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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

6. Conclusions and recommendations

The purpose of this report was to help to strengthen agencies' analysis of the situation in Somalia and Somaliland and to identify options for them to consider in supporting peace and reconciliation. With regard to the first task, I hope that the report will, if not strengthen, then at least widen their framework of analysis and understanding. The second task is more problematical.

From an anthropological perspective, Somali society works on a system of balanced oppositions between groups, orchestrated through, and institutionalised in, a segmentary kinship system and traditional laws and procedures laid down in a 'social contract' (xeer). This system is inherently unstable and therefore prone to conflict. If peace is thought to exist where there is an equitable balance, anything which upsets the balance will continue the conflict. The danger inherent in any 'intervention', be it foreign military or humanitarian aid, or externally initiated peace conferences, is that they can upset that balance. Agencies need to be conscious of this when supporting peace-making processes.53

A response to conflict depends on how one defines peace-making and peace. It is unlikely that 'peace', in the sense of a total absence of conflict, can exist in Somalia or Somaliland, or for that matter in other societies. How then does one define 'peace' and 'peace-making'?

6.1 What is Peace?

The following definitions of 'peace' were recorded by participants in Oxfam's workshop on Conflict and Peace in Hargeisa:

a) Types of Peace


- safety


- security


- stability


- well-being


- well-being

xasi llooni

- stability


- blessing


- peace


- prosperity


- prosperity


- prosperity


- prosperity


- peace-making


- peace-maker


- peace-keeping


- understanding


- agreement

b) The characteristics of peace and conflict

Nabad (Peace)

Colaad (Conflict)

Plentiful food







War widows







High productivity





Dispersal of family






Poor economy



Conflict resolution

Lack of trust




Lower birth rate


More weapons

Sound body and mind

No education


No health


No accountability






No foreign troops

Family reunions

Free movement


Lots of camels and sheep

Livestock trading

Less killing of livestock

It was clear for those participants of the workshop that 'peace' involved more than an absence of conflict, as the Somali saying nabad iyo caano (peace and milk, i.e prosperity) implies.

6.2 What is Peace-Making?

If Somali society is said to be conflict-prone, then mechanisms also exist within Somali society to mitigate and resolve conflicts. Dialogue, the mediation of elders, religious sanctions, compensation, and indeed military strength are all traditional means for resolving conflicts. It is clear from the previous section that these means are currently in use in Somaliland. It would be wrong to think of these 'traditional' means of conflict-resolution as reactionary. They are dynamic, being updated and adapted to current needs. The people who understand this best are Somalis. Indeed, Somalis are as experienced at peace-making and conflict-resolution as they are at making war. The models of Boroma and Sanaag suggest that reconciliation will be achieved only through a process which is 'bottom-up', that is one which is initiated and controlled by the participants. Again this was expressed clearly by the participants of the workshop in Hargeisa, when they contrasted the characteristics of a Somali peace meeting (shir Somali) with that of a UN peace meeting (stair UN):

Shir Somaali

· Involves legitimate representatives
· Uses traditional methods of problem-solving
· Uses experienced mediators (e.g. elders)
· Elders chosen by the community
· Involves the 'real actors'
· Community has confidence in representatives
· Elders have authority
· Held inside the country
· Common agenda/goal: peace
· Limited agenda
· Common rules, values (xeer)
· Ability of elders to enforce/ensure implementation of agreements
· Meetings structured to separate problems
· Consensus decision-making
· Equal representation by parties
· Community support, shared expenses
· Open time-table
· Traditional role of hosts and guests

Shir UN

· Lack of confidence in representatives
· Held outside the country
· Involves politicians, not elders
· Unequal representation
· Lack of understanding of the problem(s)
· External, rather than internal, support
· Lack of confidence in organisers/facilitators
· Lack of common xeer
· Short time-table

While the Addis Ababa meeting involved a broad range of representatives (religious leaders, elders, women, intellectuals), those who made decisions and signed the agreements were the politicians, or 'warlords'. Such people were consciously excluded from the peace meetings in Somaliland. On the other hand, the Addis Ababa conference did receive international recognition and therefore the possibility of international support, while the Boroma conference was not accorded international recognition, and therefore Somaliland is unlikely to receive the same level of international support for rehabilitation and recovery.

6.3 Options for Agencies Working in Somalia/Somaliland

The spectrum of peace-making is wide, and can range from physical to social rehabilitation. Relief work, if it helps to promote a return to a stable environment, can be considered part of a peace-making process. If relief becomes a source of conflict, then it is not contributing towards a peaceful and stable situation. It is a premise of this report that peace and stability, a return to constructive relationships, is a pre-requisite for long-term sustainable development. This also seems to be the understanding of the elders at Boroma and in Sanaag.

The question for relief and development agencies is to identify the level or levels at which they can support peace-making. The analysis in this report of efforts at peacemaking in Somalia and Somaliland suggests that the most sustained and successful efforts at peace and reconciliation are those where people have been able to rebuild their relations of trust from the bottom upwards, as in Somaliland. It is a slow process. The aim should be to support, promote, or build upon local initiatives, working at the periphery to restore and empower the indigenous forms of peacemaking and conflict-resolution.

In conclusion, the answer perhaps is to approach conflict-resolution and peacemaking in the same way that one approaches development: in a style that is 'bottom-up' and 'participatory', allowing a relatively long time scale, and enabling participants themselves to control the process. In this sense agencies could usefully begin by assessing all their work in Somalia and Somaliland in terms of the extent to which they are helping to strengthen local institutions and promote a peaceful environment. Peace-building, rather than peace-making, is perhaps the level at which agencies should be working.

6.4 Recommendations

Demobilisation: As proposed above, the agencies present in Somaliland should make a substantial commitment to supporting the demobilisation process there.

Somaliland Programmes: The political, economic and military situation in Somaliland is different from that in Somalia. Somalia and Somaliland should be treated separately. Agencies should invest in strengthening their programmes in Somaliland and the capacity of their staff there to respond to the needs in Somaliland.

Advocacy: One advantage of UN peace-making efforts over indigenous ones is that receive international support. Agencies should advocate international acceptance of the legimacy of indigenous peace processes. They might consider commissioning further research, such as that initiated by ActionAid in Sanaag, on indigenous peacemaking processes in Somalia, and feeding back the findings to UNOSOM and the international community.

Consultations: Agencies should consider supporting further 'peace workshop' in Somaliland, specifically for Somali staff of international NGOs and Somali Ngos as a means of strengthening the capacity of these Ngos and promoting dialogue and an exchange of ideas throughout Somaliland.

Agencies might also consider supporting a workshop for Somali women, from Somalia and Somaliland. This might best done as a workshop for Women of the Horn of Africa and might aim to identify broad issues affecting women throughout the Horn. Extending the scope to 'Women of the Horn' might help it to deflect some internal conflict.

Agencies might consider holding a Peace Workshop on Somalia, at which current research on and experiences of doing peace-work in Somalia and Somaliland could be presented It might help to develop a framework and rationale for future NGO peace work in Somalia and Somaliland. It would also help to promote a mare positive image of Somalia. As much work has been done, both practical and -academic, by Somalis, the workshop should concentrate on their work. One could usefully consider bringing people in from other conflict situations, to share experiences.

The workshops might form part of the consultation; process suggested -for Somalia. Conversations with Somaliland elders suggested that they might be prepared to assist in consultations with groups in the south. This would depend, however, on the extent to which they felt they have solved their own problems.

Cultural Activities: Poetry and songs are extremely powerful media-of communication in Somali society. Poetry in particular can greatly influence attitudes and situations. The peace conferences in Boroma and Sanaag both utilised poets. Agencies might consider sponsoring a Somali peace poetry competition, with the best entries broadcast over the radio, BBC Somali Service, and Addis Ababa Voice of Peace. This could be a high-profile media peace initiative. As with poetry at peace meetings, it could help to influence the situation psychologically. Ergada, the editors of Hal Abuur magazine, and Zeinab Jama have expressed an interest in such an exercise.

The agencies should consider promoting other Somali cultural activities, such as songs, music and theatre, both within Somalia and Somaliland and outside. Magazines such as Hal-Abuur should also be supported. Such activities can help to promote a more positive image of Somalia.