What are the root causes of the conflicts affecting communities in Somalia’s Hirshabelle State? What mechanisms work well to resolve these conflicts on a local level? How can these mechanisms be improved? What can different people from the communities contribute? These questions are at the heart of the four Shirarka community dialogues that the Somalia team of the Berghof Foundation are holding in Hirshabelle State in the second half of 2018.
Shirarka are six-day traditional Somali assemblies that bring together around 50 individuals from various clans and sub-clans. They involve representatives from all segments of society, including women, youth, professionals, elders, poets and religious leaders. These assemblies provide an inclusive space for all to express their views on conflict with the goal of motivating people to work together towards transforming the violent conflicts that affect them as well as preventing new conflicts from occurring.
In the past two months, we facilitated two Shirarka in the cities of Balad and Beledweyne, which were actively supported by members of the Hirshabelle ‘Insider Peacebuilders’ Network’, a group of influential individuals across the state whom we assist in their efforts toward peace.
These events are carried out in close cooperation with the authorities from Hirshabelle State and the respective district level authorities, thus fostering and building the visibility and credibility of the government within a federal system.
The Shirarka offered opportunities for discussing federalism and the National Reconciliation Framework, which is currently being drafted by the federal government. One objective of the Shirarka is to collect community-level perspectives on such national-level policy processes. We will then share these perspectives with federal and state level policymakers in order to inform their decisions.
The discussion on federalism at these two Shirarka was characterised by very different views on its benefit for the country as a whole. Reflections also focused on the positive roles that women and youth could take on to support peace and reconciliation in their communitiies.
Participants understood that conflict can and should be resolved by everyone in the community and not necessarily by the traditional peacemakers and the community elders only. Specific ideas were discussed for trainings on the implementation and monitoring of peace agreements, awareness-raising programs on the benefits of peace and resolving conflict, and the importance of consultations between the community and the district administration. The participants were in agreement that in order to have a meaningful reconciliation, it must be started with the villages first.
You can read about the first Shir which was held in September in Bulla Burte here. The last Shir will take place in December 2018 in Jowhar, the capital of Hirshabelle State.