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LPI’s local work highlighted by Sida

The Swedish donor Sida (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency) highlights work of LPI and its local partner Somalia Peace Line in a new article on their website www.sida.se

Below is the article translated to English:

Local conflicts must be resolved for peace in Somalia

A complex conflict related to land forced thousands of people to flee and led the inhabitants in Jowhar, Somalia to take up guns. With support from Sida-funded peace organisations, the conflicting clans could instead negotiate and reach a peaceful solution. Solving local conflicts is a necessary piece in the jigsaw puzzle to attain peace in Somalia.

The farmer, and father of eight children, Barre Omer Abdi, lost everything in 2013 as Shidle, the clan he belongs to, got involved in a serious land conflict with the pastoralist clan Abgal.

Thirteen villages were destroyed in the fighting. The Shidle clan was forced to run and flee to a refugee camp. Barre Omer Abdi decided to take up arms.

In the refugee camp we didn’t have a roof over our heads, food or clothes. It was really a tough situation. I bought a gun and joined the militia. All I wanted was to revenge. I believed the conflict could only be solved with weapons.

One day an elder in the clan invited him to a training event in peacebuilding. That is where he met representatives from other clans, including the militia.

– I realized that the problem could only be resolved through dialogue and negotiations. I decided to sell my gun and start a normal life.

External support led to a break-through in the peace negotiations

Sheikh Mohamoud, an imam in the Shidle clan, explains that many elders have for a long time tried to broker peace but that the breakthrough came when the organisation Life & Peace Institute (LPI) and their local partner Somalia Peace Line (SPL) provided the clans their support.

The project put an end to a conflict that had cost the lives of 60 people and that caused a lot of insecurity and displacement. The trainers made us believe in negotiated settlements and we learned negotiation techniques.

After three years of dialogue under the guidance of LPI and SPL, the participants agreed that both clans would jointly use the contested land, and Abgal paid money to those who had lost

family members.

Traditional peacebuilding under pressure

Somalia has been hit by war and conflict for 25 years and for a long time had no central government. Over-shadowed by the armed conflict between the government and the armed extremist movement Al-Shabab, local conflicts related to land, natural resources and political influence have at times been neglected.

Traditionally, local communities had their own conflict management mechanisms. But decades of war has led to severe strain on the system, and as the conflicts have turned more complex, external support has become necessary.

This is where Sida-supported LPI and their local partners fill an important role. The mediators’ role is to enable a dialogue between the locally involved clans, to find a common understanding of the roots of the conflict and the possible solutions.

Women have important roles in peacebuilding

While traditional peacebuilding is often led by elders and religious leaders, LPI works for inclusion of the whole society.

– For sustainable peace we need to consider all perspectives. That is why we also strive for the involvement of women and youth in building peace, says Jody Henderson from LPI.

In 2016 LPI has started working with Somali Women’s Solidarity Organisation (SWSO), a local women-led organisation in the city of Kismayo in southern part of the country. They have initiated a peace process between conflicting clans, where women stand at the centre of the dialogue process.

– This project is the first of its kind in Somalia. We now have possibilities to advocate for peace with one voice. We have a lot to do, says Halima Godane from SWSO.

To achieve peace at the local level is not just a prerequisite for people to live and develop – it also affects state-building at the central level. In the conflict-affected areas where LPI is working it would be very difficult for governmental bodies even to gain influence if the clans are not in agreement regarding how power should be shared.