Any reader may wonder if anything other than piracy, warlords tussle and the sound of bombs can ever come from Somalia.
Such negative perception of Somalia is understandable if one is to refuse the de facto break-up of Somalia into two disparate parts that have had paradoxically different trajectories since 1990. Prof Iqbal Jhazbay’s recent book, Somaliland: An African Struggle for Nationhood and International Recognition, deals with that part that has attracted huge academic interest but little media attention. In this study, Prof Jhazbhay provides us with a detailed analysis of a part of former Somalia that ironically seems to escape international attention for doing well.
He takes us through a historical journey of the internal struggles in what was viewed as the most successful attempt at re-drawing of colonial demarcation at independence. From a brief history of the genesis of Somaliland alienation from the union project to its unique liberation movement that set the stage for the move from insurgency to clan-based democracy, Jhazbhay provides an interesting academic analysis of Somaliland’s effort to re-establish an independent nation-state.
He also reviews in broader detail the import of its colonial legacy and powerful clan structures on the reconciliation process and the role of its diaspora in providing an important cushion to the minimal support it receives from the international community for its reconstruction process. It is a classic analysis of how a society can retract itself from chaos and establish a relevant and rooted social contract. While the rest of Somalia seems to have failed to move forward from Hobbesian chaos, Somaliland’s remarkable success is rooted in its bottom-up approach that has employed local traditional norms and structures.
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The descriptive analysis gives us adoptable format to execute a social contract where such is required. Although Prof Ali Mazrui suggests in his foreward to the book, that the study significantly contributes to our understanding of the Somali predicament, I am of the view that in terms of its theoretical contribution, there are bits where most African post-conflict societies can reflect on and even find useful and relevant, to their own progression. As an academic and activist with wide connection with continental actors, his analysis of the external factors constraining Somaliland’s aspiration for international legitimacy provides those interested with African diplomacy a mine full of geo-political intricacies. This is not to mention the very interesting analysis of the interaction between disintegrating forces with the paradigm change on integration of the African continent. Closer home, the relevance of this study to our post-election reconciliation process is what he terms “quadrilateral framework” that constitutes, inter alia, reconciliation and reconstruction.
The analysis of the bottom-up process of Somaliland reconciliation and reconstruction as central variables in acquiring lasting peace can be of significant value to our policy makers if we are serious on ensuring a continued inter-communal peace in affected areas. The public tussles between the top political actors in gatherings that are purporting to be facilitating communal reconciliation fall far short of the professor’s description of the bottom-up approach rooted in local tradition successfully employed by Somaliland.
Rift Valley will not be healed by the establishment of a flimsy political alliance of personalities but rather an elaborate interaction of the communities concerned and a honest and serious commitment by the government in the reconstruction of the economic lives of those affected. A public dance of political heavy weights or knee-jerk fundraising will never constitute reconciliation and reconstruction of the volatile region. I am of the view that whoever is interested in deep-rooted reconciliation and reconstruction of a polity such as the inhabitants of the Rift Valley, Jhazbhay’s study is a must-read.
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Source: Sunday Nation