Warsan Cismaan Saalax and Abdulaziz Ali Ibrahim ‘Xildhiban’ tackle an intractable problem for international mediators in Somalia: who has the right to represent the Somali people in formal peace talks and in government? They discuss how political factions have multiplied at every international peace conference since 1991 creating a recurrent dilemma of how to determine legitimate and authoritative representation.
The multiple Somali peace and reconciliation processes have produced many agreements but have never sufﬁciently addressed the real grievances that exist among Somali individuals and clans.
Warsan Cismaan Saalax and Abdulaziz Ali Ibrahim ‘Xildhiban’
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Somali-led peace agreements
Over the past 19 years Somalis have held many peace and reconciliation conferences and concluded many peace agreements, some between a few individuals and others between larger political alliances.
Conferences, clans and factionalism
The clan system defines Somali social relationships and politics. But it has interacted with the structure of internationally-led Somali peace conferences in such a way as to promote factionalism.
Early reconciliation meetings
The first two international reconciliation meetings aimed at re-establishing a Somali government took place in Djibouti in June and July 1991. Six organisations participated, all representing a clan or sub-clan constituency. But in reality the clan served as an instrument to further ambitions of individuals, most of whom had held influential government positions in the past and were competing for similar ranks in a possible new administration.
From Arta to a federal charter
The next national peace conference was held in Arta, Djibouti and marked a new phase in Somali reconciliation. Endorsed by neighbouring countries as a regional initiative of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), talks took place over five months, culminating in August 2000 with the Arta Declaration and the formation of the Transitional National Government (TNG) led by Abdulqasim Salad Hassan.
The multiple Somali peace and reconciliation processes have produced many agreements but have never sufficiently addressed the real grievances that exist among Somali individuals and clans. At each round of talks and conferences the factions and international community members repeated the same mistakes made in previous processes and agreements.