Kenya’s neighbour Somalia is making modest progress in rebuilding itself from the destruction wrought by decades of catastrophic civil war. The crucial agenda of grassroots truth, justice and reconciliation however is not receiving the attention it desperately deserves. The war precipitated the meltdown of state institutions and destruction of infrastructure and the economy; the social and cultural fabric unravelled.
Without comprehensive action to rebuild the shattered trust and goodwill and address deep-seated grievances at the grassroots, reconstruction efforts will not be sustainable.Somalia is one of the few African countries with a homogenous population that shares language, religion, bloodlines and culture. But the widespread violence, rights violations and injustices during the war exacerbated social divisions and disharmony – mainly along clan lines.
Not much has been done to repair those relationships, build bridges and address underlying grievances, thus eliminating common spaces for dialogue, accommodation and coexistence. There have been many conferences since the early 1990s ostensibly to bring about reconciliation, but they have hardly had any impact at the grassroots. This is partly because they have largely been dominated by politicians and clan leaders, including warlords, without much involvement of the people at the grassroots, who should be the main drivers of such initiatives in a bottom-up approach. In fact, they have been more about power-sharing between clan leaders than fostering genuine grassroots truth, justice and reconciliation.
The impact of the war has been so widespread that it is difficult to find a Somali national who is not nursing deep-seated grievance and trauma due to the killing of loved ones or loss of property or dignity. That’s why the time for Somalia to have its own indigenous process of truth, justice and reconciliation is long overdue. The process will give safe spaces for people to explore the full extent of the crimes and violations that occurred in the war and continue to occur. It will help them to come to terms with the pain, anger and grief as well as look into appropriate avenues of justice, compensation, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Source: The Star, Kenya