Peter Riddell
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20 May, 2013

Somalia: Fostering trustbuilding, reconciliation and unity

Eighteen months ago, the media was full of reports of international shipping being hijacked by Somali pirates at a cost to global trade of billions of dollars, of drought and famine, and of almost total control by an Al-Qaeda-related militia.

Somali workshop
Somali workshop
Today, the stories from Somalia are very different. They are of a new President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, being welcomed by President Obama and other heads of state; of embassies being opened in the capital Mogadishu; of food insecurity ‘easing’ (though acute malnutrition remains ‘alarmingly high’ according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation); of a UN arms embargo on arms to Somalia being lifted to enable a fledgling national army to be equipped.

After over 20 years of civil war and numerous failed peace-conferences, Somalis and the international community are daring to believe that a reborn Somalia might just be possible. Fourteen flights a day are bringing members of the Somali diaspora back from all corners of the globe, to reclaim property, to start new businesses, to take posts in the new government.

In January, Fauzia Yusuf Haji Adan, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Somalia – a former refugee in London – visited IofC’s London centre to meet members of Somali Initiative for Dialogue and Democracy (SIDD), the network of Somalis which has been associated with IofC since its inception in 2005.

Somali men at table
Somali men at table
She recalled having participated in SIDD and IofC programmes in London and Switzerland. She appealed to them to move the focus of their work to Somalia, and to ‘set up initiatives to foster trust-building, reconciliation and unity in Somalia’. Accompanying her was Amb. Mohamed Sharif Mohamud, Vice-Chairman of SIDD, newly-appointed Permanent Secretary of the Somali Foreign Ministry.

In response, Osman Jama Ali, the founder and chairman of SIDD and a former Deputy Prime Minister, left to Mogadishu at the beginning of March. There he will lead a team of four on an exploratory mission to determine what specific contribution SIDD and IofC can make to national reconciliation, and to develop proposals for a centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation in Mogadishu.

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