Insider peacebuilders resolving local conflicts in Somalia

Participants at a Shir, a traditional Somali assembly, in Balad, Hirshabelle State, Somalia. Participants at a Shir, a traditional Somali assembly, in Balad, Hirshabelle State, Somalia. Image: Copyright Abdikarim Omar Maalim

Somalia has suffered from ongoing violent conflict for close to three decades, leaving 12 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. So far, the many international attempts at brokering peace have failed.

The Berghof Foundation supported community representatives in the federal member state of Hirshabelle in central Somalia in their efforts to build peace by creating a network of insider peacebuilders who have the skills and experience to encourage dialogue and reconciliation in their communities.

These trained peacebuilders jointly facilitated a series of Shirarka in Hirshabelle State in 2018. Shirarka are six-day traditional Somali assemblies that bring together individuals from various clans and subclans. They involve representatives from all segments of society, including women, young people, professionals, elders, poets and religious leaders. These assemblies provide an inclusive space for all to express their views on conflict with the goal of motivating people to work together towards transforming the violent conflicts that affect them as well as preventing new conflicts from occurring.

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We aim to strengthen people’s capacity to solve their own conflicts and help them realise that they themselves have the ability to shape the outcomes on the ground and become peacemakers.

For example, one of the members of the peacebuilders network, Abdikarim Omar Maalim, a local journalist, resolved a conflict between two football teams that had become violent. Not only did he mediate between the teams in order to resolve their issues peacefully, but he approached the local business community to fund the reconstruction of the football field. The inauguration game attracted hundreds of spectators, including Vice President Ali Abdullahi Guudlawe, showing how significant this initiative was.

When asked why he did this, Abdikarim said: “When I returned from our training in Djibouti, I asked myself, why don’t I try and do something about this conflict. The training really motivated me and gave me the required skills. I would have never even thought about it before the training.”

The Shir has an effect on me, because the discussions are on contentious issues, the problems we have and on things which caused the destruction of our country... all of this has effects on me and will have effects on the people who are connected to me.Participant at the Jowhar Shir

Based on the information and experience gained during the project, the Berghof Foundation communicates the perspectives of the communities in Hirshabelle State to the local, state and federal authorities in Somalia as well as to the international community through events and reports. We also provide advice and recommendations on reconciliation and conflict transformation in Somalia.


Elisabeth Meyer
Senior Strategic Partnerships Manager
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