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This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Somalia: Peace and Development

Somalia: Peace and Development
Date distributed (ymd): 990912
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: East Africa
Issue Areas: +economy/development+ +security/peace+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains excerpts from a report from the Som-Can Institute for Research and Development and Partnership Africa Canada. The report challenges the international community's de facto quarantine on Somalia, and calls for greater international support for opportunities for development, particularly in Northern Somalia.

The report (31K in length) was originally distributed through PACNET, an e-mail list service managed by Partnership Africa Canada (PAC). To subscribe to PACNET, send an e-mail message to: In your message, leave the "Subject" blank and write in the text: subscribe pacnet-l. Documnets distributed by PACNET and PACRES (the Frenchlanguage counterpart) can be found at the Partnership Africa Canada web site:

The full text of the document excerpted below is at:

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Peace and Development in Northern Somalia
Opportunities and Challenges

September 8, 1999

It must appear to much of the world that Somalia has ceased to exist. All diplomatic missions there have been closed and Somalia's seat at the United Nations lies empty. Although limited UN aid programmes are operating, bilateral donors have largely forgotten Somalia. Respected guide books and travel information web sites dispense dire warnings to potential travellers and major airlines no longer include Somalia as a destination. It's not even possible to write to friends and relatives in Somalia, for postal links have been cut. Somalia, it would appear, is a country that much of the international community has placed in quarantine.

The following report, by the Som-Can Institute for Research and Development and Partnership Africa Canada, two Canada-based NGOs, challenges the assumptions behind these policies (particularly as they relate to northern Somalia) and calls for the quarantine on Somalia to be lifted.

This report is also being published in French and Somali. These versions and a longer version of this report may be obtained by contacting:

Som-Can Institute for Research and Development 219 Argyle Avenue, Suite 216, Ottawa, Ontario, K2P 2H4, Canada Tel: 1-613-569-3471 Fax: 1-613-232-3660 E-mail: or Partnership Africa Canada 323 Chapel Street, Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 7Z2, Canada Tel: 1-613-237-6768 Fax: 1-613-237-6530 E-mail:

Some useful links on Somalia:

UN Agencies in Somalia:
War-torn Societies Project:

Peace and Development in Northern Somalia
Opportunities and Challenges

Somalia's Humanitarian Crisis:

Somalia is no longer included in the annual United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report world ranking. If it were to be included, according to a special report on Somalia, it would sit firmly at the bottom in 175th position, below war-afflicted Sierra Leone:

"Average life expectancy is estimated at 41-43 years; the mortality rate for children under five exceeds 25%; adult literacy rates range between 14-17%; primary school enrolment is 13-16%; and GNP/capita is between $176-200 ... In almost any other country, any one of these indicators would be considered a national emergency. Yet, Somalia's prolonged humanitarian crisis has raised the threshold for what is considered an emergency there - only outright famine conditions and deadly epidemics generate a humanitarian response. Nonetheless, the chronically low levels of human development in Somalia constitute a long-term emergency for Somali society and, indirectly, for the international community." (UNDP, Human Development Report - Somalia, 1998)

Peace and Conflict - two faces of Somalia:

Somalia is a country of stark contrast - between the troubled central and southern regions and the stable and peaceful north. The conflict that affects parts of Somalia today can be linked directly to the 1977 Somali invasion of the Somali-inhabited Ogaden region of Ethiopia. In 1897, Somali-inhabited territories had been divided up among the colonial powers - United Kingdom, France and Italy - and Ethiopia, with a fifth territory becoming part of the future northern Kenya. At Independence in 1960, the British and former Italian protectorates united to form the Somali Republic. In 1974, Somali President Siyad Barre began to build up one of the largest armies in Africa with Soviet support. However, defeat in the Ogaden war with Ethiopia (1977-78) led to the emergence of armed opposition groups in exile and brutal repression by the army of civilian populations in Somalia, particularly in north-western Somalia (Somaliland) and north-eastern Somalia (Puntland). Western aid grew substantially during the 1980s; paradoxically, this helped Siyad Barre maintain his large army and intensify military repression in the northern regions.

The eventual overthrow of the Siyad Barre government in 1991 and the ensuing collapse of the Somali state created intolerable humanitarian conditions including famine, which raged in southern Somalia during 1992. The international relief and security operation that followed brought help to needy populations, but it failed to bring an end to the inter-clan militia conflict. The latter has continued sporadically in parts of the centre and south of Somalia since the withdrawal of UN forces in 1995.

The fighting of 1991 triggered a massive exodus from Somalia of trained Somalis and members of the international community. Government services collapsed and foreign missions and businesses closed. This heralded the start of Somalia's diplomatic and economic isolation. Somalia has been without a central government now for almost a decade, but interestingly this has led to the creation of decentralized, regional governments, supported by traditional leaders and civil society organizations that are helping to rebuild their country from the ground up.

The two regions of northern Somalia, Somaliland and, especially, Puntland, were spared most of the conflict that affected other parts of the country during the 1990s. Opposition to Siyad Barre developed early in these two regions and both suffered violent repression in the 1980s, Hargeysa (capital of Somaliland) being almost destroyed by the Somali army in 1988. Greater internal social and political coherence led both regions to establish separate administrations during the 1990s. In 1991, Somaliland declared its independence, although it has since failed to gain international recognition. In 1998, the north-east region of Somalia proclaimed itself the autonomous State of Puntland, a region within Somalia. Almost a decade after the collapse of the centralized Somali state, northern Somalia has become a haven of peace in a conflict-ridden Horn of Africa. But this reality has yet to be recognized by the international community, hindered by an international media that focuses entirely on the inter-clan militia violence in central and southern areas. ...

Somaliland and Puntland are peaceful and both regions are being effectively run by a combination of government and traditional authorities. A priority for both regional governments is strengthening the security situation. The demobilization of ex-combatants continues and an emphasis is being placed on training and equipping the police forces. The resources, however, of both governments are small, being derived mainly from import and export duties. ...

There are generally favourable conditions for development in Somaliland and Puntand, which would be the envy of many developing countries. And yet many donor countries are ... dragging their feet on development assistance, pointing to obstacles such as the fact that Somalia does not have a central government, that there are security risks and that Somaliland has declared its independence. The international community is failing to see that the future of Somalia is being created now through the decentralized, regional administrations. ... The UN has called on donor countries to come to terms with this reality and help the emerging regional states develop their administrations and economies. Bilateral aid levels to northern Somalia, however, remain very low, with the European Union being the main bilateral donor. ...

A major source of frustration for Somaliland and Puntland is that aid coordination takes place in Nairobi, not Somalia. ... Whilst there are clearly security and logistical reasons why agencies involved in emergency work in central and southern Somalia prefer to be based in Nairobi, there no longer seems to be any valid reason for UN, bilateral or larger international organizations supporting development programmes in northern Somalia to automatically maintain programme staff in Nairobi. ...

Development Challenges in Northern Somalia:

... A recent study for the World Health Organization (WHO) of health infrastructure in Somaliland and Puntland (Dr Khalid Dik, Assistance to and Physical Rehabilitation of Landmine Victims in Somalia, May 1999) reports that only one hospital out of the ten main ones visited functions adequately. ...

The impact of the civil war on the education sector has been equally dramatic. The education system collapsed totally, the majority of schools were damaged, educational records and materials were lost, many teachers left the country. Almost two generations of Somali children have missed their schooling. ... A great effort is now being made to revive the education sector in Somaliland and Puntland. Education is seen as a priority by people, government and donors alike, but school enrolment remains low and resources are very limited. ...

Food security has been a recurrent and increasing challenge in recent decades. Somalia is prone to occasional crop failures, particularly in southern regions where drought, floods and pest infestation are common. In addition, the conflict in southern regions during the 1990s has severely weakened the agricultural economy.

In 1998, Puntland and Somaliland suffered from a prolonged drought which decimated animal herds, particularly in Puntland. Continued drought in 1999 in northern and southern regions of Somalia has contributed to what the FAO is describing as an extremely grim situation, with 400,000 people at risk of starvation, particularly in southern regions. ...

Somalia has an estimated 1-2 million landmines and unexploded ordnance (bombs, shells etc.), much of which is in Somaliland and, to a lesser extent, Puntland. Surveying and demining has begun in a few locations with UNDP support, but there seem to be few donors interested in supporting this work in Somalia. How is it that Somalia is receiving only a tiny fraction of the investment in demining that other countries (e.g. Bosnia) have received? Both Puntland and Somaliland have publicly endorsed the Landmines Treaty, but as they are not permitted to sign it their commitment goes unrecognized and, seemingly, unrewarded. ...

Developmental Opportunities in Northern Somalia:

Following the collapse of economic activity in the early 1990s, Somaliland and Puntland are leading the economic reconstruction of Somalia. The backbone of the economy in northern Somalia is the livestock sector and large numbers of sheep, goats, cattle and camels have traditionally been exported to the Gulf States. In February 1998, Saudi Arabia introduced a ban on the import of Somali livestock on grounds of health, alleging incidences of Rift Valley Fever. The embargo hit herders and traders throughout Somalia severely. It has now been officially lifted, although many fear that competing commercial and political interests in Saudi Arabia may prevent a return to previous export levels from Somalia.

In the light of these events, it seems clear that Somalia needs to develop its livestock industry further. ... Appropriate facilities are required to ensure that animals can be given a clean bill of health for export. ...

The private sector, although limited, is thriving in the stable social and political conditions that have been created in most of Somaliland and Puntland. There seems to be no shortage of consumer goods throughout the regions. The absence of a central government, together with much of the infrastructure taken for granted in other countries (such as an official banking, telephone and postal systems), has led to innovation. An example of this is the deregulated satellite-based telecommunications sector. In Somaliland, there are now five telecommunications companies operating out of Hargeysa and this competition has led to the lowest international telephone charges in Africa -- US80 cents a minute, some four to five times lower than neighbouring countries. Internet links are expected to be established during 1999.

Cheap and reliable international communications have strengthened the links with the Somali diaspora and greatly facilitated the crucially important system of remittances from abroad. Support from family members in the diaspora has played a key role in helping many urban families cope during the difficult years of the 1990s. Although remittances tend to be used for immediate needs, there are indications now that such resources are increasingly being invested in construction and commerce. ...

The inflow of private funds from the Middle East, Europe and North America is substantial, although it is impossible to know the exact amount because of the unofficial nature of the transactions. Remittances alone far outstrip international development assistance, which amounts to no more than US$15 million per year at present for northern Somalia. Remittances, estimated at perhaps $150m per year, have tended not to be saved and there remains a shortage of investment capital, for there is no recognized private banking system. ...

With the collapse of the repressive central government and the emergency of the early 1990s, there was a mushrooming of NGOs in northern Somalia, with a majority of them being concentrated in Hargeysa and Bosasso. Their numbers have seen a natural decline since then, as the majority have had to struggle hard with mostly volunteer staff to carry out projects, for which funding has often been scarce. Too many donors have compounded this situation by concentrating funding in the hands of expatriate NGOs. In spite of these constraints, Somalia NGOs continue to develop and mature and there are now several NGO coalitions. ...

Outstanding in the NGO sector are women's organizations. Many would argue that women are the pioneers for peace and development in Somalia. It is therefore essential that Somali women's NGOs and women politicians and activists be supported by both the local and international communities. ...

Role of the Somali Diaspora:

A major, but as yet only partially tapped, asset for Somalia is the Somali diaspora. Large Somali communities are to be found in the Gulf States, several European countries, the US and Canada. The importance of remittances from abroad to bolster Somali family survival cannot be overestimated. These actions, however, tend to be individual, family-oriented. ... The recently announced UNDP programme for identifying skilled Somalis abroad for short missions in Somalia is one initiative that deserves serious support.

Canada and the US are two countries that have had some difficulty re-establishing relations with a decentralized Somalia. However, there are signs now that both countries have begun to review their policies ... This report urges that this process be accelerated and that a pro-active and pragmatic approach be taken. ... In particular, we call upon civil society organizations to lead the way and establish partnership linkages. The Somalia quarantine must be lifted forthwith.

Some steps to take:

... The sustainability of peace and security in the northern regions of Somalia depends on support for both civil society organizations and the emerging regional governments, so that policies are adopted that promote good governance, human rights and democratic development. ...

The continuing inflow of arms, particularly into southern regions, is destabilising Somalia further. The UN Security Council should ensure a more effective implementation of the embargo on arms to Somalia.

Land mines remain a scourge throughout Somalia. Canada and the international community should take a lead and recognize the commitments made by both the Somaliland and Puntland governments with respect to the Ottawa Convention. Action should be taken to secure funds for an integrated regional land mines programme.

Capacity building should be a central objective of all assistance provided. ... Above all, initiatives should be developed in northen Somalia and with the region's governments and Somali organizations. External management of such programmes should be located in northern Somalia. ...

The renovation of school buildings, teacher training, student counselling and the provision of books and learning materials are priorities in the education sector. Institutions of higher learning should explore linkages with emerging Somali institutions.

Linkages in the health sector should be developed with Somali hospitals. Surgical and orthopaedic doctors could make short term visits to provide training to Somali medical staff. Material support is also needed, for there are no regular supplies. ...

The international community should respond quickly and imaginatively to the appeals for food assistance that have been made by UN organizations. Southern regions appear to the most seriously affected. ...

In the livestock sector, a priority is to establish facilities and programmes to assure adequate animal health. The development of water resources for dry season needs is crucial.

Initiatives should be supported that can help Puntland and Somaliland protect their environment. Illegal fishing by foreign boats should be condemned by the UN. ...

Programmes to rehabilitate and modernize public infrastructure - ports, airports, roads, bridges, power and water supplies - should be supported.

Idil Salah, Som-Can Institute for Research and Development
Bernard Taylor, Partnership Africa Canada

This report was made possible through support from the Canadian International Development Agency.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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