The Youth in Processes of Conflict Management: the Case of Somalia 2000-2011
Somalia has witnessed one of the longest, most intractable and unrelenting conflicts in the world for over two decades. The first two decades following the ouster of Siad Barre in 1991, witnessed an avalanche of largely uncoordinated initiatives and interventions aimed at foiling the conflict, which seemed to conspire with natural disasters to consume the country. Ranging from the failed attempts by the United Nations and the United States of America to pacify the state of affairs via military means, to humanitarian and development actors, all eyes seemed to be on Somalia, which has been seen by many as the sick man of the Hom of Africa region. The first decade of this millennium witnessed a growing concern from both local and international actors and what appeared to be a resolve that something needed to be done to bring this futile conflict to an end. Somaliland has continued with the quest for international recognition since declaring her autonomy in 1991. Puntland has achieved a measure of normalcy since its formation in 1998 but also remains connected to the efforts aimed at rebuilding the Republic of Somalia. It is within the South and Central regions of Somalia where violent conflict has devastated communities with leadership being either weak or non-existence for most of the period since 1991. Most peace processes undertaken in or out of the country have mainly focused on the issues and actors from these South and Central areas. A lot of locally driven efforts are credited for the relative peace enjoyed by Somaliland and Puntland. While the agency of various actors to the conflict and conflict management processes has been acknowledged, almost taken for granted, is the capacity of young people to contribute positively to the outcomes of these processes. This seems to have continued without any questions as there are unwritten societal norms and policies that guide the behavior, entitlements and responsibilities of different individuals within the Somali Society. This study was concerned with how the youth (both young men and women) experienced and engaged with, if at all, the processes that were aimed at managing the conflicts that afflict their communities and the country at large. The study involved secondary and primary data collection and analysis with key informant interviews, self administered questionnaires and focus group discussions with Somali youth aged between 18 and 35. Most respondents in this study identified more barriers to than the enabling factors. Education, skills building and resources (employment creation and other livelihood opportunities) were highlighted as the factors that had the highest impact of on how the youth participate or fail to participate in these processes. The study found out that in the recent years, there has been an increase in the focus on youth development, with Somaliland and Puntland polities at least having drafted policies that address youth issues. A deliberate and coordinated approach to developing young people in Somalia is seen as an immediate prerequisite for their effective participation in civic processes including conflict management.
University of Nairobi, Kenya