Community Dialogue Assemblies ("Shirarka") in Somalia

The Berghof Foundation project in Somalia entitled “Building Federalism through Local Government Dialogue” implemented six community dialogue assemblies throughout 2016 in the regions of Middle Shabelle (in the city of Jowhar) and Hiiraan (in the city of Bulla Burte). 60 individuals were invited to each individual assembly, at which all clans and sub-clans of the regions were represented, as well as representatives from important stakeholder groups in the regions such as elders, women, youth, business professionals, artists/poets and religious leaders. Each dialogue assembly took place over a period of six days, which gave the participants a unique chance to express themselves and discuss freely their views, visions and fears about the three focal areas of the project, namely 1) federalism and the federalization process in Somalia, 2) local government, and 3) conflict resolution/reconciliation. These assemblies, called in the Somali language “Shirarka” (plural of “Shir”), were held in the typical Somali fashion accompanied and framed by poets and singers working the themes into each Shir through Somali poetry and music. In total 360 individuals participated in the Shirarka in the region, and were dedicated to taking these important topics and information back to their local communities in the region, thereby creating a multiplier effect.