Beyond Violence 

Somaliland: Locally-led peace

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Peace is priceless. Many people seek peace, yet struggle to find an innovative way to achieve it, so it remains a distant dream. Africa is often perceived as a home to violence, conflict and anti-peace cultures. Some African countries, such as Somalia, are known to be among the most dangerous places on earth. Within so-called Somalia however, there is a special place, a self-declared country, which has enjoyed two decades of peace by listening to and following local voices: Somaliland.

The country gained independence from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on 26 June 1960, and was known as the Somaliland Protectorate. It joined Somalia on 1 July 1960 as part of the Somali Republic. 31 years later on 18 May 1991, Somaliland regained its independence after the Declaration of the Conference of the Somaliland Communities held in Burao between 27 April 1991 and 15 May 1991. The territory of the Republic of Somaliland covers the same area as that of the former Somaliland Protectorate and consists of the land, islands, and territorial waters, above and below the surface, the airspace and the continental shelf.

Somaliland fought for 11 years (1982-1991) against the dictatorship of the Siyad Bare regime, who came to power in a bloodless military coup on the 21 October 1969, overthrowing the post-colonial state founded on western democratic model. General Siyad Bare, who was the head of the national army, led the coup after the elected president Mr. Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke was assassinated while the Prime Minister Mr. Mahamed H. Ibrahim Egal was in America for an official visit. The dictatorial administration of Siyad Bare was marked by human rights abuses and civil strife. Somalilanders declared guerrilla war against the regime in 1982 in London (UK) and created the Somaliland National Movement (SNM).

The Siyad Bare regime responded to the rebels by bombing the innocent civilians and all the major towns, including the capital Hargiesa, which was severely destroyed. During the war more than 200,000 Somalilanders were displaced and fled to Ethiopian refugee camps, while many youth and men chose to join the SNM. For 11 years, people accepted violence as the only solution to destroy the Siyad Bare regime. Peace was forgotten and people became accustomed to conflict and war, and witnessing severe violence and clan disputes, which claimed thousands of civilian lives.

After the Siyad Bare regime was ousted in 1991 refugees returned from the Ethiopian camps, but were met by further chaos armed clan militias fought for control of infrastructure. Life seemed impossible without peace and people decided to recreate the peace that they had forgotten. They recognized that waiting for external assistance was not the answer and preferred to locally manage the conflict to end violence. Traditional leaders took the lead, disarming armed groups like clan militias, and holding national clan conferences. The most notable conferences took place in Buroa and Boorama. Locals, without any external help, financed these conferences. National peace charters were developed based on common values and attitudes rejecting violence, preventing further conflict through dialogue and negotiations among individuals, groups and clans.

The peace charter stemmed from local peace voices (predominantly women and children calling on the men to solve issues through dialogue), which led clan militias and war veterans to disarm and work towards peace and development. As a result of this local call for peace, Somaliland progressed from a post- conflict situation to political stability. On 18 May 2014 Somaliland celebrated 23 years of self-governance during which the country has held five successful elections: two presidential, one parliamentary and two for local government.

Somaliland is an example that peace is possible without external support. Somalilanders are enjoying peace which has been restored through their efforts to transform chaos and war into a safer place by listening to local peace voices, using non-violent conflict resolution and mobilising local resources.

Muhyadiin Yussuf- Youth Peace Ambassador promoting Somaliland unique Culture of peace

Written by Muhyadiin Yussuf and published on 17-June-2014

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