Transitional Justice Initiative among the community as a prerequisite before heading the upcoming election in Somalia in 2021.


by Anwar Abdifatah Bashir
Tuesday, August 18, 2020


When parties are in conflict, the elders of the conflicting parties convene a clan assembly to discuss the issues at stake (AMISOM PUBLIC INFORMATION)


Somalia had experienced bloody civil war after the strong central government vanished in 1991. Since then, the country undertook conflicts, religious extremism and pirate’s activities. The country was ruling by relentless warlords who used to exploit the youth by recruiting them as tribal militants. They obliterated and eviscerated all the legacies of the central government including the infrastructure. So, the warlords created a hostility among the community. Because, each warlord used to extol his clan, while he was demonizing and killing other clans. As a result, the community started mutual-enmity among them. So, this paper undertakes how the long-standing feud among the society be treated through transitional justice before the upcoming election.

 

  Who Somalia can emulate this approach (Transitional Justice Initiative)?

 The role of traditional, informal, or local mechanisms of transitional justice has been an area of growing academic and policy interest (Peacebuilding initiative). Because, there are many countries experienced conflicts, war, genocide and mass atrocities within the society, and applied this transitional justice mechanism one way or another including Peru, Northern Uganda, Rwanda, Mozambique, and East Timor. Though, there is ongoing debate and disagreements toward the meaning of these terminologies “traditional,” “informal,” and “local,”. Apart from this dichotomy about the meaning of these words, there is somehow a common understanding that, these terminologies are the practices which occur within the society.

Those justice processes, consisting of elements of retaliatory and restorative justice, in order to hold accountable those who committed the crime in the past such as human rights abuses, and to impose them community-level penalties including compo.

“The aims of transitional justice are far and wide depending on the local context but there are common characteristics such as these features are constant: the recognition of the dignity of individuals, confessing the violations in order to dodge any potential recurrence of these violations.

Transitional justice process in Somalia?

Transitional justice needs to adopt participatory approach in order to attain durable solution, while departing from the “Top-down approach” which means imposing the community what they don’t aware of to the “Bottom-up” approach so the voiceless people can be heard and heeded (SSRN, 2008). Because, when the civil war erupted in Somalia earlier in 1991, a massive and tremendous human rights violation was taken place, and the government’s judicial system solely can’t handle all those issues, so it requires a holistic engagement. In this regard, the process includes: –

The governmental level.

The government is the highest organ in the country, and its responsible fortressing and caring the people by rules and regulations on the ground. And the government should punish those who committed crimes such as killings, torture and other crimes. So, the government level, we can mention these institutions:

v  Ministry of justice. Is the highest organ in the government which is designated to handle the justice related issues in the national level. Though, this ministry has its importance, but her role is not so effective. Because, Somalia is a federal country, and some federal states don’t implement and respect the guidelines from the ministry. Additionally, some districts are still under Al-Shabaab religious extremist, and the ministry has no any presence in such areas.  With all these restrictions and challenges that the ministry is confronting, yet it has its constitutional mandate to take the lead and perform her duties and responsibilities regardless the obstacles which throttle her functions.

 

v  Independent Truth and reconciliation commission. According to the Somalia’s provisional constitution, especially Article 111I elucidates the role and the responsibilities of this committee. This commission is assigned fostering national healing, reconciliation among the society, unity and solidarity among the community. Additionally, the commission should address via a legal and state-oriented process the culture of impunity, reprisal and types of violence. As we can see, the commission is independent which means it has representatives from all the federal states in the country.

 

The flipside, there is no tangible work that the commission has been done so far. There are several reasons which have driven this inactiveness and futility including the deep-rooted bad blood among the community, the meddling from the federal government, and also some international interventions which are not pertinent to the local context. So, the ministry is trying her best level to perform her duties, but because of the grudge and a long-standing hostility is limiting her performance. As far as, the country is heading One-Person One-Vote in 2021, there is an immense need for truth-reconciliation. Because, unless the previous problems were depleted, it’s not easy to orchestrate political consensus.

 

v  Human rights commission. Also, this commission is independent as the Somalia’s provisional constitution indicates Article 111B. This landmark commission has several duties including: –

 

1.      Promoting the human rights culture in Somalia. Because, Somalia is one of the countries which mostly happens human rights violations. Journalists are often targeted, rape cases are witnessed several times, Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases are experienced sometimes.

2.      Monitoring and assessing the human rights in the country. Which means, the commission is federal level, and has the constitutional authority to oversight and supervise the human rights issues in the regional states. With all these aforementioned tasks belong to the commission, yet their work isn’t conspicuous. Because, there are draconian traditional rules in the community. For instance, when it comes to the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), some people believe it as a culture, and it is not easy to stop them doing it. And this deep-rooted culture hinders the work of the commission. And this Harmful Traditional Practices (HTP) is bestrode the society, especially the remote areas. And the best way to deter them doing this kind of harmful is to convince them to avoid such reprehensible actions.

2)      Non-governmental actors

A.    Religious leaders. Somalia as a Muslim country; the religious leaders have robust role within the society. So, Somalis give the highest consideration to them, not only this contemporary era, but also historically. With that said, they can play within the community a pivotal role. As part of truth reconciliation among the community, and defending the human rights issues, the religious leaders can play a lucrative role. Because Islamic religion encourages and emboldens the protection of human rights and also discourages any form of violations against the human dignity.

B.     Traditional elders. Somalia is a tribal society who depend on the clan umbrella more than the government. Traditional elders used to have strong role when it comes to the reconciliation, or mediation among the community. Moreover, they had, and have currently a respected role during the war and the conflict time. If one of the local traditional elders say stop the war, the war ends on the spot.

On the other hand, when it comes to human rights violations such as rape, they fix it by using (Customary Law), in Somali language is called (XEER). For instance, they enforce the man who raped the lady to marry her. Furthermore, when two clans are fighting each other for long period of time, in order to hammer out they impose (Traditional Elders) to exchange ladies and marry among the warring sides in order to de-escalate the conflict. So, traditional elders are part and parcel of the reconciliation process.

C.     Civil society: in Somalia, since the former central government of the country vanished in 1991, the role of the civil society was increasing incrementally. Civil society, especially those engage advocating human rights are conspicuous currently in the country. And not only in the capital city of Mogadishu, but also the regions and the districts. They participated and led solving number of conflicts within the community. Apart from that, the civil society also contributed resolving some conflicts between the former warlords in Somalia. And recently, civil society is part of ironing out some dichotomy and political disagreement among the federal government and her regional states (Peripherals). With that said, transitional justice programs also commonly mobilize extensive civil society networks and members of the national judicial system, potentially contributing to a comprehensive, cohesive community who are engaged in the protection of human rights. So, the role of the civil society is outstanding in reconciliation among the community, defending human rights and promoting the voiceless people’s voices to be heard. And currently, there are colossal of civil society organizations who are still engaging voluntarily reconciliation and forgiveness among the society. And civil society is the nucleus in this transitional justice initiative.

D.    Media: in this technological era, the media is paramount when you are undertaking any event. Previously, the media in Somalia was exaggerating and enriching the war and the conflicts between the clans. For instance, each former warlord in Somalia used to have a particular radio for demonizing other warlords, and overblowing his power presence in the country. So, the media’s function in warlord’s era was escalating the violence, metastasizing the hatred among the community. Additionally, media used to create propaganda among the warlords, so, they can make it news. Furthermore, media’s news mostly was deluding, misguiding, misleading and misinforming the public because of their vested-interest. Media is two-edged knife which you can use positively and negatively. Furthermore, media is a channel to reach out the public and convey the messages. Additionally, Somalis are society of media, who mostly rely on and trust the news from the media, especially the radios and Tvs.  Because, the illiteracy among the community is so rife and so rampant still. And when we want to fix out any conflict among the society, media is the best tool to perform that landmark job. For example, the broadcasting media (TV’s and Radio) can be used to broadcast peaceful and reconciliation messages to the people especially the conflicting parts. Additionally, media hosts some programs like CAFIS IYO ISKU GARNAQID (Forgiveness and Confess) so as to divorce and deplete the long-standing hostility and enmity among the society. In a nutshell, media can play a pivotal role during the truth-reconciliation among the society before heading to the long-awaited election in 2021.

E.     The role of poets: Somali poems had the leading role when it comes to transitional justice discourse. For instance, the Somali poet Salaan Carabey says” TOLOW COLKA JOOJA” which means my clan please stop the war. Moreover, he was deterring to fight each other’s. Apart from that, the poet has positive and negative impacts to the society. In the negative side, when they want to create conflicts among the clans, they narrate through poetry negative stories among the two tribes, so this negative story may freak out one clan, and ignites a fresh conflict among the clans. Same, when they want to create a peaceful environment, they narrate via poetry some impeccable and splendid stories among the clans, so the two-parts receive a mutual-reception. So, during the transitional justice process, poets are vitally important. Because, they have peerless and exquisite position in the community, and their messages are easily acceptable among the society.

Some programs which are related Transitional Justice Initiative (Galkayo city)

There is a unique and unprecedented program which was leading by a local organization namely, Somali Disaster Resilience Institute (SDRI) along with international partners including Oxford University and Albany Communication Trust in 2018. This program was an effort to contribute reconciliation among the community, especially those live in the same place. Because, there are plethora of conflicts, wars and drastic human rights violations occurred the country. Moreover, some regions in the country are violent and chaos than the rest. And there are several reasons which cause the conflict and the violence including the different clans live together in the region. Also, the shortage of the resources, especially the water. Because, Somalis mostly depend on livestock. In this regard, the civil society along with some international partners have started some pilot projects which are pertinent to the reconciliation among the community in order to foster and reach a truth-reconciliation and forgiveness within the society.

Galkayo city was held this pioneering and seductive program, and hosted by Galkayo University (GU), and was participated by different sectors of the community including Academicians, Lawyers, Journalists, government officials, traditional elders, youth organizations, women organizations, research institutions and other participants so as to debate and exchange their ideas towards this emerging issue of transitional justice. During that learning event, plenty of issues were discussed and enormous recommendations were suggested. I (Anwar) participated this pilot project as a (Researcher and Journalist). The reason was selected this city is, there are several different tribes live in this city, and mostly there is a frequented wars and conflicts among them. Additionally, the regional governments namely Puntland State and Galmudug State are contesting the control of the city. Because, each one of them is considered this city as their territorial integrity, and they have written their constitutions. And several times, these two-administrations had confrontations which have been died by colossal of the inhabitants and evacuated tremendous others. As a result, the federal government of Somalia sent troops in order to mediate them. And finally, the federal government deployed a federal military the border between these two-administrations. Now, the city is quite stable, but still the dichotomy and the disagreement is conspicuous and pending. So, during the discussion in the venue, many brilliant and exquisite ideas were suggested.

The participants were demonstrating their eagerness and appetite towards the truth-reconciliation among them. One of the remarkable example I heard from the participants was, there is a high-school which locates the border between the two administrations. And this school conglomerates the students from the two-parts of the city (Galkayo). And we asked what is the essence of this school? And they responded, the reason is to intermingle the community from the two-parts of the city, and also to forgive each other about the past bad blood among them.

The other fetching story I heard is, I was interviewing (Asha Gelle) a well-known woman in Somalia, and once became the Chairwoman of the Independent Constitution Review Commission, formerly was the Minister of Women in Puntland State. Currently, she is Activist for women and children issues. She says “in my families, we are six ladies, except me, the other five ladies are married by men who live in the other side of the town, so when a fresh conflict among the two-administrations in the city erupts, I feel deep-sad and become dumfounded because, each one who dies or injures will impact me negatively”.

So, her story was really stimulating and peerless, and she really inspired me. Gelle, advocates currently the rights of the women and children. Because, plenty of times were witnessed Gender Based Violence (GBV), rape cases and domestic violence in the region. So, she is outspoken person and has a deep-rooted respect among the community. During the period of that pilot project, I have learned and acquired a lot from them via tacit-knowledge. And I realized that, the community needs truth-reconciliation because they are fed up the conflicts. Conflict is soul-destroying, and they realized that ultimately.

CAFIS PROGRAM (Forgiveness Program)

This is another outstanding and milestone program which was held in 2018. The program was campaign through media and led by Somali-Finnish journalist namely (Wali Hashi) and also was backing by some prominent other journalists including Abdalla Ahmed Mumin (Award winning freelance journalist and human rights defender). This program was launched in Thursday of June 28th, 2018 across Somalia regions particularly Mogadishu, Kismayo, Baydhabo, Galkayo, and also Nairobi-Kenya at the same day. The program was invited five thousand guests from the different members of the community including Government officials, clerics, poets, traditional elders, singers, journalists, women, Diaspora members and business community.

The aim of this program was establishing community-led campaign which intended creating forgiveness among the Somali community and at the same time to enhance and ramp up the reconciliation and healing process amongst the people. The program receives much kudos and applause from the community, and spread the whole country, and some of the neighboring countries. Because, the media was dominated by those days the news of the program. Additionally, after the gathering and brainstorming of the society ended up, in June 28 was recognized as a CAFIS day (Day of forgiveness) among our Somali community. The program was lucrative and fruitful.

Conclusions

In 2020-2021, Somalia is going to implement One-Person One-Vote. This will be a turning point. Because, since 1967, Somalia did not apply free and square elections. So, after 57 years, the country is heading free and democratic elections. In this regard, before going to the ballot path, there is a humongous need for truth-reconciliation among the Somali people. Because, unless the previous bad memories being erased, it is not viable to orchestrate an election. Somalia needs desperately, comprehensive, cohesive community, and this vision cannot be achieved unless they forgive each other, and forget the previous misfortunes. And the best way to reconcile the society is, through transitional justice initiative. Because, transitional justice is inevitable, inexorable, ineluctable and invincible approach nowadays. Moreover, the government alone cannot handle the reconciliation process, it needs collective efforts in order to hammer out a long-standing feud among the community.


Anwar Abdifatah Bashir (Freelance Journalist/
Horn of Africa Geopolitics Analyst and Independent Researcher)
Email: [email protected]

 

 

References

Allbanaadir1, 2018. There is an immense need for transitional justice in Somalia. Retrieved https://www.allbanaadir.org/?p=23206

International Crisis Group, 2019. Somalia-Somaliland: The Perils of Delaying New Talks. Retrieved https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/horn-africa/somalia/280-somalia-somaliland-perils-delaying-new-talks

SSRN, 2008. Whose Justice? Rethinking Transitional Justice from the Bottom Up. Journal of Law and Society, Vol. 35, Issue 2, pp. 265-292



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