Professor Ibrahim Ali Amber ‘Oker’ describes how many different local governance systems have emerged in south central Somalia during the long period that Somalis have been without a viable national government. These little-known arrangements have been organised at the local level and have fostered degrees of stability and peaceful co-existence between different communities.
Local peace processes have proven effective in managing security in many parts of south central Somalia. But experience shows that hard-won local peace accords reached through traditional conﬂict resolution mechanisms are vulnerable to being undermined by armed factions, business leaders and other powerful stakeholders.
Professor Ibrahim Ali Amber ‘Oker’
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Community peace initiatives
During the long period that Somalis have been without a viable national government, many different local governance systems have emerged in south central Somalia. These little-known arrangements have been organised at the local level and have fostered degrees of stability and peaceful co-existence between different communities with varying success.
Local governance systems
Since the government collapsed in Somalia there have been a wide variety of local governance systems in south central Somalia. Five types can be distinguished reflecting their differing origins and purpose.
The CRD study found that peace initiatives in different regions varied in relation to the complexity of relationships among clans and sub-clans, the resources of the region and the impact of national politics. For example, nearly 40 per cent of local initiatives catalogued by CRD took place in Lower and Middle Jubba regions. This reflects the fact that these regions are inhabited by more than 19 Somali clans and are endowed with rich agricultural and pastoral resources.
Local peace initiatives
The majority of local Somali peace initiatives can be described as ‘social’. That is, they address conflicts over shared land, pastoral resources, or clan-related revenge killings. They normally involve communities in a village, town or district and address conflicts within a clan or sub-clans in the immediate area.
Regional peace initiatives
Reconciliation processes involving people from two or more regions have occurred in several parts of south central Somalia. These represent a significant investment by the communities involved and can have a concomitant positive impact for many people when they succeed. An early example was the 1993 Mudug peace agreement between Habar Gedir clans in Galgudud and South Mudug and Majeerteen clans in north Mudug, which ended large-scale confrontations of militia across this clan border.
Some local peace processes are overtly political, concerned with power sharing and focused on the control of local administrations and strategic resources. The high stakes and the large number of players involved can pose significant challenges to mediation and many such efforts fail. For example, in 1994 representatives of all the clans of Middle Jubba region met with veteran politicians with the aim of resolving differences and forming a regional administration. Ultimately no agreement was reached.
Obstacles to consolidating peace
Despite the abundance of local peace processes in south central Somalia, they have not led to the establishment of more durable government structures of the type that have emerged in Puntland and Somaliland. Certainly traditional elders have played a critically important role in mediating and regulating the interactions within and between local communities. However a number of factors have made their task more difficult.
Social conflicts over local resources increased significantly during the war due to the breakdown of traditional codes governing social relations, the forced displacement of people, the occupation of land by armed groups and the ready availability of weapons. The imbalance in the acquisition of weapons has meant that better-armed clans dominate weaker ones and have captured resources that had previously been used communally.