New Directions: Exploring Alternatives for a Peaceful Solution in Somalia
A Ugandan soldier serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) carries water through the grounds of Mogadishu University. AMISOM forces captured the strategically important university following a major joint offensive against Al Shabaab. (23 January 2012, Mogadishu, Somalia. Source: UN News & Media)
A delegation from the Life & Peace Institute, Nairobi, and the Kroc Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame traveled to Washington, DC, and New York in March to present a recent joint publication, Somalia: Creating Space for Fresh Approaches to Peacebuilding. QUNO was delighted to host their visit in New York. Over the course of two days, Quaker House provided a welcoming venue for our visitors to share their publication with UN colleagues and offer fresh perspectives and alternative approaches to conflict resolution in Somalia.
The publication makes a critical examination of isolationist strategies used in Somalia to deal with terrorist groups such as Al Shabaab. These strategies have included forbidding material assistance that might benefit terrorist groups, refusal to negotiate, imposition of sanctions, and the use of military force. By contrast, the report argues that long-term solutions will require opening space in which actors from the national, regional, and international level seek out and safely engage with civilians. The report places emphasis on civil society as a crucial linkage to “on the ground realities.”
In New York, QUNO arranged a series of meetings for the delegation to meet with diplomats, UN staff, and NGOs that are currently focused around work on Somalia. These discussions offered an opportunity for delegation members and participants to engage in a frank exchange of views on the sensitive topic of how to go about engaging with actors or organizations that have been labeled as “terrorists.” Our guests encouraged
UN colleagues to think about the need to engage with local Somali communities; strategies for de-escalation and use of less polarizing language; processes that promote trust-building, reconciliation, and national identity formation; the importance of taking
a regional approach to problem-solving; and the need to look at lessons learned from past experiences. Meeting participants noted that the ideas and approaches discussed were important and not often heard in UN discussions around Somalia, and they were encouraged by the conversations.
We invite readers to access the LPI/Kroc report which is available online at the website of the Life & Peace Institute (http://www.life-peace.org/resources/publications/other-publications/). QUNO continues to follow the situation in Somalia, particularly around the upcoming political transition process, and will be looking for opportunities to uphold perspectives that encourage dialogue and peaceful solutions.