(Re)conciliation and Mediation Support in Somalia

The project aims to assist the citizens of Hirshabelle to build or restore constructive relationships with each other. In so doing, the project intends to take the knowledge base and experience present in the communities and add practical skills in mediation and dialogue facilitation through training and joint learning with important stakeholders and chosen multipliers. We specifically focus on conceptual expertise and practical skills to empower these individuals and motivate them to encourage reconciliation in their communities.

Over the course of the 2-year project, an informal platform of dialogue facilitators/mediators is being established, within which sharing of information and experience is encouraged. These trained mediators then jointly facilitate a series of Shirarka, the typical 7-day Somali form of dialogue, in the state of Hirshabelle. Here the participants discuss potential approaches to reconciliation and their views on the statebuilding process in the state. As in the case of the previous Berghof project in Somalia, the main elements for the development of a new approach to the reconciliation process will be developed through these Shirarka, encompassing all segments of the society.

This complementary bottom-up approach to reconciliation presents a good opportunity to support and strengthen further constitutional state-building in Hirshabelle. Based on the information and experience gathered during the project, the Berghof Foundation then provides advice to the local, regional and federal authorities with respect to reconciliation initiatives and strategies. The results of these activities are also shared with interested stakeholders and various international actors and donors.

Timeline:

2017-2019

Since the nation state in Somalia collapsed in 1991, the country was for many years either in a state of civil war or was classified as a fragile state. Various internationally-organized peace conferences have taken place over the years and some of these conferences have produced political agreements, but they have never sufficiently addressed crucial grievances that existed – and still exist – among Somali individuals, communities and clans. Furthermore, the decision makers at the negotiation tables, which have included warlords, former Siad Barre governmental employees, and diaspora elite, have had a significant lack of strategy: instead of addressing and supporting meaningful reconciliation among the clans and sub-clans of the country, only timetables and power-sharing constellations for new governmental structures have been agreed upon.

Following the Somalia Reconciliation Conference from 2002-2004 a Transitional Federal Charter mandated the formation of a federal state in Somalia. This charter has remained since then the basis of the governmental structure in the country. In August 2012, eight years of transitional government in Somalia ended with the adoption of the Provisional Constitution (PC) and in November of the same year a new Federal Government was established. Yet while the Provisional Constitution mandates the establishment of a federal system of government, it remains a vaguely formulated document containing many contradictions and ambiguities, and many elements essential to the successful implementation of federalism are not defined in the constitution. The Provisional Constitution foresaw the merger of at least two or more regions to form a Federal Member State based on a “voluntary decision” (see Article 49 (6) of the PC). However, the government has recognized that this creation of federal structures has been based mainly on clan interests and the consent of the elites in the respective societies; there was little consultation with the population at large, neither with local clan and/or religious leaders nor with the local administrations in the districts. Furthermore, in practically all cases of recent creations of federal member states, conflict has broken out because some sub-clans and/or civil society at the grassroots level were left out of the negotiations.

Therefore, there have been new and emerging conflicts that have arisen specifically because of the top-down approach in which the federalization process has been carried out. Simultaneously, however, there are also various historical grievances due to the many atrocities committed during the civil war and the lack of comprehensive reconciliation and dealing with the past to address these issues. Thus (re)conciliation is urgently needed in order to foster social cohesion, as well as to ensure proper participation in the ongoing governance processes in the country. Only with participation and social cohesion can a legitimate government at all levels of the country be built.


We collaborate on this project with two universities in Somalia: Jobkey University in Jowhar and Hiiraan University in Beledweyne. In addition, the project is supported by the Federal Government of Somalia.

The project is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.

Field research in Hirshabelle completed

During September 2017, the Somali-based team carried out a field research exercise in the Somali State of Hirshabelle. The objective of the mission was to collect information on the needs of the communities in terms of reconciliation, including the previous approaches taken, the impediments and challenges, and the opportunities that are available for successful reconciliation. An extensive actors-mapping was carried out simultaneously in order to better understand the interests of relevant stakeholders and their influence. The research employed a participatory methodology, including key informant interviews with government officials and 30 focus group discussions with different stakeholders including women, traditional and religious leaders, civil society representatives, youth, professionals (former civil servants, journalists, academics, etc.) and artists and poets. The results from this research provide the necessary knowledge-base for developing, together with our Somali partners, a conceptual approach to community reconciliation and mediation support in the State of Hirshabelle.

Kick-off workshop and  roundtable discussion

In July 2017, a kick-off workshop was held in Nairobi with all project stakeholders in order to discuss the project’s approach and methodology, as well as to plan the detailed activities of the project. Furthermore, we facilitated a roundtable discussion with like-minded non-governmental organizations and international stakeholders active in Somalia in order to present the results of the previous project of the Berghof Foundation in Somalia, to discuss the current project and to exchange views on issues of reconciliation and conflict transformation in Somalia.