishu that had been backed by the US

government.

The ICU won public support for creating an unprecedented

degree of security in the capital and quickly established a

presence across most of south-central Somalia. It seemed to

offer an alternative political system that could deliver services

and security to the population, in sharp contrast to the failing

authority of the TFG.

When mediation efforts by the Arab League failed to forge an

agreement between the parties, Ethiopian forces, with implicit

backing from Western governments, entered Somalia in

December 2006. They forced out the ICU and installed the TFG

in Mogadishu. The US air force attacked retreating ICU forces

in an unsuccessful effort to kill Al Qaeda operatives allegedly

harboured by the ICU. The ICU leadership took refuge in Eritrea

where, with other opposition figures, they established the

Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somali (ARS) that mobilized

support against the Ethiopian occupation.

In early 2007 a small contingent of AU peacekeepers (the AU

Mission in Somalia – AMISOM) was deployed to Mogadishu

to protect the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs). But over

the next two years efforts by the TFG and Ethiopia to impose

a ‘victor’s peace’ provoked violent resistance from a mixture

of clan militia and remnants of the militant wing of the ICU –

Harakat al Shabaab
(‘the youth movement’).

During 2007 alone fighting between the TFG and the

insurgency resulted in the displacement of up to 700,000

people from Mogadishu, and the economic base of the Hawiye

in the city was weakened. The Ethiopian occupation rallied

support to the resistance within Somalia and in the diaspora,

helping to radicalize another generation of Somalis.

Djibouti talks

During his four years in power, Abdullahi Yusuf’s government

failed to implement any of the transitional tasks of government.

By inviting Ethiopia to intervene militarily against the ICU, it

lost all semblance of legitimacy and was unable to establish its

authority over the country.

When UN-mediated talks between the ARS and the TFG in

Djibouti agreed a timetable for Ethiopian withdrawal in late

2008, Abdullahi Yusuf resigned paving the way for the creation

of a new TFG under the presidency of the former Chair of the

ICU, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

The withdrawal of Ethiopian forces and the establishment

of a new ‘unitary’ TFG created an opportunity to establish a

moderate Islamist government in Somalia that had considerable

backing from Somalis and the international community. Nine

months later Somalia finds itself in even greater turmoil. Al

Shabaab denounced the Djibouti agreement as a betrayal

by the ARS. Under the leadership of Ahmed Godane, who

is widely held responsible for organizing suicide bombs in

Hargeisa and Bosasso in October 2008, Al Shabaab has

declared its support for al Qaeda. The TFG has to date proved

itself incapable of building a coalition to combat Al Shabaab

and Hizbul Islamiya forces that control much of south central

Somalia. The international community has responded by

increasing support for the TFG, including the provision of arms

by the US government.

The three years from 2006-08 were catastrophic for Somalis.

Military occupation, a violent insurgency, rising
jihadism and

massive population displacement has reversed the incremental

political and economic progress achieved by the late 1990s

in south central Somalia. With 1.3 million people displaced by

fighting since 2006, 3.6 million people in need of emergency

food aid, and 60,000 Somalis a year fleeing the country, the

people of south central Somalia face the worst humanitarian

crisis since the early 1990s.

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Political representation

in Somalia

citizenship, clanism and territoriality

Markus V. Hoehne

Representation is a complex issue in Somali society, which

has been devastated by several decades of civil war causing

distrust between people and disillusion with the ‘state’.

More than a million Somalis live outside Somalia, either in

refugee camps or in the diaspora, near and far. The war has

also led to social fragmentation along lines that previously have

been either suppressed or not recognized, and so in addition

to issues of lineage and territory, Somalis define their status

in terms of ‘race’, minority, political and religious orientation,

generation and gender.

Over the last two decades political representation and

participation in externally-supported peace talks in Somalia

has been based on a mixture of clan, military and financial

power. This has often strengthened the prestige of warlords

and political elites from the diaspora. Such actors often lack

interest in peace or broad based legitimacy in Somalia in the

long term.

The engagement of traditional authorities in externallysponsored

peace negotiations at the national level, designed

to imbue these talks and their results with popular legitimacy,

has backfired. It has interfered with the flexibility inherent

in relations of traditional authority. By siding with one or

other party, international involvement has diminished the

legitimacy of elders and clan-leaders in the eyes of their local

constituencies.

Inclusiveness is a persistent problem. Although women’s and

minority groups’ formal participation in politics has increased

in recent peace processes, recognition of their influence and

capabilities has changed little and they are still largely regarded

as marginal political actors, both by Somalis and internationally.

Belonging and citizenship

Before the outbreak of the civil war in the late 1980s Somalis

were commonly perceived as a homogenous ‘nation’.

Building a perception of cultural integrity served the interests

of nationalist and post-colonial elites who were striving to

overcome centrifugal forces of clanism.

The military regime of Siyad Barre took this further by elevating

loyalty to the state above the clan. Yet behind the nationalist

facade clientism and nepotism continued. In their struggle for

power successive Somali governments as well as factions in the

civil war have used notions of clan loyalty to mobilize support

and to foment divisions among their adversaries.

In the Somali Republic of 1960-91 citizenship was primarily

based on patrilineal descent. Article 1 of the Somali citizenship

law of 1962 grants citizenship to any person whose father

is Somali. Somalis who live abroad and renounce any other

citizenship are also included, with a Somali defined as any

person who by origin, language and tradition belongs to the

Somali nation (article 3).

Somali citizenship broadly derives from the concept of
u

dhashay
(born to a family/group/clan/nation). This ancestral

understanding of citizenship stresses the blood relationship

of all Somalis, who claim descent from a common forefather

(
Hiil). At the sub-national level, different Somali communities

– pastoral nomadic, agro-nomadic or urban – have different

perceptions of belonging relative to their respective needs.

Somali peace processes
| 35

The descent model of citizenship exists in its purest form

among pastoral nomadic clans. It allows for flexible alliances,

but also for divisions and individual freedom. This suits pastoral

nomads who have to act quickly and often individually in

pursuit of pasture and water for their herds. For raiding or in

defence, groups of relatives unite.

Among agro-pastoralists in southern and central Somalia

territoriality is more important. They depend on land and

cooperation for survival. A notion of
ku dhashay (born in a land

or a place) is significant here. Strangers are easily adopted.

Descent is referred to only for defining social identity at the

highest level and strengthening collective security.

In contrast urban communities are characterized by the

confederation of different lineages integrated in a centralized

political structure based on a complex system of domination,

alliance formation and resource exploitation. Religious

authorities and leaders have a strong influence. In both the

agro-pastoral and the urban models, hierarchy and locality are

comparatively more important than in the more ‘egalitarian’

pastoral nomadic model.

In the Somaliland Citizenship Law of 2002, patrilineal descent

was reaffirmed as the basis of citizenship. At the same time

clan ‘cleansing’ during the civil war and massive urbanization

since 1991 has strengthened notions of territoriality and

‘belonging to a place’ throughout the region. Many members of

the diaspora have developed a transnational understanding of

belonging, and are simultaneously engaged in their country of

residence and the homeland.

‘Getting used’ to a new environment is described by the Somali

term
ku dhaqmay. In the past, this represented a nationalist

viewpoint, when particularly under Siyad Barre’s regime

members of the administration and the security forces were

rotated throughout the country. Today it captures the internal

and international migration experiences of many Somalis.

Complexities of representation

The internationally-sponsored national reconciliation

conferences in Arta, Djibouti (2000), and Mbagathi, Kenya

(2002-04), illustrate the complexities and challenges of

organizing representation in Somali peace talks.

The Arta conference was conceived as different to previous

processes. Warlords were largely excluded from the talks,

which were said to be ‘owned’ by civil society. Religious groups,

particularly the ‘moderate’ Al Islah movement, exercised

great influence. No official representatives of Somaliland and

Puntland attended the meeting because both administrations

demanded recognition as territorial entities before agreeing to

participate.

Importantly a mechanism was agreed for allocating

parliamentary seats proportionately by clan – the ‘4.5 formula’.

In the 245-seat parliament, 49 seats were assigned to each

of the four biggest clan-families (Dir, Darood, Hawiye and

Rahanweyn). Some 29 seats were allocated to ‘minority groups’

(which is roughly half of the number of seats assigned to the

majority clan-families, ie ‘.5’), with 25 seats (about ten per

cent) reserved for women. The share of women’s seats includes

five from the minority groups, thus the total number of seats

adds up to 245.

The conference produced the Transitional National Government

(TNG). However, the TNG only enjoyed limited legitimacy

in Somalia. Besides being rejected by the warlords, who

immediately mobilized resistance against it, and by Somaliland

and Puntland, the fact that the TNG largely comprised elites

from the diaspora and former employees of Siyad Barre

reduced its credibility inside Somalia.

As the TNG foundered a renewed attempt to establish a

representative and effective transitional government was

undertaken in Kenya. This time the warlords were invited as

main actors, following the logic that those who control the

violence have to be brought on board in order to achieve

peace.

The Eldorat meeting agreed on a federal structure of

government: the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). But

in the absence of existing federal entities in Somalia, the 4.5

formula was again used to allocate seats for MPs and cabinet

ministers. The parliament comprised now of 275 seats, 33

(12 per cent) of which were assigned to women.

In October 2004 the former Puntland leader Abdullahi Yusuf

was elected President of the new TFG. The legitimacy of his

selection was questionable, however. It was the job of MPs to

elect the president. But although traditional authorities were

officially meant to be involved in the nominating MPs, this

process was hijacked by the faction leaders.

Both Somaliland and influential Islamist groups in Mogadishu

rejected the TFG. The new government was also fragmented

along clan and other lines and was soon confronted by the

Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The ICU defeated a US-backed

warlord alliance in Mogadishu in the first half of 2006. It

then made quick progress, establishing control over much of

southern and central Somalia and challenging the TFG sitting in

the town of Baidoa. The success of the Islamist forces reflected

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| Accord | ISSUE 21

the lack of legitimacy and political power of the TFG, which

ultimately only survived following massive Ethiopian military

intervention in December 2006.

The ICU has been the only authority that has enjoyed even

a reasonable amount of local legitimacy in southern Somalia

since 1991. However it was perceived as a threat by most

neighbouring countries and by the West. Its removal by

Ethiopian military forces dramatically illustrated the gap

between internal and external conceptions of representation

and peacebuilding in Somalia and marked the beginning of two

years of violence in which clan and Islamist militias fought the

TFG and its Ethiopian ally.

The increasing influence of political Islam (particularly

Wahhabism
and Salafism) has added another dimension

to the complex dynamics of representation in Somalia. For

Islamists, patrilineal descent is subordinate to belonging to

the community of Muslims (
Ummah). Islamism also impacts

on the issue of gender. Women were officially integrated at

the conferences in Djibouti and Kenya, although in the end

they did not receive all the seats allocated to them officially.

But there are fears that an Islamist government might exclude

women from politics altogether.

Multiple affiliations: the Dhulbahante clan in the

Sool region

The situation in Sool region in northern Somalia demonstrates

competing Somali models of belonging, based variously on

lineage, territoriality and religious orientation.

Sool region is predominantly inhabited by members of the

Dhulbahante clan, part of the Harti clan federation, itself a

subset of the larger Darood clan-family. Together with the Isaaq,

Warsengeli and Gadabursi clans, the Dhulbahante were part of

the British Protectorate of Somaliland in northwestern Somalia

until 1960.

The Isaaq are the majority population in the northwest.

Historically many Isaaq were allied to the British protectorate,

while most Dhulbahante supported the anti-colonial Dervish

uprising between 1899 and 1920. During the civil war between

the government of Siyad Barre (1969-91) and the Somali National

Movement (SNM), the Dhulbahante and the Isaaq stood on

opposite sides. While the SNM was predominantly an Isaaq

movement, the Dhulbahante generally supported the government.

The SNM took over most of northwestern Somalia in early

1991 and proposed peace negotiations to all other clans in the

region. To avoid further fighting Dhulbahante representatives

Inaugural session of the Somaliland parliament 1993 © Hamish Wilson

Somali peace processes
| 37

– comprising traditional authorities together with some

intellectuals, military figures and politicians – acceded to the

majority Isaaq wish to secede from a collapsing Somalia.

By territory the Dhulbahante became part of Somaliland, which

claims the borders of the former British Protectorate. Since

then a small number of Dhulbahante have cooperated with the

Somaliland government, either in the capital city of Hargeisa

or in the Sool region. However the majority of the clan never

agreed to secession and over the years many Dhulbahante

have felt marginalized by Hargeisa and have distanced

themselves politically from Somaliland.

Dhulbahante dissenters found a new political home in the

Puntland State of Somalia, which was established in the

northeast of the country in 1998. Founded as ‘Harti-state’,

Puntland brought together all clans descending from Harti

(ie Majeerteen, Dhulbahante, Warsangeeli) and a few other

Darood clans in the region. Many members of the Dhulbahante

actively supported the presidency of Abdullahi Yusuf, the first

president of Puntland (1998-2004) and for this were allocated

the position of the vice president in the Puntland polity.

The government of Puntland, based in Garowe, aims to

re-build a strong and united Somalia within the 1990 state

borders. It does not recognize the independence of Somaliland

and actively undermines its regional neighbour’s territorial

ambitions, claiming Sool and other Harti-inhabited regions of

Somaliland. Between 2002 and 2007 Somaliland and Puntland

forces clashed several times in the contested boundary areas,

although these skirmishes were short lived.

By manoeuvring between Somaliland and Puntland, many

Dhulbahante elites, such as traditional authorities and political

and military leaders, have lost credibility in the eyes of their

own people. The traditional authorities of the clan especially are

increasingly perceived as ‘politicians’, a derogatory reference

implying that they follow their own self-interests rather than

doing what is best for the community.

Everyday life for local people in the Sool borderlands involves

a struggle for survival, torn by conflicting affiliations with

neighbouring political centres in Hargeisa and Garowe.

Members of these borderland communities hold administrative

and military office in Somaliland and Puntland. In certain

places in Sool region there are two administrations with two

police and two military forces, staffed with Dhulbahante

and salaried either by Hargeysa or Garowe. Additionally,

Dhulbahante managed to get high ranking positions in the

TNG, and later in the TFG. In the early 1990s they were also

prominently represented in the militant religious movement

Al Itihad Al Islamiya that fought for the establishment of an

Islamic state in Somalia.

Having multiple affiliations has brought some costs for

the Dhulbahante. While they play delicate political roles in

Somaliland and Puntland, they are also marginalized by both

administrations. They are perceived as strategic allies, but hardly

ever fully embraced. Also, Sool region does not attract many

resources from the political centres and due to the ongoing

conflict between Somaliland and Puntland, it is seen as unstable

by the international community. Almost no international aid

reaches the region, despite its enormous needs.

Representation and accountability

Representation in Somalia is characterized by multiple

affiliations, shifting alliances and transferable identities based

on nation, clan and religion. Somali representatives in peace

processes commonly wear several ‘hats’, transferring affiliation

as appropriate to whichever role suits their personal interests

or those of their patrons. Efforts to reduce this complexity to

simplistic blueprints such as the 4.5 formula or standardized

concepts of federalism have so far proved ineffective.

The cases of Somaliland and Puntland suggest that building a

representative government can begin by bringing together clan

delegates, guerrilla commanders, intellectuals and women’s

groups. And the increasingly influential religious leaders should be

added to this list. Generally, representation can only be effective

if it is bound tightly to the local context, and if representatives of

groups are genuinely accountable to their constituencies at home,

to face queries and possibly even sanctions.

Somali ‘national’ peacemaking processes, such as the

conferences in Arta and Mbagathi, have not been able to

match the level of representation reached in processes in

either Puntland or Somaliland. Many delegates at national

reconciliation conferences are from the diaspora, who fly in to

meetings held outside of Somalia, frequently get ‘per diems’

from international donors, and can simply return abroad if

things do not ‘work out’ back home.

Representativeness cannot be created from outside. It has

to come from within and to be accountable to those who

supposedly are being represented: ordinary Somalis.

Markus V. Hoehne is a PhD Candidate at the Max Planck Institute

for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale, Germany. He has been

researching and publishing on Somali affairs since 2001. Currently

he is engaged in an EU-funded project on diasporas for peace

www.diaspeace.org.






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Suluh
(pacification)

Peace and reconciliation are among the fundamental

tenets of Islam, which preaches the virtue of the conflict

resolution method known as
Suluh (‘Pacification’). This is

mentioned in several verses of the
Qur’an along with the

importance of promoting reconciliation. According to Islam,

promoting reconciliation is an act of goodness and people are

encouraged to resolve their differences this way.

But according to the Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon

Him – PBUH), conflict breeds chaos and puts all the other

pillars in jeopardy. Therefore, to pacify those in conflict is the

most beneficial and
Suluh is key to it all.

The Somali Islamic tradition

Somalis traditionally have adhered to the
Shafi’i school of Sunni

Islam. Historically most have have belonged to one of the

established
Sufi orders and in their practices have fused local

traditions and beliefs with Islam. Clan ancestors have been

assimilated as
Awliya or ‘trusted ones’ and Somali customary

law incorporates elements of
Shari’a.

Somalia’s post-independence civilian and military governments

recognized Islam as the official state religion, but there was no

tolerance for political Islam. When religious leaders challenged

the government of Mohammed Siyad Barre in 1975 over a new

Family Law giving equal rights for men and women, ten Muslim

scholars were publicly executed. By the 1980s more radical

interpretations of Islam had begun to gather pace as Somali

Muslim scholars returned from Egypt and Saudi Arabia against

a backdrop of widespread corruption, economic downturn and

growing civil unrest.

In 1991 the Barre regime collapsed and reformist Islamic

movements established a real foothold in the country,

particularly in the south central regions. When the state

collapsed Somalia fell into the same chaos that is also

mentioned in the
Qur’an. Clans fought against each other;

political factions clashed over the pursuit of power; and crimes

became a common occurrence. At this time killing sprees also

became part of daily life and criminals walked without fear of

being held accountable for their crimes. All of this violence

came at the expense of innocent civilians, whose desperation

spurred the creation of Islamic courts.

As people turned to Islam for security and the moral and

physical reconstruction of communities, Islamic foundations

and benefactors outside of the country invested in businesses

and social services. At different times Somali political leaders

also promoted Islamic movements in pursuit of their own

political strategies.

The emergence of the Islamic Courts

The first Islamic Courts were established in Maka and Medina

neighborhoods of Mogadishu as early as 1991. The militant

Somali Islamic group Al Itihad Al Islamiya also established

Islamic Courts in Gedo region around that time. More courts

were established in North Mogadishu in 1994 and they later

spread to other districts throughout Mogadishu from 1998 until

2000.

Islam and

Somali

social

order

Koranic school © Ryan Anson/Interpeace

Somali peace processes
| 95

These courts were originally clan-based, but merged to form

the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) in 2004. The primary reason

behind their creation was to bring law and order and to promote

Suluh
among families, clans and individuals. The courts dealt

with murder cases on the basis of Islamic jurisprudence,

categorizing killings into three classes: intentional; semiintentional

(killing by means that would not normally threaten

life) and accidental. All cases were dealt with through the

application of Islamic law.

After achieving some success in containing criminality, the

courts moved to address civic cases such as land disputes,

divorces, inheritance claims, car-jacking and family disputes,

employing both punishment and dispute resolution methods to

achieve settlements.

Later on special tribunals were set up to tackle some of the

unsolved crimes that had happened before the establishment of

the courts. They offered the accused and the defendant a choice

whether they wanted to agree compensation or to accept the

court’s judgement. The courts also responded to requests to deal

with incidents that took place in areas outside their immediate

jurisdiction. In some murder cases, they applied traditional blood

compensation where evidence was found.

Interweaving Islamic and customary systems

The Islamic Courts worked alongside traditional elders to

gain acceptance of their rulings by the clans, as well as

their help in consoling the bereaved and arresting criminal

suspects.

But in other respects, Islamic Court rulings differed from

traditional laws. Under traditional law, elders can influence

individuals and families to accept or refuse a compensation

settlement and have the power to overrule the victim’s own

family. The Islamic courts did not endorse this and insisted

that the victim’s own family must agree to the terms of any

settlement.

Under customary law certain clans have their own rules for

settling disputes, such as the payment of a limited amount of

money as compensation for homicide. The courts, in contrast,

applied Islamic law in homicide cases, compensating the killing

of a man and a woman by 100 and 50 camels respectively –

or cash equivalent. However, Muslim scholars believed that

the proper application of Islam should always draw upon the

support of Islamic leaders and elders, as well as intellectuals

and other community leaders.

Somali customary law also states that the concept of punishment

for a crime is largely absent as a basis for resolving disputes.

Instead, the practice is one of restitution with the level of

compensation negotiated by elders and the
Ulema (religious

scholars). The
Hudud punishments under Islamic law that have

been carried out by some of the Islamic Courts are not supported

in Somali customary law. Encouragement for forgiveness

between those in conflict was always a major part of conflict

resolution both in Islam and in traditional Somali practice.

Before the inception of the Islamic Courts, Muslim scholars

did not contest this combination of traditional and Islamic

Islamic groups have also

invested in social sectors

such as education and health.

Before the mass displacement

of people from Mogadishu

in 2007 more than 130,000

children were being educated

with the support of Islamic

foundations and charities.

Higher educational institutes,

such as Mogadishu University,

were also revived with support

from Islamic finance”


96
| Accord | ISSUE 21

practice and elders and religious leaders worked side-by-side.

Elders and Muslim scholars, including some from the moderate

Somali Islamist group Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a, had their own

small
Shura Islamic Councils, comprising religious scholars,

clan elders and business and community figures.

The Councils’ role was to maintain backing for the judges and

keep the support of their clansmen. The 1994 Islamic Courts

in north Mogadishu had a separate higher authority known as

the Supreme Council of
Shari’a Implementation. This acted

as a ‘board of governors’ responsible for implementation and

general guidance. It was led by a
Sufi scholar and included

traditional clan elders among its members.

Islam and social responsibility

In addition to peacemaking and law enforcement, Islam

has been increasingly influential in commerce and in efforts

to revive and maintain public services. Many of the new

enterprises that have grown up during the war, in the import/

export trade, telecommunications and money transfer, are

owned by people inspired and motivated by new reformist

Islamic sects.

Applying Islamic principles, these businesses attract

shareholders from different clans, enabling them to operate

across political divides. Islamic groups have also invested in

social sectors such as education and health. Before the mass

displacement of people from Mogadishu in 2007 more than

130,000 children were being educated with the support of

Islamic foundations and charities. Higher educational institutes,

such as Mogadishu University, were also revived with support

from Islamic finance.

The
Ulema and reconciliation

Islam has always played a tangible role in peacemaking and

peacebuilding. The
Ulema command automatic respect and

people have always turned to them to help with unresolved

disputes. During Somali reconciliation meetings in and

outside the country, the
Ulema have played important roles

by counseling negotiators and speaking to them through

the media, urging them to show flexibility and compromise.

They would urge leaders to refer to Islam in solving their

differences.

Some of the biggest conflict resolution efforts by religious

leaders took place in 1991. When clan elders failed to

contain violence between Ali Mahdi Mohammed and General

Mohammed Farah Aideed in Mogadishu in 1992, Somalia’s

most famous Islamic scholars – Sheikh Mohammed Moallim,

Sheikh Ibrahim Suley and Sheikh Sharif Sharafow (all now

deceased) – met with Ali Mahdi and General Aideed to advise

them against war. When the two sides started exchanging heavy

gunfire the scholars continued traversing the frontlines lines in

the midst of crossfire in a symbolic effort to urge ceasefire.

After the takeover of Mogadishu and much of south central

Somalia by the ICU in 2006 the role of the
Ulema scholars was

taken over by the Courts. The ICU set up the
Shura Council,

which accommodated most of the leading Islamic scholars.

They also formed an executive branch that was tasked with

daily operations.

Scholars from Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama, an organization of Somali

Sufi
religious leaders created in 1991, found the atmosphere

increasingly hostile because of the dominant influence of the

Wahhabists
and Salafists, who have always challenged and

criticized what they perceived as the ‘passive’ role of
Sufis in

Somali political life.

But not all Islamic Courts were controlled by
Wahhabists and

Salafists
. For instance, in 1994 the Islamic Courts in north

Mogadishu were entirely run by
Sufis, while Sufi scholars

from Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a founded some of the clan-based

Islamic Courts that were established in Mogadishu in 1998.

All these Islamic groups, including
Wahhabists, Salafists

and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a, can be considered
Ulama.

However certain factions from the politically active Islamist

groups, such as the Majma’ Ulema (
Ulema Forum), Al-Islah

and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a claim to be the biggest advocates

of
Suluh. These groups are most likely to collaborate with

each other, but all can co-exist, as they showed before the

ICU tookover, and as is further evidenced by the reaction of

many Muslim scholars from different groups to the current

militancy in Somalia.

In 2009, after the establishment of the new TFG under

Sheikh Sharif’s leadership, the
Ulema Council was formed

in Mogadishu. Two disastrous years of Ethiopian military

involvement had sewn confusion over faith and politics.

The primary purpose of the Council was to create a religious

authority that could provide moral leadership to the people.

However conflict had already erupted between the government

and opposition groups. The
Ulema tried to tackle the conflict

head on, issuing directives that were often controversial. They

demanded the withdrawal of AU peacekeeping troops serving

with AMISOM within a four-month period and demanded that

Parliament be reconvened to adopt
Shari’a.

At the same time they called on the opposition to stop

fighting the government. In May 2009, after the opposition

Somali peace processes
| 97

launched major attacks on the TFG, the
Ulema tried to

broker a ceasefire between the two sides but the opposition

refused. The Islamic scholars have been very clear about the

current troubles. Sheikh Omar Faruq, perhaps the greatest

living Muslim scholar in Somalia today, denounced any

justifications to take up arms against the current government

on the pretext of Islam. This has left the opposition Hisbal

Islamiya and Jabhatul Islamiya divided on whether to endorse

the
Ulema’s proposals.

Islamic scholars and external mediation

If peace and security are to be sustained in Somalia, the

engagement of the Islamic leadership is crucial. Islamic

scholars have attended most previous reconciliation

conferences, but usually as observers. Members of the Ulema

Forum and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a were observers to the

1993 Addis Ababa conference. Muslim scholars also took part

in the 2000 Arta conference, although in a personal capacity,

and several scholars from the Courts and members of

Al-Islah became parliamentarians in the Transitional National

Government (TNG).

Islamic Scholars had less influence in the Mbagathi peace

talks in Kenya from 2002 to 2004, where warlords and

clan elders were the main actors. And the 4.5 formula of

clan representation has limited their numbers in the TFG

parliament. However they were consulted in the drafting of the

Transitional Federal Charter and they warned that any passages

that contravened Islam would not be accepted.

The 2008 Djibouti negotiations between the TFG and the

Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) also involved a

large number of Muslim scholars as ARS representatives. As a

result of the Djibouti talks, Muslim scholars and other religious

activists have their biggest representation in the subsequently

expanded parliament and are playing a more prominent role

within the Somali political process.

Many Somali Islamic scholars believe that only Islam has

the potential to achieve absolute security in the country

because Somalis are 100 per cent Muslim and will accept

Islam more readily than any other political system. They

believe that the stability achieved in the six-month period

of ICU rule in Mogadishu was not a fluke and could be

repeated.

Islamic scholars consider that political Islam is going through

a turbulent period in Somalia similar to the warlordism that

existed until recently. The difference is that most warlords

and faction leaders were politicians, whereas today’s militant

opposition groups lack the leadership of recognized Islamic

scholars who practice
Suluh because of the violent attitude of

these groups. The expectation amongst the scholars is that,

with time, the Somali people will accept Islamic leadership

under the guidance of respected scholars.

A number of Somalia’s Islamic scholars also suspect that

external powers would never accept an Islamic system taking

root in the country. They see the actions of the international

community as supporting this general thesis, particularly

the West’s condoning Ethiopia’s intervention to topple the

Islamic Courts. Many in southern Somalia strongly believe that

Somalis could agree on one leadership and achieve trust and

peace under
Shari’a. Without external interference, they see a

very real possibility of an Islamic state becoming established

in Somalia.

Analysts debate whether the current Somali militant

Islamic organizations have a domestic Somali agenda or

an internationalist one. Previous radical Islamist groupings,

such as Al Itihad Al Islamiya, articulated a domestic agenda.

This is less clear for the militants of today. Al Qaeda’s top

leaders, including Osama Bin Laden himself, have recently

sent supportive messages to the Al Shabaab leadership,

which has reciprocated with pledges of allegiance to Osama

Bin Laden.

Where next?

At the beginning of the Somali civil war, the conflict was

between clans and later clan-based factions. Today, Islamic

factions are pitted against a government that has stated its

intention to apply
Shari’a in full.

Politics rather than religion lies at the heart of the fighting today,

with rival religious ideologies mobilized to support personal and

political ambitions. The reality is that the current debacle has

undermined the authority of the
Ulema and has done serious

damage to the reputation of Islamic leaders.

The militant Islamic organizations are too violent and

ideologically polarized to bring together all sections of

the Somali society and their actions have highlighted the

sensitivities of putting religion at the centre of modern

governance. The failure to uphold peaceful Islamic principles

has created the current chaos and has damaged Islam in

Somalia. Paradoxically, the militants’ violent pursuit of an

Islamic state may be pushing the prospect of an Islamic state

further away than ever.

The author is a Somali writer. Author’s identity withheld.




Somali peace processes
| 41

Economic factors underlie much of the recent conflict in

Somalia. Rival factions continually struggle to control land,

natural resources and ports of trade which generate revenue.

Before its collapse in 1990-91, the Siyad Barre regime had

used a combination of socialist-style legislation, international

military and relief assistance, and political nepotism in an effort

to capture the country’s major economic assets and concentrate

economic power at the centre.

After 1991 victorious factions competed to take control of urban

and rural assets that had enriched the supporters of the old

regime. In the south an array of armed militias drawing heavily

on recruits from the pastoral clans of central Somalia occupied

the homes and shops of town residents, seized key ports and

airstrips, and imposed tributary regimes over many of the

productive farming districts along and between the Shabelle and

Juba rivers.

In Somaliland and Puntland, in contrast, locally based militias

recaptured economic assets in their regions and established

autonomous governments, which had to develop their own local

sources of revenue.

Since the collapse of the state, the quest for economic security

– and power – has taken place at local and regional levels.

Throughout Somalia countless actors seek access to whatever

sources of local revenue are available. Everything has a strong

economic component, from the imposition of roadblocks

along strategic transport routes, to pirate operations off the

northeast coast, and efforts by competing ‘religious’ movements

(including Al Shabaab) to seize control of village courts and

local police forces.

Despite what is clearly a locally oriented, economically driven

quest for security by Somalia’s citizens, international efforts

to bring stability to the country have focused on political

institutions. National peace conferences have had as their goal

the restoration of a functioning central government, on the

assumption that effective national governance is a prerequisite

for economic recovery.

These efforts have viewed Somalis primarily as political

actors who need to be reconciled around the ‘governmental

table’. Indeed most Somalis love politics, and the country’s

powerbrokers (including many businesspeople) have benefited

considerably from the infusion of international aid in support of

peace conferences and interim government budgets.

Yet such initiatives have done little to bring economic security

to the majority of Somali citizens; in fact they seem to be

perpetuating certain patterns of political behavior that hinder the

search for peace. There are three primary problems with such an

approach:

1.
The preoccupation with political representation at the

centre has resulted in interminable negotiations over who

should sit in government – presumably to help solve future

problems – rather than in focused efforts to deal with the

array of problems which exist now.

2.
Actors who benefit from local extortion rackets or

commerce in war materials continue to act as ‘spoilers’

whenever national political negotiations approach

consensus on matters of national security or government

regulation.

3.
Focusing on formulas for political ‘power sharing’ does

little to regularize or institutionalize practices which

Private sector

peacemaking

business and reconstruction in Somalia

Lee Cassanelli

42
| Accord | ISSUE 21

promote economic security, create belief in the idea of

a government that serves the common good, or instill

confidence in the international donor community.

Somalis need to be understood as economic as well as political

actors. Somalia’s 20
th century history provides numerous

examples of Somalis’ ability to rebuild local economies even after

prolonged periods of war, drought or social dislocation.

The recent success of the Somaliland experiment – however

fragile – is instructive. Wherever one stands on the sovereignty

issue, most would agree that the north’s initial economic

recovery occurred in spite of (or maybe because of?) the fact

that the Somaliland state did not have the capacity to intervene

very strongly in the private sector. As a result the region

succeeded in attracting valuable contributions of money, skills

and professional expertise from members of its own diaspora

and from a number of NGOs.

The vibrant commerce between Somaliland and eastern

Ethiopia, and across Somalia’s border with Kenya, has also

brought modest prosperity to many in the transport, hotel, and

retail trade sectors. In other words, it appears that in several

parts of the Horn of Africa, economic recovery is leading

political recovery, despite our intuitive sense that political

reconstruction ought to come first.

Evidence suggests that the international donor community,

along with most Somali politicians, have their priorities wrong.

They have put their intellects and their energies and their

resources into finding political solutions first, which is always

the most difficult thing for Somalis to achieve; and not enough

energy and resources into building on what Somalis do best –

that is responding to economic opportunities.

Perhaps we should look for ways to build political consensus

on the foundations of economic security, rather than vice

versa? One need not abandon the quest for a viable system of

national governance to begin exploring creative opportunities

to build stability and peace outside a narrowly political

framework. Might Somalia’s economic entrepreneurs – rather

than its political ones – be leading the way to stability and

security in the region?

Business, war and peace

The Somali business community has played an important role

in Somalia’s recent troubled history: at some points hindering

efforts at reconciliation by financing warlords and their militias;

at others working with local activists and NGOs seeking to

establish peace. Somali businesspeople have also supported

Shari’a
courts.

The wealthy and well connected members of the business

class have the most influence on policy. There is little

doubt that businesspeople bankrolled rival warlords in the

early 1990s and facilitated the flow of weapons and other

war
materiel into the country. At the same time the private

sector filled the major void left by the collapse of the national

banking and telephone systems by investing in money transfer

(
hawala) and telecommunications enterprises. They also

supported private schools, both for religious and technical

education, and helped pay the salaries of security personnel

to keep the ports operating.

Businesspeople typically sought accommodation with

whatever local political and military forces happened to be

ascendant in their spheres of activity at the time, even as they

hedged their bets by establishing branch offices and business

partnerships outside zones of endemic conflict.

By 2000 many Somali entrepreneurs – often with bases of

operation in Dubai, Nairobi, or Dire Dawa – had moved away

from profiteering in the ‘war economy’ and had begun to

diversify into the service sectors (finance, transport, information

technology), the construction industries and the import-export

trades involving Somalia’s neighbours.

In a 2007 survey of 41 African countries Somalia ranked

16
th in number of mobile phone users and 11th in number of

internet users. Some 15 companies operate aviation services

in Somalia, using leased aircraft and foreign personnel for

maintenance and air traffic services.

The transfer of revenues into Somalia from Somalis overseas

has been estimated at $1-1.5 billion annually, and
hawala

companies now provide an ever-growing range of banking

services and have invested in other sectors of the economy.

If World Bank figures can be believed, Somalia’s GDP grew

from around $1 billion in 1996 to more than $5.5 billion in

2007, with a real growth rate in 2007 of 2.6 per cent. Because

virtually all economic activity in Somalia is ‘informal,’ these

figures need to be treated with extreme caution. Nonetheless,

they suggest that Somalia’s economic actors have been moving

toward economic diversification and providing real growth in

several sectors of the economy.

Some of the economic innovations in the region are simply the

result of necessity, the efforts of Somalis to adapt and survive

in an unpredictable political environment. For every success

story there are dozens of failures. Small traders constantly

disappear from the market, for in the absence of a national

security system only the most powerful or well connected

businesspeople tend to survive.

Somali peace processes
| 43

Even those commentators such as Peter Little who celebrate

the successes of the ‘economy without state’ in Somalia

acknowledge that the unregulated economy in the country

leaves many vulnerable people behind. Wealthy businesspeople

may occasionally fund private schools and universities, but they

have little incentive to invest in major infrastructure projects or

broad-based social and health services.

Private entrepreneurs also tend to ignore the damage to

the natural environment caused by charcoal harvesting or

enclosed grazing reserves. And a ‘stateless’ society is unable to

provide the kinds of certifications that, for example, can satisfy

the health requirements of foreign livestock importers, who

frequently impose bans on Somalia’s livestock exports.

At present Somalia’s regional neighbours (Kenya, Ethiopia,

Djibouti, and even Uganda and Tanzania) seem to be

prospering more from Somali economic enterprise (chiefly

through the provisioning of consumer goods and services) than

the citizens of Somalia itself, where local predatory practices

continue to limit opportunities for entrepreneurs to accumulate

productive assets inside the country.

Nonetheless, as national political reconciliation conferences

have failed time and again to deliver either results or a sense

of hope, Somali businessmen and women have gone ahead

in efforts to expand their activities. Defying the tendency

toward endless political fragmentation, they have found ways

to cooperate with agents in neighboring countries to construct

regional networks of finance, real estate investment and retail

services across clan and territorial boundaries.

The private sector cannot completely ignore the process of

state rebuilding, and most wealthy businesspeople continue

to bankroll their own favorites in national political negotiations,

thus contributing to the centrifugal forces that prevent lasting

political accommodation at the centre. But increasingly it

appears that many in the private sector see the establishment

of a functioning central government as a ‘sideshow,’ a process

from which they do not want to be excluded, but whose

success is not at the moment pivotal to the conduct of their

businesses.

A new generation of businessmen and women

There are several reasons why the business sector may posses

the potential to bring a new dynamic to the Somali situation.

First, along with the old guard, today’s private sector includes

talented individuals from the under-40 generation. Somalis

often complain that most of the players at national peace

conferences are products of or have ties to the older generation

of politicians, and that until this older generation is replaced

there is little likelihood of substantive progress in peace talks.

These younger entrepreneurs realize the necessity of playing

by the rules of international business if they are to profit from

the global economy in the long run. They may also become

catalysts for the development of formal and informal business

‘schools’ within Somalia and in neighbouring countries.

Second, many in the new business classes have studied or

trained abroad, have language and technical skills which the

older generations lack and have connections with business

partners and firms outside Somalia. They are thus better

positioned to participate proactively in the wider regional

economy, rather than simply relying on clan nepotism or

looking for handouts from international donors.

Third, the ‘new’ business sector has greater access to and

respect for professionals in the Somali diaspora. Many

educated Somalis living overseas have been frustrated by the

limited opportunities for input into the peacemaking process

at the national level, where they tend to be marginalized

unless they are ‘in the service’ of one of the warlords or lead

politicos. Their contacts and skills might be put to more

effective use if they could partner with private Somali firms

operating in the Horn.

At the same time there are many vested economic interests on

the scene that are wary of business-driven reforms, and even

the ‘new’ entrepreneurs are not fully autonomous in their efforts

to promote conditions which facilitate private enterprise.

For example, modern Somali businessmen and women may

no longer be prisoners to their clans, but they are still part of

them. Even those who have lived abroad for several decades

are expected by their relatives to act in ways that at the very

least do not harm the interests of the group. These expectations

hinder efforts to transmit professional and associational

Trade continues despite war © CRD

44
| Accord | ISSUE 21

identities and attitudes to their counterparts in Somalia, and

it is still risky for entrepreneurs to operate in country without

support from their kinsmen.

Also, the transnational commercial networks that provide

inexpensive consumer goods to markets in Somalia, Ethiopia,

and Kenya can also be conduits for the flow of weapons and

illegal drugs. It should be no surprise if many of the new

entrepreneurs still have a hand in the illicit economy even

where they are also (or even primarily) engaged in legitimate

enterprises.

At present there are few institutional (as opposed to personal)

links between members of the entrepreneurial sector and

the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), and no formal

framework for incorporating the private sector into the peace

process. Promoters of political reconstruction must use any

leverage they have with the political actors to bring economic,

legal, and financial expertise from the private sector into the

problem-solving process.

While some enterprises have been launched by Somalis in the

diaspora, locally entrenched entrepreneurs may be suspicious

of the newcomers. The current transitional government of

President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed includes many Somali

professionals who have lived in the West, but his choices have

provoked strong opposition from political and religious leaders

with local constituencies who want their own place in the

government.

The economic sectors which have benefited most from

the absence of state regulation – financial services,

telecommunications, and the commerce in consumer goods

across national boundaries – have also profited the warlords

and spoilers, and have not done much to develop Somalia’s

critical infrastructure (roads, power grid, water supplies). The

latter can only attract private investment when a stable national

government (or regional authority) with reliable security forces

at its disposal is in place to ensure their maintenance and

protection from extortionists or rent seekers.

The thorny issue of land and property rights in Somalia cannot

be resolved by the private sector until there is a government

committed to adjudicating the claims of those dispossessed

during the 1990s, particularly from the productive farm lands of

the inter-river region and the from the most desirable real estate

in Mogadishu and other urban centres.

Most of those who lost their assets to the armed militias –

including many members of Somalia’s minority groups – have

not been able to recover them, and the dispossessed enjoy

scant representation in the TFG. None of the leading politicians

have advocated publicly for the establishment of a land

claims tribunal, chiefly because most of them are themselves

beneficiaries of the post-1990 land grab.

While there is reliable (if anecdotal) evidence that the Islamic

Courts’ leadership in 2006 succeeded in restoring some

unlawfully occupied urban properties to their previous owners,

there is no indication that they or their successors had any

plans to address claims of rural farmers. This remains the

single most volatile economic issue to be confronted by any

government that comes to power in Mogadishu.

Peace entrepreneurs?

Given these many obstacles, it may appear that Somalia’s

economic entrepreneurs have little chance of altering the

current political trajectory in Somalia. However, if the limited

economic recovery led by the private sector continues to

expand to include more of the region’s inhabitants, more

people will find an alternative to the economy of predation and

may come to have a stake in the predictable and peaceful flow

of goods and services.

If Somalis find better economic security in their markets than

in their militias, they are more likely to bring pressure on their

leaders to support a regime of law and order. The creation of a

peace constituency anchored in an expanding regional economy

may take a decade or more, and will require the continued tacit

cooperation of the governments of Kenya and Ethiopia.

It may also take some new thinking on the part of international

donors and policymakers, who might consider prioritizing

projects that promote business training, cooperating with

successful entrepreneurs in improving infrastructure in regions

where peaceful commerce has emerged, and looking for more

effective ways to use the economic expertise of Somalis in the

diaspora.

Lee Cassanelli is Director of the African Studies Center and

Associate Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania.

If Somalis find better economic

security in their markets than

in their militias, they are more

likely to bring pressure on their

leaders to support a regime of

law and order”




46
| Accord | ISSUE 21

How do Somali communities deal with their need for security

and governance in the absence of a state? The reality is that

since 1991 numerous Somali-led reconciliation processes

have taken place at local and regional levels. Often these

have proven more sustainable than the better resourced and

better publicized national reconciliation processes sponsored

by the international community.

Some Somali reconciliation processes have provided a basis for

lasting stability and development, such as those in Puntland and

Somaliland. Others have addressed an immediate crisis but have

not been sustained. But few processes are known beyond their

immediate context. A recent study by Interpeace and its partner

organizations has catalogued over 100 such indigenous peace

processes in south central Somalia, Puntland and Somaliland

since 1991. This has deepened our understanding of the

methods and efficacy of Somali peacemaking.

This introduction to Somali-led peace processes draws on

the findings of the Interpeace research (www.interpeace.org/

index.php/Somalia/Somalia.html) and peace initiatives by

other civic actors.

The contributions that make up this section refer to different

types of Somali-led peace processes. Many processes draw on

traditional practices of negotiation and mediation conducted

by clan elders that have a long heritage in managing relations

between clans and sub-clans [
please refer to the glossary for

a description of clan and elder
]. Adapting to the context, they

also incorporate modern practices and technologies and involve

educated professionals.

Several of the articles also describe innovative peace initiatives

by women and other civic activists to end violence and

deal with security threats, which do not draw directly on

traditional practices. Some of the essential features of Somali

peacemaking and the generic lessons about peacemaking in

the Somali context are highlighted in the articles that follow.

Procedure

Thorough preparation
is an essential feature of Somaliled

peace processes. Typically this involves making initial

contacts to establish a cessation of hostilities (
colaad joojin)

and the formation of a preparatory committee to mobilize

people and resources and to ensure security. The committee

will usually set guidelines on the number, selection and

approval of delegates and the procedures for conducting the

negotiations.

The preparatory committee will assign other committees to

oversee different aspects of the process, including fundraising.

The choice of venue is critical for practical, political and

symbolic reasons. The hosting community has responsibility for

providing security and covering many of the expenses, which

are predominantly raised locally.

Respected and authoritative leadership and mediation
talks

are chaired by a committee of elders
(shirguudon), sometimes

from neutral clans. Since effective reconciliation is heavily

influenced by the quality of the mediation, facilitation and

management, it is fundamentally important that the chair is a

trusted and respected person who commands moral authority,

and is often a senior elder.

How Somali-led peace

processes work

Section introduction

Dr Pat Johnson and Abdirahman Raghe

Somali peace processes
| 47

Three senior Somali elders from Somaliland, Puntland and

south central Somalia, Hajji Abdi Hussein Yusuf, Sultan

Said and Malaq Isaaq, talk in this section of the publication

about the qualities that elders are expected to possess.

They describe the vital role they play in maintaining peace

within their own community and in settling disputes with

neighbouring clans. Abdurahman ‘Shuke’ also explains

(
see p. 58) the importance of traditional institutions, based

on
xeer (customary law), in laying the foundations for

reconciliation and the emergence of stable political structures

in Somaliland and Puntland.

Inclusiveness
is an important principle of Somali-led peace

processes, although women and displaced populations

are rarely involved in political deliberations for reasons

elaborated in the articles on women and on displacement.

The numbers of official delegates are agreed in advance

according to an established formula, usually based on

proportional representation by clan. Delegates speak and

negotiate on behalf of their community, to which they are also

accountable. Parties that are not directly involved but who

could become an obstacle to a settlement also have to be

accommodated.

Poetry, religion and ritual are all significant features, helping

to facilitate or sanctify an agreement, and therefore the

range of actors includes not only traditional and religious

leaders, politicians, military officers, diaspora, business

people and civic activists, but also poets, ‘opinion makers’

and representatives of the media – all with recognized roles

to play.

Meetings typically attract a large unofficial contingent of

people who are part of the constituency to whom delegates

can defer and who may contribute through informal

mediation, specific expertise, drafting agreements or

mobilizing support. Often the final stage of a process is

witnessed by delegates of neighbouring clans, adding weight

to its conclusion. Inclusiveness is just as important in non

traditional processes, as illustrated by the account below of

the operation of the District Committee in Wajid (
see p. 70).

Women’s roles
are rarely recognized beyond their support

for logistics in traditional inter-clan processes. As Faiza Jama

Mohamed explains in her article on women and peacebuilding

(
see p. 62) , women’s position in society – as daughters of one

clan or lineage and often married to another – has denied them

Elders at a peace conference in Puntland discuss payment of
diya (blood compensation) © PDRC

48
| Accord | ISSUE 21

a formal role in politics. Nevertheless women have organized

themselves using innovative tactics to mobilize support and to

pressurize parties to stop fighting and continue dialogue when

it appears to be faltering.

In Somaliland peace conferences, women recited poetry to

influence proceedings. In 1998 in the Puntland parliament a

woman poet shamed male delegates into allocating seats for

women. Elsewhere women have pressed elders to reach an

accord and avoid conflict by offering to pay outstanding
diya

(blood compensation).

In many urban settings women have been able to play more

influential roles, as Faiza Jama highlights in her account of the

remarkable efforts by women civic activists who have ‘waged

peace’ in Mogadishu and elsewhere
.

Consensus decision making
is another key principle of Somali

peacemaking. The time needed to negotiate consensus is

one reason for the length of some Somali peace processes.

Malaq Isaak observes (
see p. 50) that speed can kill peace

processes. Different forces may be brought to bear to

encourage resolution, including the burden of financial

costs being borne by the hosting community or lobbying by

groups of stakeholders (often women). The authority of peace

accords derive from the consensus decision making process

as well as the legitimacy of the leadership, the inclusiveness

of the process, and the use of
xeer. Abdurahman Shuke

explains how the use o
f xeer has been fundamental for the

restoration of peace.

Somali negotiators adopt an
incremental approach to

peacemaking
. First attempts to resolve a conflict often fail

and a process may be restarted with new strategies and

participants learning from one initiative to the next. Many of

the larger conferences are the culmination of several smaller,

localized meetings.

It is not uncommon for Somali peace processes to spread

over many months or even years. The process leading to

the conference and implementation of the accords produces

the peace, not the conference itself. Hajji Abdi Hussein

(
see p. 60) explains how Somaliland’s successes in

reconciliation and statebuilding in the 1990s are attributed

to a sustained focus on resolving issues at a community level

before tackling broader governance issues.

Somali-led peace talks typically ensure
effective public

outreach
throughout the process and wide dissemination

to ratify the outcomes. This is recognized as critical to the

legitimacy and sustainability of peace accords.

Substance

The aim of Somali peace meetings is to
restore social

relations between communities and reinstitute a system of

law and order
. Reconciliation is considered central to success

and is achieved through restitution and restorative justice

rather than retribution.

The declaration of responsibility by the aggressor is seen as

representing more than a third of the path to a solution. Both

Malaq Isaaq and Sultan Said (
see p. 56) stress the importance

of ‘telling truth’ or ‘confessing wrongdoing’ as an essential

precursor to a settlement.

Many local peace processes reach agreements on reestablishing

institutions for
governance. Ibrahim Ali Amber

‘Oker’ discusses the many different forms that such institutions

take in the still fragmented south central area of the country.

Abdurahman Shuke explains the need to restore the social

contract between clans after it has broken down and rules have

been broken.
Compensation (diya) payments are agreed and

one of the jobs of an elder is to collect the agreed amount from

the clan members, as Malaq Isaaq describes. A key factor in

the recurrence of conflict can be delayed payment of
diya and

some accords therefore include a timeframe for payments to

address this. Ibrahim Ali Oker suggests some of the factors

that have worked against instituting a more stable framework of

governance in south central Somalia.

Agreements usually institute
sanctions for those violating the

accord, as highlighted below by both Abdurahman Shuke and

Malaq Isaaq. Often there is an agreement on mechanisms for

monitoring implementation and managing future conflicts.

Restorative justice supports social reconciliation through

collective responsibility but militates against individual

responsibility. Some local accords tackle this by specifying

It is not uncommon for

Somali peace processes to

spread over many months

or even years. The process

leading to the conference and

implementation of the accords

produces the peace, not the

conference itself”


Somali peace processes
| 49

that violations will be addressed through application of
Shari’a

(Islamic law), rather than payment of
diya. Ibrahim Ali Oker

observes that one of the weaknesses of locally negotiated

agreements in south central Somalia is the absence of a central

(or local) authority or administration to uphold or enforce them.

In terms of the agenda for peace conferences, a clear and

pressing objective of virtually every Somali led peace process

studied was that of
ending violence and re-establishing public

security
. The cessation of hostilities that preceded many

initiatives was reaffirmed and translated into a ceasefire at the

conference, and measures were instituted to maintain security

and build confidence.

In places where disarmament has taken place, like Somaliland

and Puntland, consensus is reached to put weapons at the service

of the local authorities. But there is an implicit understanding

that communities may withdraw these commitments should the

agreements be violated, thereby generating sufficient confidence

for the peace accord to be sustained. The Somali commitment to

consensus in peacemaking processes is reflected in commitments

to joint responsibility and management of ceasefires and social

control of the means of violence.

Outside the formal Somali framework of dispute settlement

and peace conferences, Somali men and women in many

walks of life have had to find innovative ways of dealing with

the security challenges they face. Women have played a

particularly important role as civil society activists seeking to

broker new arrangements for public security, as Faiza Jama’s

article describes.

The extraordinary efforts that have been made by the public in

Mogadishu to contain violence and establish local systems of law

and order is also the covered in Jama Mohamed’s contribution

on neighbourhood watch (
see p. 66) . The remarkable survival of

Mogadishu’s Bakaaro market is also described below (
see p. 68).

These are important examples of the innovation that has take

place to achieve security in urban settings.

Different kinds of outcomes
The large, region-wide

conferences in Borama in Somaliland in 1993 and Garowe

in Puntland in 1998 were political processes that produced

lasting agreements on power sharing. The important role that

traditional elders played in these peace processes is noted in

the article by Abdurahman Shuke and in the interviews with

elders from Puntland and Somaliland.

These conferences formulated a political vision of a future

state, articulated in charters that defined the structure and

responsibilities of public administrations and the establishment

of public security services. Such structures are still lacking in

south central Somalia where, as Ibrahim Ali Oker points out,

there are occupied territories and serious imbalances of power,

and where a capable administration is needed to uphold and

sustain agreements.

Finally, local processes are
not divorced from national or

regional level politics.
They can be heavily influenced by

factors beyond the control of the local communities, whether

political manoeuvring by their elite, external sponsors of local

conflict (including the diaspora), or dynamics emerging from

national level peace conferences.

Both Sultan Said and Malaq Isaak in conversations that took

place hundreds of miles apart each observe how difficult it is to

make or keep the peace when ‘politicians’ are involved, people

who are generally perceived as self interested, unrepresentative

and unaccountable. And as the articles by both Jama

Mohamed and Faiza Jama show, the neighbourhood security

arrangements that had flourished in Mogadishu foundered

largely as a result of national and international politics.

Interpeace’s peace mapping study was carried out from January

2007 by Somali researchers from the Academy for Peace and

Development in Somaliland, the Puntland Development Research

Center and the Center for Research and Dialogue in south

central Somalia. Using Interpeace’s participatory action research

methodology to interview over four hundred people.

The CRD also undertook research on internationally sponsored

national peace conferences in collaboration with Professor Ken

Menkhaus. Five films were also produced as part of the research.

Dr Pat Johnson has been Senior Program Officer with the Interpeace

Somali program since 2005, having previously worked with Oxfam-

GB and the UN in Puntland, and the EC Delegation in Nairobi.

She has played a major role in Interpeace’s peace-mapping study,

undertaken by the three Somali partner institutions, which reviews

Somali-led peace initiatives and lessons learned from national-level

peace processes.

Abdirahman Osman Raghe was the Permanent Secretary in the

Ministry of Interior until 1989, later working for the UNDP. He

returned from Canada to the Somali region/ Nairobi in 1998 as

one of the co-founders and deputy director of the Somali program

for WSP (later re-named Interpeace) and plays a lead role in

supporting reconciliation and peacebuilding throughout the Somali

region and democratization with the local communities in both

Somaliland and Puntland.

50

| Accord | ISSUE 21




How did you become an elder?




Traditionally there are three different ways that a person can

become an elder in the Digil and Mirifle community. The first

is through an election process whereby clan and sub-clan

members choose the elder. The second is through inheritance,

when a prominent and well-respected clan elder dies and clan

members crown the son of the elder and ask him to assume the

responsibilities of his father. A third way is through appointment

by the authorities and is the least effective of the three.

I was elected as a

Malaq of the Luway after the previous




Malaq

passed away and have served in this role for about




thirty-five years.




What has been your role in peace processes?




Like other elders of the Digil and Mirifle community, I have

been entrusted by my community with important roles and

responsibilities in peace processes. These are to prevent and

resolve conflicts both within my sub-clan, and with other subclans

with the help of other elders, and also to represent my

Luway sub-clan in local, regional and national peace processes.

For this we often use

xeer (customary law) and Shari’a.




It is also my responsibility to pay and collect

diya (blood




compensation payments) from my sub-clan members if

someone from my clan kills other clan members. Likewise I

receive

diya if a member of my sub-clan is killed by another




clan. This is in accordance with to the traditional

xeer of the




Digil and Mirifle people.

As an elder of Luway sub-clan, I have participated in five major

peace processes including the Idaale land ownership dispute, a

power sharing conflict in Dinsor District council, a clan conflict

over grazing land in Wajid district and a dispute over power

sharing in the administration between competing wings of the

Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA).




What is the traditional role of Somali elders in peacemaking?




When elders receive reports of impending conflicts involving

two clans, they organize the selection of suitable elders and

dispatch them to the site. Often elders are not from the clans

engaged in the fighting. Through an informal negotiation

process, elders bring representatives of the fighting clans to a

negotiation tree or to any other environment conducive to talks

and mediation. If need arises religious leaders are brought into

the mediation process as they carry moral authority.

The traditional role of Somali elders in peacemaking is to

impose sanctions on any group or individuals who oppose

the peace process. This can be by fining those groups or

individuals who violate the peace, and punishing collectively

those who refuse to sit in peace negotiations to solve their

conflict through dialogue rather than by violence. It is also

common in the Digil and Mirifle community to confiscate the

assets of people who violate the peace.




Building peace

in south central

Somalia




the role of elders




a conversation with Malaq Isaak Ibraahim




Malaq Isaak Ibrahim is from the Luway sub-clan of the Rahanweyn (Digil-Mirifle) clan from Bay region in south central Somalia. He is a

prominent, influential and well respected senior elder who has participated in many local and national peace processes during the last

nineteen years of civil war in Somalia.




Malaq Isaak Ibrahim. © CRD




Somali peace processes

| 51




How has the elders’ role changed over the past 20 years?




The role of elders has been challenged over the years,

particularly during the civil war. But elders still remain powerful

social forces that cannot be ignored. Every authority who has

taken over the Digil and Mirifle regions has tried to limit our

authority but none of them has succeeded.




What qualities does an elder need to be good peacemaker?




To be a good peacemaker an elder should be a religious man

who practices Islamic

Shari’a, well respected in the Digil and




Mirifle community, impartial, honest and a good decision

maker. He should be knowledgeable of

xeer. He also needs




good communication skills and the capacity to engage with

people outside his own sub-clan.




What are the key elements that can contribute to a

successful Somali-led peace process?




I strongly believe that peace cannot be sustained without

the involvement and the endorsement of the elders. To be

successful a peace process needs to give more opportunity for

important stakeholders in the community to participate. These

people will bring fresh ideas to the peace process.

It is also important to reduce the influence of external actors.

The cost of peace processes should be reduced. It is also

important to allow enough time to discuss fundamental issues.




Why do peace processes sometimes fail?




Failure of peace processes can be the result of many factors.

Among the most important are that too much money is spent.

Peace cannot be bought. Peace conferences have generally

failed to address fundamental issues of reconciliation. This

should include acceptance of guilt, forgiveness, tolerance and

divulging the truth about past atrocities. How can we reach

peace if we do not address important issues that brought about

the conflict in the first place?

The top-down approach that is used in all Somali national peace

processes has contributed to failure. Most of them are held outside

the country and look for a quick fix solution rather than responding

to the real conflict. There is a lack of continuity and consistency.

Most Somali peace processes are poorly organized and managed

and they lack the fundamental base for the peace process. Most

lack legitimacy in the eyes of the constituencies they represent,

although this can also occur in local peace processes. The

limited engagement or the absence of traditional elders is the

major contribution to failure. Also there is an absence of strong

authority to reinforce the agreements that can be reached.




None of the internationally-sponsored peace processes have

brought sustainable peace or a functional government. What

do you think the reasons for this are?




I think about this every day. Why cannot the Somali problem

be resolved once and for all? It appears to me that despite the

international community expending time and money on Somali

peace processes, none of this has produced any viable institutions.

Everyone wants to become president without putting the

country first. And it seems like the outside world also supports

a short cut. Somali leaders often put their personal interest

before the national interest. The organizers of peace processes

have not had enough knowledge of the Somali culture and the

real root causes of Somali conflict.

We Somali people have needed a government. But the

outcomes of those peace processes have not reflected

the voices of the Somali community. They have reflected

the need of the organizers. Most of them believed that the

accommodation of those with guns in leadership positions

could bring a solution. This has not worked so far.

I would also like to point out the lack of political and financial

support from the international community for the outcome of

Somali peace processes.




How could elders contribute to national reconciliation?




Traditional elders could contribute to Somali national reconciliation

if they were given a chance and their voices could be heard.

Good examples are the regional administrations of Puntland and

Somaliland, where traditional elders made it possible to bring

sustainable peace and stability. In Bay and Bakool we play an

active role in the establishment of the local administration and

maintaining peace in the absence of authorities.




What is your vision for the complete recovery of the Somali

region in terms of peace, stability and statehood?




If conflict resolution starts at the grassroots level and through a

bottom-up approach, Somalia will be able to recover from the

current crisis. I strongly believe that Somalia will get peace. The

difficulties we are seeing today will serve as an experience for a

future Somalia. I am optimistic that a better Somalia is coming,

although may be slowly.




76
| Accord | ISSUE 21

The Republic of Somaliland declared independence from

Somalia in 1991 after years of war had culminated in the

overthrow of the Somali dictator Siyad Barre. Since then

Somaliland has proven the most stable entity in the Somali

region.

Despite setbacks during two internal wars in 1992 and

1994-96, Somaliland has also been one of the most

peaceful places in the Horn of Africa. A lengthy self-financed

process of clan reconciliation in the early 1990s led to a

power-sharing government. This has provided an important

base for Somaliland’s enduring political stability and for its

reconstruction and development.

Somaliland defies a common view that Somalis are incapable

of governing themselves. Despite numerous and continuing

challenges, especially in the context of the democratization

process begun in 2001, Somaliland presents an alternative path

to state reconstruction in the Somali region.

Building peace and forming a state

From the outset the existence of functioning traditional institutions

in Somaliland was fundamental. These institutions have survived

both British colonial rule and Somali statehood functionally intact,

albeit transformed. Revitalized during the resistance against Siyad

Barre’s regime,
ad hoc councils of elders (guurtiida) instantly took

on the role of quasi-administrations, managing militias, mediating

disputes, administering justice, interacting with international

agencies and raising local revenue in the absence of local

administrative structures.

Moreover traditional clan elders provided a readily available

conflict resolution mechanism and reconciliation infrastructure.

In the 1990s international intervention by the UN Mission in

Somalia (UNOSOM) and by other foreign powers struggled to

cobble together an agreement between warlords in Mogadishu.

However Somaliland achieved its cessation of hostilities and

also longer term stability through a series of no less than 38

clan-based peace and reconciliation conferences and meetings

between 1990 and 1997.

The efforts in Somaliland (and also in Puntland) differed

from those in south central Somalia on a number of key

characteristics: 1) meetings were materially supported by

communities, including the diaspora; 2) key figures of each

affected clan participated voluntarily; and 3) resolutions were

adopted by consensus after broad consultation.

These circumstances provided for a remarkable degree of local

and national ownership, legitimacy and inclusion. Much of this

was transferred to the statebuilding process in Somaliland, too

– at least initially.

The new polity is often described as a ‘dynamic hybrid’ of

western form and traditional substance. It is founded on clanbased

power sharing and balanced political representation

(the
beel system). But this occurs within the framework of

western style procedures and institutions, such as elections,

parliament and cabinet. At its centre, the constitutional
Guurti,

the powerful Upper House of Parliament, institutionalized the

political participation of traditional and religious elders.

Reintegration and demobilization of former combatants were

crucial in terms of neutralizing potential spoilers. Once the port

of Berbera had effectively been brought under government

control in 1993, Somaliland strongly benefited from the

absence of any other significant resources that could have

attracted a war economy. The availability of the port revenues

also enabled the government to integrate many militias into a

new national army. Former SNM leaders were appointed as

cabinet ministers. As well as consensus building, cooption was

an important and successful government tactic.

Somaliland

‘home grown’ peacemaking and political reconstruction

Mohammed Hassan Ibrahim and Ulf Terlinden

Somali peace processes
| 77

The desire for international recognition – within the borders of

former British Somaliland – also provided a strong incentive for

stability. All parties, and especially the victorious SNM, were

aware that to be recognized as an independent state Somaliland

required consensual, negotiated resolution of outstanding issues

from the war. It was equally clear that any government needed to

obtain at least minimal endorsement by all clans.

The political elite further understood that Somaliland needed

to present itself as a modern state with a democratic system

of government. However while the introduction of democracy

provided stabilizing impulses, it also brought an inherent

contradiction. In view of the continuing significance of the

clans, the political system had to accommodate clan-based

power sharing within electoral democratic representation

(usually based on nomination), such as the
Guurti.

Stabilization and political reconstruction

Five main characteristics contributed to the process of

stabilization and political reconstruction:

1.
The process moved incrementally from peacemaking

to state formation and statebuilding, in parallel with

reconciliation and democratization. Although all ‘grand’

clan conferences had an element of each of these

components, the respective emphasis was shifted carefully

and each new step was shaped along the way to allow

room for ‘organic’ growth and continuing, pragmatic

adaptation whenever the need arose.

Contrary to many ‘national’ government-making processes,

the Somaliland model has not been defined by timeframes

and explicit targets. Rather, it has focused on internal

dynamics, and this has been further supported by the

hesitant, incremental growth of international assistance for

institutional capacity building and democratization.

2.
State and government capacity expanded gradually from

the administration’s strongholds in the west towards the

east, which was partly controlled by a disgruntled clanbased

opposition and has been somewhat contested by

neighbouring Puntland.

In contrast to a prescriptive and blanket ‘top down’ deal,

this gradual (and still ongoing) approach has enabled a

heterogeneous process of statebuilding, granting time

and political space to accommodate different needs and

challenges at the local level.

3.
Especially after 1993 there has been clear and strong

leadership, providing vision and direction
. Former

President Mohamed Egal, a veteran politician who

enjoyed considerable public trust, was able to consolidate

state power and chart Somaliland’s way towards

democratization.

4.
Although the clan system has been an obstacle to

statebuilding and nationbuilding, it also
provides

essential checks and balances
. Despite its increased

capacity, the executive is still under pressure to strike

a careful equilibrium between different interests of

clans and sub-clans, both inside and outside the state

apparatus. This curtails the central government’s room

for manoeuvre in areas that might otherwise provoke

renewed instability.

5.
Principles of compromise and consensus building have

remained important after Somaliland embarked upon

the democratization process. Where Somaliland’s legal

framework has not provided either sufficient regulation or

room for manoeuvre, the process remained sufficiently

lenient to accommodate the underlying reality of the

clan social structure. Codes of conduct, a ‘give and take’

approach and mediated solutions were used to maintain

the greater good of stability.

Democratizing Somaliland’s political institutions

Despite its successes, statebuilding in Somaliland has

suffered both challenges and conflict. Two civil wars in the

1990s derailed the rebuilding process and almost shattered

Somaliland’s territorial unity. And ironically the strengthening of

the central government has also had some destabilizing effects.

For instance the
beel political system was increasingly usurped

by the executive, threatening to derail its ability to provide

legitimacy and to safeguard clan interests.

But the promise of introducing electoral systems after the

Hargeisa reconciliation conference in 1997 ultimately provided

Children look at a monument of the Somali National Movement’s struggle,

Hargeisa, Somaliland © Mark Bradbury

78
| Accord | ISSUE 21

a much needed prospect of adjustment and transformation.

Although it took another five years to adopt a constitution,

the democratization process absorbed a lot of the emerging

tensions and dissent.

The move to a constitutionally-based multi-party democracy

after 2001 presented new challenges to stability, however.

The key question was whether and how political stability built

on the traditional
beel system could successfully evolve into a

constitutional democracy based on the rights of its citizens.

Severe structural resistance from within Somaliland’s

traditional clan society demanded a highly flexible democratic

system. Political parties, the National Electoral Commission,

candidate nomination procedures, the election system itself,

voter registration and other formal institutions all needed to

accommodate a vast array of social and political forces. This

left little room to transform government bodies into effective,

stable, formal and professional institutions.

The multi-party electoral system also introduced a ‘winner

takes all’ system, in contrast with the more inclusive

traditional framework of clan representation. As a result

political disputes have sometimes threatened to escalate

into violent conflict. And the fact that such disputes have

subsequently been defused through private mediation has

further undermined the development of formal conflict

management institutions. Nor has private mediation proved

reliable, efficient or sustainable.

The judiciary and the legislature remain weak. Despite the

existence of a constitution, in reality the absence of tangible

checks and balances leaves the executive vastly stronger

than these other branches of government. Parliament cannot

exercise its constitutional authority to oversee the executive.

The legislature lacks the resources, expertise, unity and the

political will to hold the executive to account. And the judiciary

operates largely as subordinate to the executive.

Somaliland’s formal political, administrative and judicial structures

have been circumvented on a number of issues, including,

for instance, the security sector, the rights of parliament, the

budgetary process and the detention of critics. Patronage is

rampant and limited public resources are often mismanaged.

Elections themselves have further challenged Somaliland’s

young political system. Elections were first held at district

level in December 2002. The three political associations

that emerged strongest from these elections became the

only parties licensed under the current constitution. This

restriction and the very limited development of structures and

democratic procedures within the parties seriously limit political

competition.

The presidential elections in 2003 gave the ruling party a

narrow victory over the opposition by a margin of 80 votes.

The opposition contested the results and the Supreme Court

eventually ruled in favour of the government. However it was

only after intense mediation and strong public pressure that the

opposition conceded victory to the incumbent President Dahir

Rayale.

In 2005 however, the opposition won a majority in

parliamentary elections, creating a situation of divided

government. Since then the country has frequently found itself

mired in political confrontation between the executive and the

legislature.

Meanwhile, the credibility of the – unelected –
Guurti has been

severely damaged because of its allegiance to the executive,

undermining its constitutional mandate to mediate political

conflicts in the country. Existing legal frameworks, because of

their ambiguity, have also proved inadequate in the context of

these disputes.

The weakness of formal institutions, the power imbalance

been the contestants and above all the inherent contradictions

between the social structure (clans) and the procedures

enshrined in the constitution, have culminated in an extended

and on-going delay of the second electoral cycle.

Local elections – meant to take place in December 2007 – have

been delayed until further notice. The presidential elections,

originally due in April 2008, were postponed for the fifth time

in September 2009, now without scheduling a specific new

election date. Along with these repeated postponements,

the terms in office of the local district councils and national

government have been extended without elections. Instead, the

Guurti
have controversially provided several extensions of their

terms of office.

Following two years of incremental delays, these actions

have not only damaged Somaliland’s emerging democratic

system and its reputation. Ultimately, reflecting the incomplete

political transformation described above, they now threaten to

undermine Somaliland’s stability.

Many of these issues are closely connected with the insufficient

development of a strong domestic constituency to promote and

safeguard the democratization process. So far Somaliland lacks

a ‘critical mass’ that could clearly be identified as the popular

driving force of democratization.

Somali peace processes
| 79

‘Horizontal’ forms of civic association and organization across

clan lines remain very limited, strongly contributing to the

absence of a culture of broad-based social movements. In

the absence of experience of participation in a system of

liberal democracy, there is a tendency to ‘look up’ and wait

for concepts to come from above. Although there is a broad

perception that democracy is beneficial to the populace,

democracy so far has too little active lobby.

Disputed boundaries and Somaliland’s

unrecognized status

The most serious threat to Somaliland’s stability is currently

from militants associated with the (purportedly Islamist)

insurgency in south central Somalia. Elements of Al Shabaab

and similar groups exist under ground because they do not

enjoy popular support. But they have repeatedly engaged in

assassinations of aid workers since 2003 as well as in three

simultaneous suicide bombings in Hargeisa in October 2008.

These groups pursue (Somalia-wide) unionist or even (globally)

universalistic agendas against Somaliland’s independence and

seek to stall its secular democratization.

Somaliland’s longstanding territorial dispute with neighbouring

Puntland over Sool and Eastern Sanaag regions is also a

continuing problem. Somaliland’s claims are based on its

colonial boundary within Somalia, while Puntland bases its

position on the fact that the Dhulbahante and Warsangeli

communities inhabiting the area are part of the Harti clan that

controls Puntland.

The conflict remained a ‘cold war’ until a bloody confrontation

in 2002. Since then forces of both sides have been locked in a

standoff, resulting in several rounds of fighting. Sool’s capital Las

Anod was captured by Somaliland forces in October 2007. The

situation remains tense and sporadic clashes can be expected

to recur so long as the underlying conflict remains unaddressed

and both sides insist on their claims to the territory.

Closely linked and to some extent underlying these external

challenges is Somaliland’s continuing desire to achieve

international recognition and the unresolved relationship

with Somalia. There is growing ‘fatigue’ in Somaliland over

stagnation on these issues. This is reinforced by concern over

the shortage of territorial guarantees and protection that it can

call upon as an unrecognized territory, despite its relatively

close relationship and security cooperation with Ethiopia.

Lessons from Somaliland’s experience

Somaliland’s experience illustrates the potential and –

especially in the Somali context – impressive sustainability that

‘home-grown’ peacemaking and reconciliation can generate.

With relatively little international help – except from its huge

diaspora in the Gulf region, Europe and North America –

Somaliland accomplished gigantic tasks such as demobilization,

the restoration of law and order, the management of a

deregulated economy, making a constitution and at least initial

steps towards a plural democracy.

All of this has been achieved without peace being imposed either

from above or from outside. National compromise in Somaliland

has grown locally and with the liberty of different speeds in

different contexts and regions, ‘quick and dirty’ short-cuts in the

peace process were largely avoided.

Also avoided has been resort to ‘cake-cutting’ power-sharing

exercises, which have been unsuccessfully attempted

elsewhere in Somalia. Instead the overlapping but consecutive

peacemaking, institution-building and democratization processes

in Somaliland have followed the successive establishment of

a ceasefire, the careful restoration of relationships, genuine

reconciliation, and a locally-owned process that has determined

the future design of the polity.

None of the accomplishments in Somaliland can be taken

for granted, however. Post-war political reconstruction is

not a linear, let alone an irreversible process. The recurrent

need to ‘reinvent’ political institutions (eg the changing role

of traditional authorities) and the recent setbacks in the

democratization process underline that consolidation requires

continuous effort – and favourable circumstances – at every

juncture.

Looking at lessons to draw from Somaliland’s case, it is important

to note the unique combination of circumstances that worked in

Somaliland’s favour: a strong traditional system, the absence of

‘war-economic’ resources, and the incentives from the search for

international recognition.

Somaliland’s experiences are therefore not easily transferable to

southern Somalia or beyond. But they should clearly encourage

international practitioners and policy makers to support ‘homegrown’

peacemaking and political reconstruction wherever the

circumstances permit, be it on a national, regional or local level.

Mohammed Hassan Ibrahim is lead researcher at the Academy for

Peace and Development, Hargeisa, Somaliland.

Ulf Terlinden is a political scientist specializing in governance and

conflict issues in the Horn of Africa Region. He is pursuing a PhD on

the political reconstruction process in Somaliland.
Interview conducted by the Center for Research and Dialogue.



94
| Accord | ISSUE 21

Suluh
(pacification)

Peace and reconciliation are among the fundamental

tenets of Islam, which preaches the virtue of the conflict

resolution method known as
Suluh (‘Pacification’). This is

mentioned in several verses of the
Qur’an along with the

importance of promoting reconciliation. According to Islam,

promoting reconciliation is an act of goodness and people are

encouraged to resolve their differences this way.

But according to the Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon

Him – PBUH), conflict breeds chaos and puts all the other

pillars in jeopardy. Therefore, to pacify those in conflict is the

most beneficial and
Suluh is key to it all.

The Somali Islamic tradition

Somalis traditionally have adhered to the
Shafi’i school of Sunni

Islam. Historically most have have belonged to one of the

established
Sufi orders and in their practices have fused local

traditions and beliefs with Islam. Clan ancestors have been

assimilated as
Awliya or ‘trusted ones’ and Somali customary

law incorporates elements of
Shari’a.

Somalia’s post-independence civilian and military governments

recognized Islam as the official state religion, but there was no

tolerance for political Islam. When religious leaders challenged

the government of Mohammed Siyad Barre in 1975 over a new

Family Law giving equal rights for men and women, ten Muslim

scholars were publicly executed. By the 1980s more radical

interpretations of Islam had begun to gather pace as Somali

Muslim scholars returned from Egypt and Saudi Arabia against

a backdrop of widespread corruption, economic downturn and

growing civil unrest.

In 1991 the Barre regime collapsed and reformist Islamic

movements established a real foothold in the country,

particularly in the south central regions. When the state

collapsed Somalia fell into the same chaos that is also

mentioned in the
Qur’an. Clans fought against each other;

political factions clashed over the pursuit of power; and crimes

became a common occurrence. At this time killing sprees also

became part of daily life and criminals walked without fear of

being held accountable for their crimes. All of this violence

came at the expense of innocent civilians, whose desperation

spurred the creation of Islamic courts.

As people turned to Islam for security and the moral and

physical reconstruction of communities, Islamic foundations

and benefactors outside of the country invested in businesses

and social services. At different times Somali political leaders

also promoted Islamic movements in pursuit of their own

political strategies.

The emergence of the Islamic Courts

The first Islamic Courts were established in Maka and Medina

neighborhoods of Mogadishu as early as 1991. The militant

Somali Islamic group Al Itihad Al Islamiya also established

Islamic Courts in Gedo region around that time. More courts

were established in North Mogadishu in 1994 and they later

spread to other districts throughout Mogadishu from 1998 until

2000.

Islam and

Somali

social

order

Koranic school © Ryan Anson/Interpeace

Somali peace processes
| 95

These courts were originally clan-based, but merged to form

the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) in 2004. The primary reason

behind their creation was to bring law and order and to promote

Suluh
among families, clans and individuals. The courts dealt

with murder cases on the basis of Islamic jurisprudence,

categorizing killings into three classes: intentional; semiintentional

(killing by means that would not normally threaten

life) and accidental. All cases were dealt with through the

application of Islamic law.

After achieving some success in containing criminality, the

courts moved to address civic cases such as land disputes,

divorces, inheritance claims, car-jacking and family disputes,

employing both punishment and dispute resolution methods to

achieve settlements.

Later on special tribunals were set up to tackle some of the

unsolved crimes that had happened before the establishment of

the courts. They offered the accused and the defendant a choice

whether they wanted to agree compensation or to accept the

court’s judgement. The courts also responded to requests to deal

with incidents that took place in areas outside their immediate

jurisdiction. In some murder cases, they applied traditional blood

compensation where evidence was found.

Interweaving Islamic and customary systems

The Islamic Courts worked alongside traditional elders to

gain acceptance of their rulings by the clans, as well as

their help in consoling the bereaved and arresting criminal

suspects.

But in other respects, Islamic Court rulings differed from

traditional laws. Under traditional law, elders can influence

individuals and families to accept or refuse a compensation

settlement and have the power to overrule the victim’s own

family. The Islamic courts did not endorse this and insisted

that the victim’s own family must agree to the terms of any

settlement.

Under customary law certain clans have their own rules for

settling disputes, such as the payment of a limited amount of

money as compensation for homicide. The courts, in contrast,

applied Islamic law in homicide cases, compensating the killing

of a man and a woman by 100 and 50 camels respectively –

or cash equivalent. However, Muslim scholars believed that

the proper application of Islam should always draw upon the

support of Islamic leaders and elders, as well as intellectuals

and other community leaders.

Somali customary law also states that the concept of punishment

for a crime is largely absent as a basis for resolving disputes.

Instead, the practice is one of restitution with the level of

compensation negotiated by elders and the
Ulema (religious

scholars). The
Hudud punishments under Islamic law that have

been carried out by some of the Islamic Courts are not supported

in Somali customary law. Encouragement for forgiveness

between those in conflict was always a major part of conflict

resolution both in Islam and in traditional Somali practice.

Before the inception of the Islamic Courts, Muslim scholars

did not contest this combination of traditional and Islamic

Islamic groups have also

invested in social sectors

such as education and health.

Before the mass displacement

of people from Mogadishu

in 2007 more than 130,000

children were being educated

with the support of Islamic

foundations and charities.

Higher educational institutes,

such as Mogadishu University,

were also revived with support

from Islamic finance”


96
| Accord | ISSUE 21

practice and elders and religious leaders worked side-by-side.

Elders and Muslim scholars, including some from the moderate

Somali Islamist group Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a, had their own

small
Shura Islamic Councils, comprising religious scholars,

clan elders and business and community figures.

The Councils’ role was to maintain backing for the judges and

keep the support of their clansmen. The 1994 Islamic Courts

in north Mogadishu had a separate higher authority known as

the Supreme Council of
Shari’a Implementation. This acted

as a ‘board of governors’ responsible for implementation and

general guidance. It was led by a
Sufi scholar and included

traditional clan elders among its members.

Islam and social responsibility

In addition to peacemaking and law enforcement, Islam

has been increasingly influential in commerce and in efforts

to revive and maintain public services. Many of the new

enterprises that have grown up during the war, in the import/

export trade, telecommunications and money transfer, are

owned by people inspired and motivated by new reformist

Islamic sects.

Applying Islamic principles, these businesses attract

shareholders from different clans, enabling them to operate

across political divides. Islamic groups have also invested in

social sectors such as education and health. Before the mass

displacement of people from Mogadishu in 2007 more than

130,000 children were being educated with the support of

Islamic foundations and charities. Higher educational institutes,

such as Mogadishu University, were also revived with support

from Islamic finance.

The
Ulema and reconciliation

Islam has always played a tangible role in peacemaking and

peacebuilding. The
Ulema command automatic respect and

people have always turned to them to help with unresolved

disputes. During Somali reconciliation meetings in and

outside the country, the
Ulema have played important roles

by counseling negotiators and speaking to them through

the media, urging them to show flexibility and compromise.

They would urge leaders to refer to Islam in solving their

differences.

Some of the biggest conflict resolution efforts by religious

leaders took place in 1991. When clan elders failed to

contain violence between Ali Mahdi Mohammed and General

Mohammed Farah Aideed in Mogadishu in 1992, Somalia’s

most famous Islamic scholars – Sheikh Mohammed Moallim,

Sheikh Ibrahim Suley and Sheikh Sharif Sharafow (all now

deceased) – met with Ali Mahdi and General Aideed to advise

them against war. When the two sides started exchanging heavy

gunfire the scholars continued traversing the frontlines lines in

the midst of crossfire in a symbolic effort to urge ceasefire.

After the takeover of Mogadishu and much of south central

Somalia by the ICU in 2006 the role of the
Ulema scholars was

taken over by the Courts. The ICU set up the
Shura Council,

which accommodated most of the leading Islamic scholars.

They also formed an executive branch that was tasked with

daily operations.

Scholars from Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama, an organization of Somali

Sufi
religious leaders created in 1991, found the atmosphere

increasingly hostile because of the dominant influence of the

Wahhabists
and Salafists, who have always challenged and

criticized what they perceived as the ‘passive’ role of
Sufis in

Somali political life.

But not all Islamic Courts were controlled by
Wahhabists and

Salafists
. For instance, in 1994 the Islamic Courts in north

Mogadishu were entirely run by
Sufis, while Sufi scholars

from Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a founded some of the clan-based

Islamic Courts that were established in Mogadishu in 1998.

All these Islamic groups, including
Wahhabists, Salafists

and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a, can be considered
Ulama.

However certain factions from the politically active Islamist

groups, such as the Majma’ Ulema (
Ulema Forum), Al-Islah

and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a claim to be the biggest advocates

of
Suluh. These groups are most likely to collaborate with

each other, but all can co-exist, as they showed before the

ICU tookover, and as is further evidenced by the reaction of

many Muslim scholars from different groups to the current

militancy in Somalia.

In 2009, after the establishment of the new TFG under

Sheikh Sharif’s leadership, the
Ulema Council was formed

in Mogadishu. Two disastrous years of Ethiopian military

involvement had sewn confusion over faith and politics.

The primary purpose of the Council was to create a religious

authority that could provide moral leadership to the people.

However conflict had already erupted between the government

and opposition groups. The
Ulema tried to tackle the conflict

head on, issuing directives that were often controversial. They

demanded the withdrawal of AU peacekeeping troops serving

with AMISOM within a four-month period and demanded that

Parliament be reconvened to adopt
Shari’a.

At the same time they called on the opposition to stop

fighting the government. In May 2009, after the opposition

Somali peace processes
| 97

launched major attacks on the TFG, the
Ulema tried to

broker a ceasefire between the two sides but the opposition

refused. The Islamic scholars have been very clear about the

current troubles. Sheikh Omar Faruq, perhaps the greatest

living Muslim scholar in Somalia today, denounced any

justifications to take up arms against the current government

on the pretext of Islam. This has left the opposition Hisbal

Islamiya and Jabhatul Islamiya divided on whether to endorse

the
Ulema’s proposals.

Islamic scholars and external mediation

If peace and security are to be sustained in Somalia, the

engagement of the Islamic leadership is crucial. Islamic

scholars have attended most previous reconciliation

conferences, but usually as observers. Members of the Ulema

Forum and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a were observers to the

1993 Addis Ababa conference. Muslim scholars also took part

in the 2000 Arta conference, although in a personal capacity,

and several scholars from the Courts and members of

Al-Islah became parliamentarians in the Transitional National

Government (TNG).

Islamic Scholars had less influence in the Mbagathi peace

talks in Kenya from 2002 to 2004, where warlords and

clan elders were the main actors. And the 4.5 formula of

clan representation has limited their numbers in the TFG

parliament. However they were consulted in the drafting of the

Transitional Federal Charter and they warned that any passages

that contravened Islam would not be accepted.

The 2008 Djibouti negotiations between the TFG and the

Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) also involved a

large number of Muslim scholars as ARS representatives. As a

result of the Djibouti talks, Muslim scholars and other religious

activists have their biggest representation in the subsequently

expanded parliament and are playing a more prominent role

within the Somali political process.

Many Somali Islamic scholars believe that only Islam has

the potential to achieve absolute security in the country

because Somalis are 100 per cent Muslim and will accept

Islam more readily than any other political system. They

believe that the stability achieved in the six-month period

of ICU rule in Mogadishu was not a fluke and could be

repeated.

Islamic scholars consider that political Islam is going through

a turbulent period in Somalia similar to the warlordism that

existed until recently. The difference is that most warlords

and faction leaders were politicians, whereas today’s militant

opposition groups lack the leadership of recognized Islamic

scholars who practice
Suluh because of the violent attitude of

these groups. The expectation amongst the scholars is that,

with time, the Somali people will accept Islamic leadership

under the guidance of respected scholars.

A number of Somalia’s Islamic scholars also suspect that

external powers would never accept an Islamic system taking

root in the country. They see the actions of the international

community as supporting this general thesis, particularly

the West’s condoning Ethiopia’s intervention to topple the

Islamic Courts. Many in southern Somalia strongly believe that

Somalis could agree on one leadership and achieve trust and

peace under
Shari’a. Without external interference, they see a

very real possibility of an Islamic state becoming established

in Somalia.

Analysts debate whether the current Somali militant

Islamic organizations have a domestic Somali agenda or

an internationalist one. Previous radical Islamist groupings,

such as Al Itihad Al Islamiya, articulated a domestic agenda.

This is less clear for the militants of today. Al Qaeda’s top

leaders, including Osama Bin Laden himself, have recently

sent supportive messages to the Al Shabaab leadership,

which has reciprocated with pledges of allegiance to Osama

Bin Laden.

Where next?

At the beginning of the Somali civil war, the conflict was

between clans and later clan-based factions. Today, Islamic

factions are pitted against a government that has stated its

intention to apply
Shari’a in full.

Politics rather than religion lies at the heart of the fighting today,

with rival religious ideologies mobilized to support personal and

political ambitions. The reality is that the current debacle has

undermined the authority of the
Ulema and has done serious

damage to the reputation of Islamic leaders.

The militant Islamic organizations are too violent and

ideologically polarized to bring together all sections of

the Somali society and their actions have highlighted the

sensitivities of putting religion at the centre of modern

governance. The failure to uphold peaceful Islamic principles

has created the current chaos and has damaged Islam in

Somalia. Paradoxically, the militants’ violent pursuit of an

Islamic state may be pushing the prospect of an Islamic state

further away than ever.

The author is a Somali writer. Author’s identity withheld.
http://www.c-r.org/accord-article/islam-and-somali-social-order-0

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