Over the past twenty years, Somalia has experienced a raging civil war, a rise in violent extremism and a devastating famine – leading to a collapse of institutions, structures and trust in government. The failure of the state has greatly damaged social cohesion and unity between the Somali people. These factors has caused this war-torn, impoverished nation to become one of the most underdeveloped and violent states in Africa. However, in the midst of conflict, the country has managed to acquire a level of stability while redeveloping its institutions and economy.
Since the collapse of the central state of Somalia, several reconciliation conferences, most held outside the country, have convened with the aim to resurrect the Somali State. While several reconciliation conferences have occurred, little success has been made to bring peace and stability to the region. These conferences have predominantly focused on state-building with limited attention to social reconciliation. Participation in these conferences has been exclusive, most of the participants being politicians and military leaders from different clans. These factors have rendered the success of initiating peace as it was not an inclusive, community-based process.
The 2007 National Reconciliation Conference held in Mogadishu was the first attempt to address national-level social reconciliation. From thereafter, as the Somali Government institutions have been gradually restored, several state-building conferences have been held in Mogadishu. A national reconciliation would not only be beneficial for peace and security in Somalia, but for the East Africa region.
In June 2017, a new call was made for the development of an inclusive framework that recognizes traditions, cultures and religions embraced by the Somali people. Learning from previous reconciliation attempts, the National Consultative Conference on Reconciliation was held by MoIFAR to highlight the need for community-based reconciliation. This conference was intentionally held in Somalia to demonstrate how the National Reconciliation Framework (NRF) was going to be a Somali lead and supported effort – for the people and by the people as reconciliation is most effective if accepted and owned by the overall population. As a result of the October 2017 follow-up consultations and workshops organized in Helsinki, MoIFAR requested support from the Network and FCA Somalia to develop such framework.
The call for an inclusive reconciliation is timely as the Somali’s are looking to end the violence and bury their weapons to build a united nation. Local appeals are being made for the development of a national societal healing process to cope with issues of the past. With these concepts in mind, there is hope this process will encourage dialogue between communities and the state, leading to an increase in political agreements and improved governance in Somalia. The process also surrounds the present increasing legitimatization of institutions and systems at federal and state levels. As people are re-recognizing these institutions, they (institutions) have the potential to implement and sustain reconciliation at a state and federal level.
In August 2018, the process for NRF development began with consultations on a national scale to understand the needs and perspectives of Somali people. These consultations were designed to incorporate a range of societal and marginalized groups including religious and traditional actors, women, minorities and youth. From August to December 2018, the NRF team consulted approximately 700 Somalis throughout the country to ensure the framework is culturally and religiously relevant and inclusive. The consultations comprised of two meetings in each region: one with the local government and one with civil society. During the process, participants reiterated the need to deal with the past, restore relationships, regain nationalism and build trust and confidence in government institutions. With perspectives of the Somali people in mind, the information gained from the consultations allowed a NRF framework draft to be developed and submitted to the Somali government for approval in December 2018.
The NRF was validated at the February 2019 Validation Conference held in Mogadishu. The NRF was designed to ensure regional and national leadership in the reconciliation process and to provide a platform to coordinate various ongoing and new efforts around reconciliation and peacebuilding throughout Somalia. Somali Prime Minister H.E Hassen Ali Kheyre applauded the work achieved by the MoIFAR and its partners.
“To achieve genuine reconciliation we need first to realize what we are missing, the ruins you see, it’s not only in the buildings, it’s also in our hearts,” said Somali Prime Minister H.E Hassen Ali Kheyre.
Approximately 300 members of the federal government, federal member states and civil society organizations attended the conference. A survey distributed during the conference projected a positive perception on the value of the reconciliation document.
While the recognition of the NRF by the Somali government is significant, a challenge still lies ahead in the next phase to implement the framework throughout all regions of Somalia. This phase will place a heavy focus on inclusivity as successful peacebuilding is dependent on the participation of women, youth and other marginalized groups as they play a central role in local communities. The implementation stage will occur over the next few years under the direction of MoIFAR with assistance from the Network, FCA and other partners.
The Network and FCA seek to promote a culturally relevant, faith-based and nationally owned model for peace and reconciliation. The aim of the two entities is to share best practices and potential interlinkages to similar processes in other countries and learn from and help in designing similar processes globally. The Network has had a firm background in working for peace and reconciliation in Somalia with a focus on the engagement of religious and traditional leaders. From 2008-2014, the Network and FCA contributed to solving 25 major conflicts in Somalia and enabled 18 local peace processes.
The Network has conducted pioneering research on reasons and motivations for individuals to join al-Shabaab and conditions for potential negotiations for peace between al-Shabaab and the Federal Government of Somalia. The Network is currently developing further work on prevention of violent extremism in Somalia as well as on better inclusion of women in peace processes and decision-making in Somalia in the light of upcoming elections in 2020-2021.
For more information on the Network and FCA work in Somalia, please contact Sara Linnoinen at: firstname.lastname@example.org