On Saturday 1st of October, about 30 people participated in our event about political changes and the potential for peace in Somalia. The first speaker, Ismail Moallim, gave a short explanation about the history and politics of Somalia. He explained the emergence and functioning of the 4.5 clan-based system, a power-sharing system in Somali politics between the 4 major clans and a fifth “0.5” group composed by minority clans. He shows that it is on the one hand an unfortunate system because it gives too much value to clans, while this is just one of the many identities Somali people have. Also it discriminates towards all the minority voices who altogether have half of the voice and votes that the four major clans have. On the other hand: it is currently the only system which is more or less functioning at the moment, and finding a working alternative is not so easy.
In view of alternatives to this system, former BBC journalist Nafisa Osman Nur talked about federalism and the possibilities this system entails for Somalia. Also the federal system does not seem to solve all the problems that Somalia faces: this system could just repeat the same clan-divisions on a more local scale. Also many people in Somalia live nomadic lives, so they will not easily stick to one province or another but keep moving around. This makes a reliable federal administration system very difficult.
Ali Yahye, director of the Dutch Somalian peace organisation Nabaddoon, was the third speaker. Together with some songs by poet Jawahir Shire, he presented his hopes for the future of Somalia and the way the Somalia diaspora could contribute there.
During the discussion, many root causes of conflict were mentioned: the clan-system, the years of dictatorship, the lack of leadership, foreign intervention, corrupt elites, etc. The advantages and disadvantages of the 4.5 clan system and federalism were further brought up and discussed. Many participants agreed that clan identity plays a crucial role in Somali politics. And although its role isn’t always positive, it is a factor that simply cannot be neglected. Nafisa emphasized that strengthening the role of women was of the utmost importance. The audience discussed possibilities for change and whether or not grassroot peace activism, or a top-down approach would be more effective in creating a sustainable and long lasting peace. One participant remarked that before any state system should be discussed, first there should be a large and honest process of reconciliation, in which each and every victim is able to express his or her suffering and perpetrators can be judged or forgiven. Only after such a process there will be enough basis to really start building a truly democratic state. Many agreed that previous attempts to organize a reconciliation process were flawed by a lack of real political will and a lack of honest intentions by the organizers.
In addition to the discussions and talks held, the participants wrote messages of peace on the wall, there were songs in Somali and a poem by Qali Nur about peace. The result was a very fruitful meeting of active, engaged Somali’s in the Netherlands who are eager to work for peaceful change. The Hague Peace Projects aims to facilitate the process of collaboration further by creating an inclusive working group of Somalis in the Netherlands. This could become a platform for exchange of ideas, dialogue within the diaspora, and the development of new initiatives and projects for sustainable peace in Somalia.