Garowe, Reconciliation & Federalism

On 18 September, we traveled to Garowe, the capital of Puntland state of Somalia as part of a six-city field research on federalism. Even before we left Mogadishu, it was very clear that we will have spirited discussions on the subject. Blogs and social media sites were full of references to our past report on federalism, though some were more speculative than others.Formed in 1998 in North East Somalia, Puntland is, effectively, the first federal member state in the union, predating the Provisional Constitution, which mandated federating the country in 2004. It’s also one of the most stable parts of Somalia. Any Somali would be proud to see the signs of law and order.

Despite an overall climate of mutual suspicion between Mogadishu and Garowe and absence of direct interaction between our institute and some citizens in Garowe we received a very warm reception from the moment we landed (save for a short eye-popping scare after the pilot couldn’t spot the runway, due to wrong coordinates!)

Our hosts—the Puntland State University—have done a tremendous job of assembling some 60 opinion leaders for our three-hour discussion. Participants asked tough questions about the motives and objectives of our research project. Some were more skeptical than others. But all were very respectful even in disagreement.

Outside the formal setting, we met dozens of officials and opinion makers from the spectrum of society – including the President of Puntland Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali. We engaged in deep discussions on the state of the nation, the process of federating the country and review of the Provisional Constitution. A common theme in our public and private conversations was the urgent need for social and political reconciliation among the Somali people. The scars of the civil war were all too evident in people’s minds and hearts. Federating the country was repeatedly referred as a secondary priority to reconciliation.

Given that this trip was our first major research undertaking in Puntland, we anticipated a degree of skepticism. We were prepared to introduce the mission, vision and core values of the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies (HIPS). Some participants constructively criticized our methodology and questionnaire—a criticism we embraced. But others, mostly online, were less constructive and uncivil.

Still, we cultivated important relationships with key actors from the government, the civil society and the private sector. Our intention is to continue our engagement in that part of the country. Puntland has a lot to offer to the rest of the country.

During our short visit, we achieved the desired objectives of sparking a discourse on the federation process and collecting primary data. Puntlanders are certainly forceful advocates of a federal structure of governance.

As we wrap up our National Dialogue on Federalism, we’re beginning to see the fruits of the project. The six-hour drive from Garowe to Galkayo deepened our conviction that our nation needs more discourse and less demagoguery. We had to cross the invisible ‘border line’ between North and South Galkayo. People on both sides have told us that they never crossed to the other side. That’s not the Somalia we must have in the 21st Century.

But it’s the reconciliation, stupid!

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One Comment

  1. Posted September 2014 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the update What Hertigae is currently doing is really very important action , after years of lawlessness adn chaos , somalis are now learning to come together , and ask themselves what is the way forward , dicsuss national issues in constructive and inclusive way and come up a soultion that address the better off of somali people, this is just a begining but I think it comes the right time .

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