Experts say Somalia unity faces challenges


Friday, November 08, 2013

Somalia has been without a powerful national government for the past two decades. While the northern part of the horn of Africa nation has been relatively peaceful, the southern and central regions have been plagued by instability. Experts on Thursday said the social, economic and political exclusion are the underlying cause of the instability.

Conflict Early Warning Early Response Unit (CEWERU) Somalia Country Director Osman Moallim told Xinhua in Nairobi that clan identity has been used to intensify the differences.

“It has reached a level where lasting peace remains a mirage despite the numerous interventions by the international community, ” Moallim said during the release of the Somalia’s Conflict Mapping and Analysis Report of the country’s southern regions.

The report is a publication of CEWERU.

The Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) launched the Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism (CEWARN) in 2002.

The mechanism is mandated to prevent conflicts in the Horn of Africa region. CEWARN collaborates with the CEWERU in each of the IGAD partner states. IGAD member states include Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Uganda, Sudan and Eritrea

He said Somalia’s strong clan structure has both been a source of unity and division. “Unfortunately in the past 21 years the clans have been used to divide the country,” he said.

Moallim, who is also the Executive Director of the Somali Youth Development Network (SYDN), said the dream of a united Somalia will take a long time to achieve if the present system is maintained.

The Somali’s Transitional Federal Government term ended in August 2012 while parliamentary elections were held in September of same year.

He noted that one year later the central government only controls the capital Mogadishu while the rest of the country is under the control of clan based government.

“The leadership vacuum has allowed clan based governments to spring up to provide social services and collect taxes,” Moallim said.

He added that 70 percent of the country’s population are pastoralists. “They have traditionally occupied about 60 percent of the land mass,” he said.

The remaining 30 percent are agriculturalists and tend to live along the river belt. “However, the pastoralists often encroach on their land and this causes conflict,” he said.

The tensions are exacerbated by the availability of weapons. SYDN said that reconciliation efforts need to start at the grassroots level.

He noted that the country is divided among those who grew up under the Said Barre regime which collapsed in 1991 and those who grow up in the civil war era.

He added that the post independence government implemented very limited development. In addition, Moallim said that manipulation of resources by the state authorities led to cause grievances with the then government.

“As a result a large majority of the population remained in poverty. This was the genesis of the civil war that toppled Siad Barre regime,” he said.

Ali Ahmed, a researcher of the Somali Report, said that there is lack of trust of the new government by the local communities.

Ahmed said that government power has been abused before and so residents are not quick to embrace it. He noted that the domination of clans by others is also fueling the conflict in southern Somalia.

“Newer and well armed communities have settled in areas and this has created conflict with the original habitants,” he said. The researcher said that clan territorial l expansion has also led to conflicts.

He said that peace reconciliation efforts have not been considered inclusive by some clans.

“While some communities have backed government intervention, some fear government engagement due to past negative experiences,” Ahmed said.

Experts noted that power-sharing agreements will only hold if all communities and especially, the smaller ones are included.

“But historical grievances should be resolved before local governance structures are established,” he said. The instability has also lead to instances of social atrocities in southern Somalia.

“Dominant clans have used their power to commit rape, forced marriages and this fueled resentment among the weaker clans,” Ahmed said. Unfortunately, some Somali’s have come to view the national government as an instrument of exploitation of the poor.

“Those who control the government has tended to accumulate wealth at the expense of ordinary citizens,” he said.

Conflict Dynamics International Somalia Program Senior Program Manager Roger Middleton said that his organization is working with stakeholders to ensure peace prevails in the horn of Africa nation.

He said that Somalia’s conflict is based on political, Social and cultural factors. “Religious leaders as well as clan leaders should be used to negotiate conflicts,” Middleton said.