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Our programme in Somalia

Through our work in Somalia, we aim to contribute to a stable and peaceful Somalia by supporting reconciliation processes that address local grievances and root causes of conflict, enhanced by engaging key policy actors to foster more conducive frameworks for peace and state-building efforts.

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Dalwalba waxaa dhisa dadkiisa [“Every nation is built by its people”] Graffiti Art in Somalia. Photo by Deqa Abshir.

As one of the world’s oldest, most protracted and complex conflict systems, Somalia remains mired in multi-layered armed conflicts. The formation of a national army and police force is neither complete nor is it in a position to take over security responsibilities. Al-Shabaab continues to gain strength. Old and new clan rivalries persist, reflected in Federal Member States’ contentious relations with the Federal Government of Somalia and clan conflicts within the regional state administrations. Peace and conflict in Somalia remain inextricably linked with the policies of national, regional and international powers. Whilst conflict narratives, actors and strategies have been continuously transformed throughout the course of the war since 1991, the federalism project taking hold over the last three years has added another layer of complexity to Somalia’s political and military landscape as the country journeys towards national peace, reconciliation and political stability.

Map Somalia - updated

LPI history 

LPI has been working in Somalia since the early 1990s, supporting communities to find lasting peace. Our peacebuilding engagement has focused on community-led conflict transformation and strengthening the capacity of local organisations and institutions. In collaboration with our Somali partners, we have contributed to multi-level reconciliation processes that provide a stronger foundation for broader state-building and stabilisation efforts.

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Community members celebrating re-opening of road after inter-clan dialogue, Somalia.

Partners are key to our success 

Strength in partnership: LPI has partnered for many years with a small group of very well connected and respected partners. A key focus has been on the quality of relationships and mutual trust, recognising each partner’s unique strengths which when combined, lead to greater impact. In a context of ongoing violence and deep-seated mistrust, the symbolism and significance of this must not be underestimated. LPI’s partnership approach entails joint design, planning, and varying degrees of accompaniment in implementation. Capacity enhancement revolves around mutual learning and recognition of both LPI and partner needs. A range of support is provided to both traditional structures and cross-community peacebuilding platforms comprising elders, religious leaders, women and youth, representatives of local authorities, civil society and the business community. More recently, this also included literacy skills for women in Jubbaland. 

LPI’s current partners in Somalia include:

  • Somali Peace Line (SPL) SPL, or ’Tubta Nabadda’ [the way to peace], was founded in 1995, with the ambition to consolidate a ’home-grown’ peace movement and support Somalia’s civil society in achieving peace. LPI’s partnership with SPL is our longest in Somalia, collaborating since 2008 on a range of research and peacebuilding projects. Whilst much of our focus over the years has been in supporting the traditional peacebuilding role of the clan elders, more recently we have strengthened efforts to engage women and youth in peacebuilding. www.tubta.org

  • Zamzam Foundation (ZZF) ZZF is the largest humanitarian and development organisation in Somalia, founded in 1992 at the heart of the humanitarian emergency that followed the outbreak of the civil war a year earlier. LPI and ZZF have been partners since 2011, with LPI supporting ZZF to establish a peacebuilding unit as a means of bridging the peace and development nexus. Together, we have been engaging communities in Central Somalia in a long-term process of community reconciliation through dialogue, mediation and negotiation, as well as provision of conflict sensitive emergency assistance during the height of the 2016 drought.

  • Somali Women’s Solidarity Organization (SWSO) SWSO is a women-led community-based organisation, established in 2006 to promote solidarity and increase women’s participation in peace and decision-making processes. SWSO has actively engaged in peacebuilding work over the years, and since 2015 LPI has supported SWSO in the implementation of a women-led peacebuilding initiative across Jubbaland in South Somalia. Together, we have also carried out research on the role of women in conflict and peace.

  • Somali Women’s Studies Centre (SWSC) SWSC is a women-led organisation, established in 2011 to advance gender equality for Somali women and girls. Currently LPI, SWSO and SWSC are working together with women and youth on peacebuilding initiative centred on gender equality and social inclusion.

Our work

Goal: To contribute to a stable and peaceful Somalia by supporting inclusive reconciliation processes that address local grievances and root causes of conflict.

South Central Somalia continues to face substantial obstacles in the nation’s quest for peace and stability. With clan conflicts impacting (and being impacted by) the state-building dynamics, LPI’s programme focuses on addressing persistent or recurring local-level clan conflicts while contributing to national and international policy discourse.

The targeted conflict systems are not only hotspots of historic and recurrent violent clan-based conflict, but have also been negatively impacted by top-down state-building processes and contribute to instability in South Central Somalia. Within this challenging context, LPI’s partnership with well-connected and experienced civil society partners seeks to create space for dialogue, negotiation and, ultimately, agreements as well as new collective behaviour to address clan-based, local level conflicts that often receive little or no attention in the global and regional policy narratives, yet nevertheless are intricately connected to these other layers.

By supporting the transformation of targeted protracted local conflicts through inclusive engagement driven by the affected communities, and by engaging local, state and federal policy actors and policies to create an enabling environment for those processes, the programme contributes to long-term peace and stability at the community level in selected conflict systems.

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Somali elders during a community dialogue.

Program Overview

Graph Somalia

Approaches and methods

Sustained Dialogue (SD) In Somalia, women and youth tend to remain excluded from traditional peacebuilding processes.  In 2018, as a way to include more diverse actors in dialogue and provide new spaces for women and youth to prepare for voice and action, LPI in partnership with Somali Peace Line, introduced a Sustained Dialogue Initiative in in Middle Shabelle and Bay regions. Through the Sustained Dialogue, there have been improved interactions between diverse groups of women and youth, who in turn and over time, develop better understanding of issues affecting them and the broader community.

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Round-table discussion with young women in Somalia.

Participatory Action Research (PAR)  With the aim of supporting longer-term sustainable processes, enhancing existing capacities for peace, and incrementally building trust and collaboration between conflicting groups at community-level, LPI together with both Zamzam Foundation and Somali Peaceline, have adapted the Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach to the context of South Central Somalia. PAR, in contrast to conventional forms of research, goes far beyond collecting and analysing information. Through its process character, it provides the space for those engaged in, or affected by conflict, to reflect on and elicit their own understanding of the conflict situation, while also being faced with the perspectives of others. This understanding provides the critical foundations that are then further strengthened through incremental dialogue, starting from “single-identity” to inter-group dialogue. Dialogue then fosters interaction and collaboration, with the objective to address some of the divisive factors triggering conflict within and between communities. In Somalia, the PAR processes we have supported have focused on traditional mechanisms but over time new ingredients have been added through a specific focus on inclusion of women, youth and marginalised clans, allowing adaptation to contextual realities. 

Read more about LPI's approach & methods

Impact and results

Intra and inter-clan dialogues and agreements Throughout implementation, clan-based actors have engaged constructively with each other through dialogue and negotiations, both within and across group conflict lines. For example, in 2017 there were more than 7 peace agreements made that used both traditional (for instance diya) and new ways to address conflict, increasing trust within and between clans, positive interactions between clans – including freer movement across target areas – renewed levels of inter-clan business, and strengthened relationships. In 2017 and 2018, a total of 11 intra- and 21 inter-clan dialogues were conducted.  As a result of dialogues and agreements, violent expressions of conflict were reduced across all target areas, despite sporadic outbreaks of violence and some peace agreements failing. The achievement is also strongly reflected in the increased use of nonviolent means – notably dialogue and early warning systems – to resolve emerging conflicts both within and between clans. This constitutes a departure from past practice, where retaliatory attacks (revenge killings; raiding) were the first responses made by clans. (ref. Abdifatah Mohamed Hikam and Mark M. Rogers (2017) Community-Based Bottom-Up Peacebuilding Project Implementation Evaluation Report, 2017.

Strengthening inclusion in clan peacebuilding The launch of dedicated work streams on women’s and young people’s participation and influence in peace processes has seen a change of mindset towards their inclusion in peace dialogues by traditional clan elders previously perceived as being very rigid. This has resulted in more women taking part in intra- and inter-clan dialogues – a realm traditionally reserved for men. Most advanced is LPI’s support to Somali Women’s Solidarity Organisation’s (SWSO) work with women platforms in Jubbaland and beyond. In addition, the programme also generated substantive knowledge on the role of women in conflict and peace through Kismayo Women research and accompanying Life Stories. In partnership with SPL and SWSO, LPI also conducted a smaller complementary research project in Gedo region, and Baidoa and Jowhar towns, focusing on the role of youth in conflict and peace (report pending). 

Active inter-clan peacebuilding platforms established In 2017 Hiran and Kismayo Inter-Clan Platforms were established, with the addition of Middle Shabelle and Galgadud Platforms in 2018. In November, the Gedo Women’s Platform comprising 30 women from Luuq, Beled Xawo, and Dolow was also established. These platforms have begun to play a vital role intervening in the advent of tensions or conflicts. Resulting peace agreements are now beginning to address some root causes and long-term grievances, although there is a pragmatic tendency to focus on immediate issues and those where they can create consensus.

New spaces for women and youth to prepare for voice and action In an effort to include more diverse actors in dialogue, LPI – in partnership with SPL – initiated a Sustained Dialogue (SD) initiative for youth and women in Middle Shabelle and Bay regions to improve interactions and develop better understanding on issues affecting them and their broader community. A total of 320 SD sessions were conducted between July and December 2018, and youth- and women-led peacebuilding actions were also carried out. 

Furthering constructive relations between community peace actors and local authorities As a result of pursuing constructive interactions with local authorities and governance actors in all locations, engagement by these actors has increased – not only attending dialogues but also contributing to joint actions with platforms during and after dialogues. In addition, there have been examples of community members engaging local administrations differently in response to violent incidents. 

In Mataban respondents in an FGD combining platform members and other community members appreciated that the peace-making process had come down to the community level – and that they felt part of the process. Similarly, in Kismayo there was the sense that people had come together in the peace-making approach.

“At the beginning, we were people that were scattered,” one member of the Kismayo Women’s Platform said. “We were people who didn’t know each other. We didn’t know conflict from peace. All we knew was clan.”

A community member from Mataban also highlighted the effect on women:

“Women are now better involved in the peace-making. They are encouraging the end of conflicts. Some of them talk about peace through the Buraanbur poetry – the local name for poems by women.”

The District Commissioner of Balambale talked of how the project had improved the application of traditional conflict resolution methods:

“One way the communities have benefitted from the project is that peace efforts are now sustained, despite discouraging challenges; previously, that wasn’t happening” (Deqa Abshir, Abdullahi Ibrahim and John Fox, Mid-Term Review of Nabadeynta Beelaha Somaliya, May 2019, p. 21).

Our donors

Read more about our Funders & Finance


Articles about our work in Somalia

When a Road is not just a Road: Restoring relations through dialouge in Somalia.  Violent conflict not only destroys lives, but also the friendships, marriages, families, and livelihoods that tie communities together. For two clans that had been divided by violence, re-opening a road marked their moment of reconciliation.

The road to reconciliation – preventing conflicts in Somalia After over five years of support to trust- and relationship-building in order to secure lasting peace among conflicting groups across south and central parts of Somalia, elders from both warring communities clans  participating in the inter-clan dialogues in the Galgadud region negotiated the opening of the road connecting Balanbale to Herale through a local peace agreement. Prior to the agreement, the road had not been passable.

Lokala konflikter måste lösas för att nå fred i Somalia (only in Swedish) En komplicerad markkonflikt som tvingat tusentals människor på flykt fick invånarna i Jowhar, Somalia, att ta till vapen. Men med stöd från Sida-stödda fredsorganisationer kunde de stridande klanerna förhandla fram en fredlig lösning. Att lösa lokala konflikter är en nödvändig pusselbit för att nå fred i Somalia.

Related articles & resources
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Office for Somalia programme is administered from the office in Nairobi, Kenya.

Postal Address
Life & Peace Institute, P.O. Box 64495-00620, Nairobi, Kenya

Visiting Address
Mpaka Road, Nairobi/Mogadishu, Somalia

Phone +254 (0) 20 4440433

Email nairobi@life-peace.org, info@life-peace.org