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close this bookThe Somali Conflict (Oxfam)
close this folderPart V: Somaliland: peace-building
View the document1. Secession and cessation
View the document2. The Boroma conference
View the document3. Post-Boroma
View the document4. Demobilisation
View the document5. Shir Nabadeedka ee Sanaag: 'The Sanaag grand peace and reconciliation conference'
View the document6. Conclusions and recommendations

4. Demobilisation

4.1 Introduction

Prior to May 1988, the SNM were estimated to have had some 3,000 trained fighters. In 1988, when the war escalated and the Barre government took fierce reprisals against the Issaq, there was a general mobilisation of the male Issaq population. Like other political factions in Somalia, the SNM was based upon a coalition of allied clans and sub-clans. The SNM military was recruited along clan lines and fought in small clan-based units (jabhad), supported by their clans. Since the ending of the war, many of the SNM guerrillas have laid down their arms and returned to civilian life. Many have remained together as military units with a clear command structure. The current figure used by the Somaliland government for numbers of armed militia in Somaliland is between 40,000 and 50,000. Others have turned to banditry in order survive.

In Somaliland people now make a distinction between the SNM mujahid and the deydey or budhcad. The majahid are the proper long-term SNM fighters, some of whom had been fighting with the SNM since 1981. They are also known more generally as mana gaaho, taking their name from a road called gaaho, in Ethiopia, behind which the SNM had its rear bases. Another category of mujahid are the jama rah ('went on Friday'): those who joined the SNM on the Friday in May 1988 when the SNM first attacked Burco.

The deydey44 or budhcad are the armed bandits. The word deydey means 'searching' and originates from the idea of 'tine lost ones', that is those who got separated during the war and whose parents are looking for them. It has now come to have a second meaning of 'those who do the searching', meaning the looting. In a situation where there are few employment opportunities, war-hardened youths have resorted to banditry to survive. Indeed, a common explanation given in Somaliland is that deydey are a 'disease born of poverty'. Another common name used to describe the deydey is malin dagal, 'million a day', the idea being that they need to make a million shillings a day in order to pay for ammunition, alchohol, women, and kat. Another name used to describe the bandits is hadaba marido, 'those who start shooting now', that is those who picked up arms after the war. Many of these deydey know no other life.

Attitudes towards these deydey are ambiguous, for one clan's 'army' can be another clan's deydey. Like the SNM majahid, a group of deydey will generally come from the same clan. In a conflict these gangs can be your means of protection, and are therefore your 'army' or 'militia'. At the same time, the concept of corporate responsibility means that your clan can be held accountable for the activities of your deydey. The deydey can therefore be a threat to your own security. In some places where deydey have become a threat to their own clan's interests, elders have taken extreme measures and killed them.

It is suggested that probably 25 per cent of the militia fall into the category of deydey. In principle, people say it is the majahid who should be helped first. However, it is the deydey who continue to cause much of the insecurity. Any demobilisation programme needs to address ways of disarming these gangs and reintegrating them into society.

4.2 A Framework for Security

After the war the first government of Abdulrahman Ali Tuur made a cursory attempt to integrate the militia into a unified army. This failed, and energy was squandered on factional disputes among politicians and military officers, which led to an outbreak of fighting in Burco and Berbera.

The Peace Charter, adopted by the elders at the Boroma Conference in March 1993, sets out to rectify the mistakes of the previous government by establishing a framework for future security in Somaliland. The Charter recognises that lack of security was the single most important factor that led to the failure of the previous Somaliland administration. The Charter also recognises that the militarisation of society continues to cause destruction of assets, undermines peaceful co-existence of communities and commercial enterprise, encourages banditry, disrupts humanitarian, rehabilitation and developmental activities, and leaves the population in a state of perpetual fear and insecurity. The Charter therefore seeks to address this by setting out the principles on which security of the individual, community and nation should be based, and the responsibilities incumbent on each community to ensure such security.

The future stability and economic recovery of Somaliland will depend on the ability of the new administration to carry out a comprehensive programme of demobilisation and disarmament, coupled with the formation of a police force and a judiciary. Through the Peace Charter the elders made it incumbent upon the Egal administration to formulate a plan for demobilisation and disarmament.

4.3 Plan for Demobilisation

In contrast to the former administration, the policy of Egal's government and the military commanders is that there should not be a national army. The commanders

say that they do not have the resources to build an effective army that could prevent an invasion. They are now convinced that disarmament is an important step for Somaliland towards achieving autonomy. Without disarmament, they contend that there will be no peace, and without peace Somaliland cannot maintain its independence. Their best security, they assert, is therefore in disarmament. 'Next time the clans quarrel, it must be in Parliament.45

By 31 July 1993 Egal had reached had reached an agreement with the militia commanders and elders on a plan for the collection of militia in cantonment sites. The government would provide rations for ten days, and the militia would leave their arms with the clan elders and move to camps to commence separate training programmes. This was to be the first step in the demobilisation programme.

The disarmament and demobilisation programme comes under the responsibility of a Ministerial Committee on Security and Demobilisation, comprising the Vice President, Ministers of Interior, Defence, Education, Finance and Information. The planning and implementation of the programme will be carried out by a 12-member Technical Committee, comprising both military and civilians in cooperation with regional Security Committees.

The programme will involve the demobilisation of 50,000 militia.46 Estimates of militia by region are: Awdal 8,500, North West 24,450, Togdheer 7,400, Sanaag 5,400 and Sool 4,250. From these, 9,000 will be trained as police, 3,000 as border guards, 5,000 as coastal guards, and 1,000 as prison warders. It is envisaged that the remaining 42,000, who include 10,000 disabled men, will be trained in farming, fishing and vocational training programmes to last from three to six months.

In August, two Zimbabwean consultants (Paul Nyathi of the Zimbabwe Project and Jeremy Brickhill, a former ZIPRA officer and former member of Oxfam UK/I's Africa Advisory Committee) were seconded by UNDP-OPS to the Egal administration to advise the administration and UNOSOM on planning a programme for the disarmament and demobilisation of the militias. At the beginning of September, consultations produced an outline plan for demobilisation and reintegration of the militias.

The demobilisation plan envisages the training of police forces from all six regions in Mandera Camp, between Berbera and Hargeisa. The police, as envisaged, will comprise:

regional police


special police force


striking force


mobile force


traffic police


finance guards


4.4 International Response

In drawing up the plan for demobilisation, Egal had anticipated that assistance would be forthcoming from UNOSOM for its implementation. When SRSG Howe visited Hargeisa in May 1993, he had promised assistance from UNOSOM for demobilisation In early July the UNOSOM Director of Policy and Planning, Omar Halim, visited Hargeisa and agreed that, once procedures had been finalised, UNOSOM would provide the wherewithal for the establishment and maintenance of assembly camps. Halim reported to UNOSOM in Mogadishu that the disarmament programme in Somaliland was voluntary and should be accorded the 'highest priority'. Futhermore, he stated that the assistance which the Egal administration was requesting for demobilisation the police, and judicial system was consistent with UN resolution 814 (1993), and affordable within UNOSOM's $18 million budget for demobilisation The attitude of UNOSOM Zone Office in Hargeisa was equally supportive of the proposed plans.

Some support had been secured from UNOSOM for the police in Hargeisa (500 uniforms, rations and equipment). UNICEF were installing water for the prisons. Under the auspices of UNOSOM, a Dutch and Canadian police adviser had been seconded to the Hargeisa police and two British police advisers were expected in September. UNOSOM had also assisted in transporting some ICRC food from Djibouti to Mandera police training camp. World Food Programme, USAID, UNOSOM and the Ministry of Planning had discussed a further $1.5 million worth of food vouchers, to provide food for some 9,000 militia for six months.

Other agencies were also involved. UNDP-OPS seconded two consultants to the demobilisation Technical Committee (see above). Rimfire were proposing to hire a further 800 militia to train for the mine-clearance programme. CARE had supported Sooyaal, the SNM veterans' association, to build a vocational training centre for excombatants.

Events moved more quickly than planned. In mid-August 1993 there were some 200 militia from Berbera in Mandera camp undergoing police training. By 4 September the number had increased to 800, and by the 7th to between 2,000 and 3,000. It was expected to increase to 5,000. With insufficient shelter, food, water or medical facilities for the 6,000 militia, the situation was potentially explosive. The sudden rush of militia to the camp had arisen because the clans were anxious not to miss out on the benefits of retraining and employment in the new security forces.

On 31 July, when Egal wrote to UNOSOM Zone Director in Hargeisa, informing him that his government had reached an agreement with the militia leaders and clan elders on the cantonment of militia, he requested assurance from UNOSOM that assistance would be available. By the end of August UNOSOM had given no indication that the promised assistance would be forthcoming. Angry at their failure to respond, Egal sent a letter to UNOSOM on 9 September, requesting them to cease their operations and leave Somaliland.

The immediate reason for Egal's action had been a diplomatic incident involving the Deputy SRSG Kouyate (see 3.2 above). However, Egal has largely staked his presidency and the success of the government on being able to disarm the militia. While UNOSOM Hargeisa stated that the demobilisation programme had the full support of UNOSOM Mogadishu, there was little material evidence of this. Without the promised resources, the demobilisation programme would be difficult to implement.

At the time Egal made this request for assistance, UNOSOM's attention was focused on the conflict in Mogadishu. This undoubtedly restricted its ability to respond with any speed. It is suggested, however, that UNOSOM is unwilling to provide the resources asked for unless they are able to exert some control over the process. In this respect, they have continued to insist on the need to send uniformed and protected (armed) advisers to Somaliland if they are going to support the process. The most cynical critics suspect that UNOSOM assume that without their support the demobilisation programme will fail, and this will justify a military intervention.

The extension of UNOSOM military operations to Somaliland would be disastrous. Although Howe and UNOSOM Hargeisa have publicly stated several times that they will not deploy troops unless invited, this has not quelled fears among the population. The disregard shown to the authorities in Hargeisa by Kouyate has not helped in that matter. Even if UNOSOM were to extend their military operations to Somaliland for purely humanitarian purposes, there is little confidence that they would be able to handle a demobilisation programme in a sensitive manner, especially given their recent actions in Mogadishu. Such is the concern that the military commanders in Somaliland say they would be forced to resist militarily if in Somaliland say they would be forced to resist militarily if UNOSOM attempted to deploy troops.

4.5 Recommendations for the Support of DemobilisationSecurity - stable central and regional government and the successful demobilisation of armed militias - has been identified as the key to the rehabilitation and development needs in Somaliland. As agencies' programmes change from relief to development, the emerging emphasis of the programmes will also change. There are two groups on which programmes should, for the mean time, have a strategic focus: refugee returnees and demobilised militia. The latter is a recognition that insecurity is an inhibition to economic development in Somaliland. There is a strong argument for agencies to develop a further 'sectoral' activity that focuses exclusively on demobilisation.Demobilisation should be seen as a long-term process, requiring a substantial commitment of resources. Such a programme, if supported by agencies, should be placed firmly within the framework of a comprehensive plan initiated by the Somaliland government and implemented, as much as possible, through local non-governmental or community-based organisations. Given their previous experience in this field, Oxfam and others could make a major contribution to such a programme.The Somaliland Peace Charter clearly identifies demobilisation and disarmament as a fundamental building block for peace and stability in Somaliland Assistance with demobilisation therefore provides agencies with a clear oportunity to support peace-building in Somaliland. The following are some recommendations on how they might support demobilisation and disarmament in Somaliland.Planning and Preparation: Agencies should be prepared to make an immediate provision of resources to the Technical Committee, to enable it to gather the data needed to prepare a plan for demobilisation.Advocacy: Demobilisation has been identified as the priority issue by the Egal administration. The administration is convinced that voluntary demobilisation is preferable to assisted (or forced) demobilisation by UNOSOM, and that UNOSOM should not take control of the process. The administration needs support for this strategy. Agencies should make it an essential part of their strategies to lobby their governments to fund this process, and to put pressure on UNOSOM to refrain from acting other than as funders or monitors.

Agencies might explore, with their governments, acceptable ways of monitoring and verifying the process. This would not only be useful for advocacy purposes, but it might also help internally to have an independent body for verification. If it was acceptable to the government, agencies might consider funding an appropriate international body to visit Somaliland on a regular basis to do this. A team might be combined with elders and local NGOs.

Publicity Campaign: Public communication, civic mobilisation, confidence building, and cultural activities will be key to the success of the demobilisation process. The rehabilitation of Hargeisa Radio could be an essential contribution to this.

Peace-Building/Conflict-Resolution Training: Somaliland women have played an important role in the peace process in: Somaliland as a community pressure group. Organisations of women (Somaliland Women's Organisation, Committee of Concerned Somalis, Somaliland Women's Development Organisation) have all mobilised women at peace conferences. Agencies might help to strengthen this work, where appropriate, by supporting a series of training workshops and seminars for women extensionists/mobilisers.

Agencies should consider commissioning a Somali women's NGO to look at what role women might play in assisting with demobilisation, and the possible effects on women of the process.

Agencies should look for ways to ensure that elders are fully involved and consulted in the demobilisation process. Community support for the programme Will be critical to its success. Their authority, as will as their skills in mediation and trouble shooting, should be fully utilised.

Vocational Training: Some agencies have developed proposals to support the establishment of a Technical Training Institute in Hargeisa with the Ministry of Education. This might provide training opportunities for demobilised militia, and should be pursued. Agencies might also consider funding the Ministry to design and undertake education programmes for the ax-combatants while in the camps, such as basic literacy, numeracy, and Koranic education. This would also provide increased training opportunities for unemployed teachers. Agencies might also consider ways of supporting education development in the region, to assist in general rehabilitation and development to fulfil the huge need for education provision.

Agencies should also consider contracting local, private training institutions in Hargeisa to provide training for the militia, as required. They might consider contracting these institutions to consult with the militias and government to identify their training needs. This would have the advantage of both developing the capacity of the training institutes and providing the required training.Trauma: The Somali psychiatrist, Dr Omar Duhod, estimates that as many as 5 per cent of the ax-combatants will be in need of psychiatric counselling. Agencies should consider ways in which they can support the reintegration of excombatants into society through counselling programmes. Agencies might consider consulting agencies such as the Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture or consultants such as Dr Derek Summerfield, Dr Twi, and Dr Duhod.Cultural Programmes: Agencies should also consider funding cultural activities - bands, artists, poets, etc. - to provide entertainment both for the ax-combatants, as part of their psychological rehabilitation, and also more generally in Somaliland. This would probably require identifying Somali artists outside the country and sending them on tour.Disabled War Veterans: Agencies might consider commissioning Action on Disability and Development, or others, to assess ways of strengthening the formation of an association for disabled veterans.International Media: Agencies should use their resources to generate international media interest in the demobilisation process in Somaliland.Disarmament 'Think Tank': Agencies should consider ways of integrating/linking this work with that of the Conrad Grebel College, Canada, and its 'think tank' on disarmament in the Horn.Demobilisation Fund: Agencies should consider contributing to a demobilisation fund for Somaliland, for an initial two-year period. It would be used to employ on a full-time basis an individual (expatriate or Somali) to coordinate agencies' work in this field, and be used for funding any or all of the above activities. A sum of approximately 500,000 would probably be needed.