Conflict Resolution Studies Faculty Articles

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Somaliland Cyberspace


War-torn societies, peacebuilding, violent conflicts

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In 1991, four months after the collapse of the government of the Somali Democratic Republic, and the flight of its President, Mohamed Siyad Barre, the Republic of Somaliland was declared an independent state. The past decade has witnessed the struggle of the young state to resolve violent internal conflicts, to build sustainable peace among the different groups that constitute its population, to build a state that will sustain peace, and to rebuild an economy that will sustain the population. At the turn of the century, it has remarkably make significant progress towards accomplishing the first two aims, and is now embarking on the second two, perhaps more challenging, aims

The War-Torn Societies Program (WSP) is a participatory action research (PAR) program that facilitates policy-oriented dialogue between representatives of the different sectors of the society ­ national government, local government, civil society organizations, traditional leaders, and other actors appropriate to the topic of specific dialogues ­ with the goal of contributing to post­conflict peace building. Although WSP aims to engage all levels of society in the dialogue process, the majority of participants in the program are middle­ and higher­ (although not highest) level actors. The field research for the evaluation was conducted during the two­week period from September 10 to September 24. One week was spent in Nairobi, Kenya and one week was spent in Somaliland. The research included interviews in Nairobi and Hargeisa, interviews and a focus group in Sheikh, and observation of two days of a three day WSP workshop in Gabiley and focus groups with some of the participants in the workshop. The War­Torn Societies Program, produces tangible products in the form of documentation of the substantive issues that emerge from the participatory action research process. While the quality and utilization of these products can be assessed, the fundamental goal of the program is focused less on the products than on the process itself, which is intangible. As such, assessing the program presents unique challenges, since its impacts on peace building can rarely be separated from the impacts of other interventions and other events. In addition, the program is still in its early phases in Somaliland, so it is too soon to gauge the overall impact that it is likely to make. Nevertheless, the stage of peace building in which Somaliland is situated, combined with Somaliland’s particular history and culture, suggests that WSP is an ideal intervention for Somaliland at the present time. The findings of this evaluation confirm this to be the case. For although the intervention has not made ­ and does not aim to make ­ immediate tangible contributions to peace (such as the signing of peace accords), the multiplex causes of the conflicts in Somaliland and the complex nature of the choices that have to be made in relation to state­building and reconstruction, can only be resolved by processes that allow these complexities to be articulated and the implications of different courses of action to be explored. There are a number of ways in which the program might enhance its impacts. One is to find a way to strengthen its relationships with international organizations, both in Hargeisa and in Nairobi, in a way that does not diminish ownership of the program by Somalilanders. The second is to renew its commitment to the full integration of women into the political and economic life of Somaliland as a key goal. Finally, As WSP expands its work to regions beyond Somaliland and Puntland, it is recommended that the program begin in regions on the periphery, rather than in Mogadishu.