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Conflict Déjà vu in Mudug Region

By New Access International (NAI)

Executive Summary

Mudug region is perhaps Somalia’s most deeply divided administrative region, with layers of divergent loyalties fostering an environment of social mistrust, institutional paralysis and chronic insecurity. The conflict is multi-layered, has impacted millions of lives and turned Mudug region into the epicentre of Somalia’s complex political rivalries. In recent years, top-down approaches to statebuilding processes and tense relations between the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and Federal Member States (FMS), has been an additional aggravating factor.

This research study analyses the impact of top-down statebuilding processes on interstate relations and its impact to peace and stability. Renowned sociologist and founder of the discipline for Peace and Conflict Studies, Johan Galtung, believes that the basic aspect of peace is the relations between parties. Using this as premise, NAI set out to understand what impact important political processes, such as statebuilding and state elections, have had on the relations of competing factions or parties in Mudug region. Did top-down political processes have a polarising effect on relations between social groups within Mudug region? And, what impact did this have on peace between communities in Mudug region?

A number of data collection methods were utilised, included desk review, media monitoring, in-depth interviews, and focus group discussions. The fieldwork was undertaken in five geographical districts in Adaado, Dhusamareeb, Galkayo (south and north), Ba’adweyn, and Garowe. The analysis utilised the five dimensions of social cohesion- 1)Positive/negative, 2) recognition/rejection, 3) belonging/isolation, 4) legitimacy/illegitimacy, participation/non 5) involvement, and inclusion/exclusion to analyse the political processes’ impact on social cohesion in Mudug region. In addition, the analysis also applied the situation in Mudug to the in- group /out-group hypothesis, where assumptions of external threats/conflict, contribute to internal cohesion of a group.

The report found that successive FGS administrations pursued policies to monopolise the statebuilding process to their advantage, resulting in a top-down process that adversely impacted peace and social cohesion within Mudug region. The statebuilding and electoral process of Galmudug were controversial and drew attention away from security, which continued to worsen during both political processes. This was largely due to the breakdown in relations between Puntland and Galmudug, two state governments that administer areas of Mudug region. The statebuilding process for Galmudug in 2015 impacted social cohesion within Galmudug, as political elites were largely sidelined from owning the process. Galmudug’s internal cohesion troubles was eclipsed by Puntland’s quick initial rejection of the state formation process. The public row between the two neighbouring states led to officials from both sides engaging in negative rhetoric and speculation from the Somali media, while insecurity continued to grip the region. This quickly spiralled into two bouts of conflict (2015 and 2016), as social cohesion at the communal level in Galkayo was deeply impacted by the controversial statebuilding process.

In 2019, the FGS again played a heavy hand in the election process of Galmudug, which gave rise to the same symptoms witnessed in 2015. Increased insecurity and a breakdown of cooperation between Galmudug and Puntland were also visible. The 2019 process, however, had a more visible breakdown of social cohesion within Galmudug. The analysis indicates that the current situation in Mudug region continues to follow the same trajectory as 2015, which can have even more devastating consequences for the region.

Given the current trajectory of Mudug region, conflict resolution processes will not suffice as the conflict has continued to suck in new issues, such as federalisation process, constantly transforming to take on new contradictions. NAI proposes conflict transformation as a means to transform the conflictual relationship that the communities and political groups have been entrenched in since 1991. Conflict transformation seeks to transform the relations, issues, interests, and if crucial, the structures of society that enable the continuation of conflict. Raimo Väyrynen proposes four avenues of conflict transformation, which are: actor transformation, issue transformation, rule transformation and structural transformation. Somalia’s political transformation to a federal republic, despite social identity being largely based on clan, will also require a transformation of the issues, actors and rules that impact conflict. Given Somalia’s volatility and the political complexities that contribute to it, the concept of adaptive peacebuilding, which employs an iterative process of learning and adaptation to peacebuilding, is fitting for the concept of conflict transformation. NAI utilises conflict transformation and adaptive peacebuilding to propose a number of recommendations that will lay the foundation for an extensive reconciliation process.

Mudug Conflict Background

Mudug region is located in central Somalia, bordered to the north by Nugal region, to the south Galgaduud region, to the west of Ethiopia and east to the Indian Ocean. The region consists of five administrative districts with Galkayo as administrative capital, with two districts in the north under Puntland jurisdiction and two districts in the south in Galmudug. The region’s population is estimated at nearly 718,000 people. During Somalia’s 30-year history of national government before the civil war, Mudug was one of the most underdeveloped regions, and suffered much during the early years of the Somali civil war. Between 1991-1993, rival armed militias violently competed for land, power and resources. They represented competing socio-political interests within the region, which later was divided into two administrative jurisdictions of Puntland and Galmudug states. The armed conflict centred around the important commercial district of Galkayo. By the end of 1993, the Mudug Peace Agreement (MPA) was signed between warring factions, a ceasefire implemented, and displaced communities were encouraged to return to their homes.

The MPA was by and large an elite political bargain, devoid of any effective reconciliation and conflict transformation. It therefore did not offer any long-term pathways to quell the underlying social hostilities, economic rivalries, and territorial disputes, and thereby paved the way for prolonged political instability and local insecurity. The recurring bouts of conflict cannot be written off as clan rivalries. They are often multi-layered, and expand to include various actors, such as federal and state governments, clan militias, violent extremist organisations (VEOs), and war profiteers who often wittingly or unwittingly contribute to the escalation of violent struggle over land, power and resources.

The structural roots of the conflict stretch further back than the Somali civil war. When European colonial powers arrived on the Somali peninsula in the 19th century, and determined new geographical boundaries that only exacerbated clan and political rivalries in the area. Chief among these was the ‘Tomaselli Line’, with which Italian colonial administrators divided the district of Galkayo, and thus divided it among the region’s two main clan families.

The Somali state collapse and subsequent inter-communal violence of the early 1990s transformed these local issues into a larger conflict that entailed violent competition over land, power and resources. The Somali federalisation process has elevated the communal standoff to a full-fledged conflict between two of Somalia’s federal member states.

Galkayo has undergone successive years of peace initiatives driven by local and international actors, with a focus on peacebuilding in the city. Yet, tensions remain high in rural areas and frequently become a catalyst for wider instability in Mudug region. Currently, the division of Mudug region between Puntland and Galmudug remains undefined, with ever-shifting clan settlement patterns serving as unofficial state boundary lines. As a result, Mudug continues to experience frequent insecurity and chronic underdevelopment.

Read the full report: Conflict Déjà vu in Mudug Region

Source: NAI

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