How can a peaceful democratic state be built out of several clan-based, faction ridden, territorial entities? This paper, prepared for the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre, examines peace building in Somaliland and looks at its experience of forging effective institutions of governance. Set in the context of a review of the collapse of Somalia as a unified state, it offers lessons and implications for Somalia as a whole.
In Somalia, electoral politics, military rule and the resurgence of clan-based political factions provide the historical background and contemporary context for recent political developments. The clan system has subverted efforts to resolve disputes and the four territorial entities created in 1991 have become platforms for clan-based rivalries and competition for leadership and control of local resources.
Somaliland has in contrast been relatively successful in peace building, largely due to innovative methods of representation, power sharing and managing factional competition. The clan system here has served as a mechanism for reconciliation, building political consensus and transition to a multiparty system.
Somalia and Somaliland share three decades of common history and similar sociopolitical structure, but Somaliland is more homogenous, and larger than each of the four Somali territories. Yet, their experience demonstrates that clan systems can serve both as a mechanism of solidarity and coalition building as well as competition and fragmentation. This enigma needs to be understood. In relation to this:
- The number, size and leadership style of clans shapes the patterns of factional competition and conflict.
- In a predominately clan-based society, leadership accountability is subordinate to the imperative of factional competition.
- Clan-based competition renders a centralized state as well as the administrations of territorial entities vulnerable to autocratic rule, factional violence and local disputes.
- Conflicts among clan based factions and cliques within factions and the consequent cleavages in the territorial communities impede territorial peace building.
- Such conflicts also subvert the implementation of agreements negotiated in national reconciliation conferences. They have been the key factors for the failure of internationally sponsored reconciliation initiatives to facilitate a settlement accord in Somalia.
The primary responsibility for resolving the crisis in Somalia lies with Somali political leaders and civil society, including the Somali Diaspora. The support of the international community and the UN is also essential. National actors should pursue a three-phased strategy as follows:
- To build the foundation for a political consensus through territorial peace building. This includes linking clan representation to territorial entities and linking territorial peace building to an agenda for comprehensive political settlement.
- To link the territorial peace building process to an overall political settlement in Somalia. Including forming interim institutions for negotiation and establishing joint commissions for demobilization and reconstruction.
- To align transitional processes with democratic dialogue and development. This includes linking the formation of transitional unity government to a transparent and credible process of democratic transition.