Creating Rule of Law in Somalia By Empowering Civil Society
November 1, 2011 1 Comment
We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about prosecution, but most would agree that the only sustainable solution to piracy requires competent governance in Somalia. It is almost a cliche, acknowledged but with no real understanding as to what it takes to create rule of law in Somalia. With this in mind, the recent trip to Somali of our friends at Haki Legal Empowerment is informative. Haki first lays forth the background:
In Somalia, customary justice systems predominate and are an essential starting point. Three parallel legal systems – xeer (customary), sharia, and statutory – operate across the country often in conflict on important issues such as gender-based violence. Traditional leaders – sheiks and clan elders – resolve over 80% of all disputes, including negotiating between fighting clans on complicated arrangements for access to scarce natural resources. However, countless abuses and human rights violations are either condoned or directly perpetrated by the elders, particularly against women.
It further observes:
Formal institutions such as the judiciary and prosecutors provide little oversight, monitoring or review and in most cases only serve to strengthen the status quo. In many parts of Somalia they have been entirely co-opted by militias and powerful interests. The President of Puntland recently sacked 28 judges – perhaps a necessary move to counter corruption, but one that does not instill faith in the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers.
Nonetheless, Haki suggests that assistance to certain civil society institutions can lay the groundwork for rule of law in Somalia. Haki concludes:
The international community needs to support a long-term vision to securing and rebuilding Somalia that empowers Somalis to use and improve their indigenous dispute resolution systems and fledgling institutions as a means to strengthen local security and combat piracy, increase rights protection for the vulnerable, and address the root causes of famine and poverty.
Military and prosecutorial efforts outside of Somalia do not provide a long-term solution to piracy. As the international community looks to create a comprehensive strategy, it must consider what can be done in Somalia to address this problem at its source.