Fascinating article in the New York Times about the norther area of Somalia where people have built peace in an incredibly turbulent region by mixing indigenous governance with democratic participation, using elders and tribal leaders to harness attachment to clans AND to transcendent principles such as independence and peace. Some quotes:
“You can’t be donated power,” said Dahir Rayale Kahin, the president of the Republic of Somaliland, which has long declared itself independent from the rest of Somalia. “We built this state because we saw the problems here as our problems. Our brothers in the south are still waiting – till now – for others.”
Its leaders, with no Western experts at their elbow, have devised a political system that minimizes clan rivalries while carving out a special role for clan elders, the traditional pillars of Somali society. They have demobilized thousands of the young gunmen who still plague Somalia and melded them into a national army. They have even held three rounds of multiparty elections, no small feat in a region, the Horn of Africa, where multiparty democracy is mostly a rumor. Somalia, for one, has not had free elections since the 1960s.
Somaliland, like Somalia, was awash with weapons and split by warring clans. Their first step was persuading the militiamen to give up their guns – a goal that still seems remote in the south. They moved slowly, first taking the armed pickups, then the heavy guns and ultimately leaving light weapons in the hands of the people. Again, this stood in contrast to the south, where in the early 1990s thousands of American marines and United Nations peacekeepers failed to put a dent in the clan violence.
“We had a higher purpose,” said Abdillahi M. Duale, Somaliland’s foreign minister. “Independence. And nobody in the outside world was going to help us get there.”
But the one issue that unites most Somalilanders is recognition. Somaliland has its own money, its own flag, its own national anthem and even its own passport.
“And we have peace, a peace owned by the community,” said Zamzam Adan, a women’s rights activist. “You’d think in this part of the world, that would count for something.”