Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Community-Led Stabilisation in Somalia

Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Community-Led Stabilisation in Somalia

Article excerpt

Non-state armed groups are often considered to lack legitimacy as potential counterparts in building security institutions but when they are in fact in control, this point of view has to be reviewed.

Somalia has for many years been known as the classic example of a failed state and illustrates clearly how difficult it can be to restore state institutions after their total collapse. Prolonged civil war, famine and poverty have caused a humanitarian crisis with large flows of IDPs and an estimated 3.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.1 Yet while increasing numbers of the population are in urgent need of assistance, access by international agencies to provide relief has become more difficult as a result of pressure from non-state armed groups (NSAGs).

Since the fall of Siad Barre's regime in 1991 various self-appointed administrations have attempted to seize power - and declare autonomy - in different parts of the country. Most well known, though not internationally recognised, is Somaliland to the northwest. As humanitarian space has been shrinking in south-central Somalia, agencies have reorganised their operations to run from the relatively stable areas of Somaliland and, to some extent, Puntland in the north. Yet south-central Somalia remains the region where most of the IDPs and population in acute need are situated and, while the difficulties for humanitarian agencies in negotiating access with NSAGs in the capital city Mogadishu are well known, it is not representative for all of south-central Somalia.

Where NSAGs form local administrations, they become one of the duty bearers towards the population, including IDPs. And when these administrations are viewed as legitimate among the population, they become important potential partners. In the town of South Galkayo, some 450 km north of Mogadishu, an NSAG called Ahlu-Sunna Wal-Jamaa is in control. Here, in contrast to its experience of trying to facilitate safe return for IDPs to Mogadishu, the Danish Demining Group (DDG) has had a positive experience not only of obtaining access but also of engaging in partnership with both the communities and the self-appointed administration.

A pragmatic approach

Engaging with NSAGs in building institutions to ensure civilian security can be controversial but can also be necessary in cases like Somalia where no central state power exists or is likely to do so in the near future. The prolonged civil war and high levels of insecurity in Somalia have created an urgent need for initiatives to reduce armed violence in order to create an environment where development can take place. Experience from working in South Galkayo supports the argument that the approach to stabilisation in Somalia needs to explore communitydriven processes rather than large-scale and highly politicised stabilisation efforts that have so far proven counter-productive. Building safety at the community level needs to follow humanitarian principles: placing the need of the population at the centre, while not promoting a political agenda. This may even mean engaging with NSAGs in cases where they have some legitimacy within the population and prove willing to adhere to international standards of humanitarian law.

South Galkayo is the capital of Galmudug State, a self-declared administration founded by clan elders and the NSAG AhluSunna Wal-Jamaa following the defeat of the Mogadishu warlords in 2006. The town of Galkayo is situated on the border of Puntland and southcentral Somalia and is split north and south under the Puntland and Galmudug State administrations respectively. Ahlu-Sunna Wal-Jamaa is the overall security provider in South Galkayo and has managed to improve security in the area administrated by Galmudug State. Compared to other regions in south-central Somalia, the area under the control of Galmudug State has enjoyed relative stability since 2006 and has attracted people displaced by conflict from other regions. …

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