Publications & reports
Somalia Peace Line
Success stories of women and men working for peace
Somali Peace Line (SPL) was founded by a group of eight influential Somali scholars who were committed to restore a sense of peace in Somalia. With the sponsorship of the international community, neighbouring countries and Somali scholars abroad, they initiated discussions about the possibilities for peace in Somalia after UNOSOM left in 1995.
In this publication, we invite you to witness the opportunities for peace in Somalia. It is a snapshot of our current work through success stories of our partners, women, men, and children who have worked with us for peace – stories that are our motivation to keep striving for sustainable and multidimensional peace in our country.
Somali Peace Line (SPL) was founded in 1995 following the Second European International Congress of Somali Studies on Culture of Peace for Somalia, held in Paris, France. SPL is a non-profit and non-partisan NGO committed to promoting sustainable peace in Somalia.
Somali Peace Line (SPL) was founded by a group of eight influential Somali scholars who were committed to restore a sense of peace in Somalia. With the sponsorship of the international community, neighbouring countries and Somali scholars abroad, we initiated discussions about the possibilities for peace in Somalia after UNOSOM left in 1995. The idea was to create a body that studies, evaluates and monitors the viability of peace activities in Somalia.
Our ambition was to consolidate a ’home-grown’ peace movement and support Somalia’s civil society in achieving peace. Although the organisational structure and ideas were developed, there was so much to do on the ground. We knew already that peace is multidimen sional. The name we chose, at the suggestion of the Somali author and filmmaker Saciid Saalax, was ’Tubta Nabadda’ which literally translates as ’the way to peace’. There are indeed many ways to peace, and over the years, we have focused on fostering dialogue between warring parties and their clan leaders.
At the same time, we have lobbied to empower the civil society by supporting women’s groups, youth and children, and internally displaced people, and bringing them together. In the beginning, we participated in several workshops and forums and presented our ideas, our activities and the need for peace in Somalia. With the support of our first partner, Oxfam, we opened an office and held our first seminar in 1997 for representatives from different social groups, on ’peacemaking mechanisms in Somalia’. There were 25 people, including civil servants, religious leaders, traditional elders, women and youth from different clans. This first seminar certainly shaped our activities, and over the years we have kept these lines of action, as you will read throughout this publication. Our current main projects focus on women’s empowerment, protection of internally displaced children and our long-lasting efforts in peacebuilding among warring clans.
We started with five volunteers and organised peace awareness campaigns, conflict prevention activities, and participated in national peace and reconciliation processes, including the famous Arta Conference in 2000 – an important moment in our lobby for peace. We brought together warring parties and initiated dialogue and negotiations in eight different regions. We made sure that warring groups recognised schools as safe zones by establishing banderols and distinguishable signs around them. Another major success was the destruction of the Green Line that used to divide Mogadishu into two. We lobbied to allow people to reach the other side of the city, for instance in enabling them to attend social ceremonies, such as weddings and funerals. Although these activities seem small, they were in fact necessary steps for peace, because they allowed people to meet, to maintain their different bonds, and strengthen their different relationships.
A major effort by SPL has not only been about connecting people but also bringing different organisations together. Any road to peace has to be a collective effort, so we have been active in creating and consolidating exchange within the civil society. We have played a leading role in bringing community members together, in the media, in umbrella organisations and peace and human rights networks. Our organisation has also provided job opportunities and training to many people from different clans. We are proud that they have become influential scholars, politicians, or active members of the civil society, who we regularly meet and maintain strong relationships with. All these people are another reason SPL is a leading organisation in working to harmonise and consolidate the Somali civil society.
Because conflict is part of life, it also evolves with it. The present day situation is better than what we have known when SPL first started. But today there is a different kind of war. The conflicts in the regions are more localised and involve distinct groups. Then there is the conflict between the federal government and al-Shabab. But unlike before, today the conflict feels more sporadic and less widespread.
We know too that peace is relative and many challenges remain. Security is certainly one of them, and as an NGO we cannot always do what we want the way we want. The limited resources and the lack of state support are other constraints. But today I can say, maybe more than ever, that the opportunities for peace are there, because organisations are still doing an enormous job to stop fighting, provide basic services and fill much of the vacuum left by state institutions. Donors are more committed and regular in supporting peace efforts. And more importantly, people in Somalia want peace.
The latest fighting in Gaalkacyo illustrates well the attitude of local communities to conflict. When the fighting started, people just left. It is not their fight, and they are tired. On top of their own problems, such as poverty, limited access to education and health services, they stayed in their regions, but they can’t bear physical fighting or death. They return as soon as they see signs of the absence of violence. Security is something appealing and people do value it. I believe people are ready for peace and eager to go forward.
Today, peace in Somalia is both close and far away. Our work for peace, a sustainable peace, is still necessary, as long as guns are available and used, the political elite are still struggling with clan issues, and people have limited access to education and social institutions.
Our long involvement in peacebuilding in Somalia taught us that Somalis can deal with their conflicts in a peaceful way, and that there is a strong will for peace. In this publication, we invite you to witness with us the opportunities for peace in Somalia. It is a snapshot of our current work through success stories of our partners, women, men, and children who have worked with us for peace – stories that are our motivation to keep striving for sustainable and multidimensional peace in our country.