June 19, 2012
As the state of Somaliland reached the milestone of twenty-one years independent in May 2012, observers reflect on its successful transition to a peaceful and stable democracy and on the lessons that Somalia can learn from it.
Below is an article published by Insight on Conflict:
In May 2012, Somaliland commemorated 21 years since declaring independence from Somalia. Although not recognised as an independent state by the international community, Somaliland’s self rule has provided the area a peace and stability not seen in the rest of Somalia. Muhyadin Saed, Insight on Conflict’s Local Correspondent for Somalia, looks at the reasons for this and what lessons can be carried over to rest of the country.
While the central government of Somalia collapsed in 1991, Somaliland – a region in Northern Somalia that declared independence from the rest of Somalia – has been enjoying relative peace, incremental economic growth and democratic governance. This is a completely opposite path to that of Somalia, which has been in chaos for the two decades that Somaliland was peaceful.
Somaliland commemorated 21 years of peace, stability and self-declared independence – although no other country from the international community has yet recognised Somaliland politically – on 18 May, 2012. The day always raises questions as to why Somaliland is peaceful and Somalia not despite the numerous peacebuilding efforts by the international and regional communities which have sought to get Somali factional leaders to reach a lasting agreement. Among other questions is if peacebuilding models that have been used in Somaliland and Puntland to build peace can be replicated in other parts of Somalia to restore stability and ease the suffering of the Somali people.
Peace in Somaliland came from the local people, represented by their traditional elders and leaders, politicians, business people and later women’s organisations, working together in a series of reconciliation conferences between the clans that live in Somaliland. Starting from the grassroots, by reconciling sub-clans to stop fighting and addressing the grievances between the communities became a building block for a grand reconciliation conference that was held in Borama in 1993. The Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration process too has been implemented locally and traditionally.
The Somaliland peace process was independent from an external influence, and the interests of the Somaliland people were at center-stage. Though admittedly some international NGOs were providing funds and logistics to the process, however their involvement was kept to minimum by the Somaliland leaders.
The conference produced a National Charter and a hybrid system of governance; traditional, Islamic and Western. A presidential type of government with bicameral house of parliament was formed through selection. The Upper House of Parliament (guurti) consists of 82 elders from the various clans in Somaliland to assure representation of all people in Somaliland. This house was entrusted to work on further consolidating peace, reconciling communities and resolving conflicts in a very fragile environment, by then with weak governmental security institutions.
There are lessons learnt of bottom-up peacebuilding in Somaliland that can be applied in other parts of Somalia without just copying and pasting exactly as it worked here. There might be some contextual and time factors that are different, but holding on the central idea of local reconciliation and peacebuilding before rushing to central state-building is relevant. This may be partly what the Somali leaders have in mind in the current transition, which will be finalsed in Istanbul in August this year with the Somali traditional elders now in Mogadishu to approve the constitution and nominate MPs.
Somaliland is now democratising, with the transition happening successfully but with many challenges. Parliamentary, municipal and presidential elections were held successfully with a peaceful transfer of power. Civil society, business people and other non-state actors have been instrumental in the process. The Somaliland government is now capable of maintaining peace and security. Peacebuilding by the civil society is taking place, alongside a state-centric view to security and drafting of a national peacebuilding policy.