There is an Immense need for Transitional Justice in Somalia

What do we mean by Transitional Justice (TJ)?   Transitional justice refers to the ways countries emerging from periods of conflict and repression address large-scale or systematic human rights violations so numerous and so serious that the normal justice system will not be able to provide an adequate response.

In other words, “Transitional justice is rooted in accountability and redress for victims. It recognizes their dignity as citizens and as human beings.”

Transitional justice is also a society’s response to a legacy of large scale past human rights violations that seeks to ensure accountability, provide recognition for victims, and achieve reconciliation.

Transitional Justice in the Context of Somalia

According to our context, we have a solid transitional justice background. More explicit, the Religious leaders, traditional elders and Somali poems had the leading role when it comes to transitional justice discourse. For instant, the Somali poet Salaan Carabey says” TOLOW COLKA JOOJA” which means my clan please avoid the war.

Moreover, he is deterring to fight each others. On the other hand, the traditional elders play a crucial role to forge a peaceful environment among the community.

Furthermore, when two Somali clans are fighting each others, one of the methods to refrain the war was, to give girls each others in order to accelerate and speed up reconciliation and peace.

Additionally, the other method which the traditional elders stop and discourage if two parts are fighting each other’s was to take white turbans and stand the battle field and say with a load voice stop fighting , because a war dies only a boy not born it. So, usually the war ends and the warring sides accept the mediation and the intervention of the elders.

National Legal Institutions assigned to undertake Justice and Reconciliation

Executive Level

Ministry of Justice: Is the highest institution according to the executive branch which is assigned to deal with Justice Issues in domestic level.

Ministry of Human rights and Gender: It deals with more explicit all issues related the protection of human rights and in the mean time, empowering the women such as women involvement in all sectors and all process including politics, reconciliation, business, development and others

Parliamentary Level

Parliamentary Committee on: Judiciary, Religious Affairs and Religious Sites. This committee is assigned to oversight and follow up the work of the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Religious Affairs in order to promote the check and balance principal which is among the three branches of the government.

Parliamentary Committee on: Truth and Reconciliation: This committee is mandated to play a critical and outstanding role the national healing and reconciliation process among the Somali people who had been suffering closely three decades of war, conflicts, human rights violations and injustice.

Parliamentary Committee on: Human rights, Gender and Humanitarian Affairs: This committee is assigned and attached to oversight and follow up the work of the ministry of human rights and gender and humanitarian ministry as well. Additionally, this committee visits the central jail and other places where detains the criminals in order to observe if they receive their human rights while they are under custody and how the security officials are treating them. Furthermore, they prepare reports which denote and reflect what they have seen in the jails and share the parliament (House of the People) particularly the general meeting of the parliament which is called (Plenary).

Independent Commissions

According to the provisional constitution which was adopted August 1, 2012 mentions the establishment of Independent commissions. Article 111A. Says:-

There shall be Judicial Service Commission, which shall advise the federal government on the administration of justice including recruitment, dismissal and any legal action taken against judges.

Article111B. Says:-

There shall be a Human Rights Commission that shall be mandated to:

  1. Promote respect of human rights , and the culture of human rights
  2. Promote the protection , development , and attainment of human rights and
  3. Monitor and asses the observance of the conduct of human rights in the federal republic of Somalia

Article 111I. Says:-

There shall be established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to foster national healing, reconciliation and unity and to ensure that matters relating to impunity, revenge and other triggers of violence are addressed through a legal and state directed process.

Article 111J. Says:-

There shall be established The office of the Ombudsman (GARDOON). This office is a paramount when it comes to citizen access to sue their complaints. Because this office is an independent as mentioned in the constitution particularly paragraph (a) which says “A member of the council of ministers, the federal parliament or any other person shall not interfere with the work of the office of the Ombudsman. In this regard, the Ombudsman shall investigate complaints regarding allegations or outright violations against basic human rights and freedoms. Unfortunately, the federal parliament –House of the People rejected to adopt this Crucial Office.

Other Efforts which relates to this topic of Transitional Justice

DANGUUD PROGRAM

In 2011, was launched a brilliant and broad program which names (DANGUUD), that program mainly was focusing the reconstruction of the capital city of Mogadishu, especially building the infrastructure as a pilot project and then the other regions. In this regard, there was an interesting component which is relevant in this topic, namely (Trauma healing component).

The milestone is, I was working with that project. Nevertheless, that component was about convening the community in to one place and stimulating them to forgive and confess each other (CAFIS IYO ISKU GARNAQID). So that was quite a new beginning of transitional justice, although it was limited in Mogadishu and was not reached a large segment of the community.

CAFIS PROGRAM

This program was outstanding and milestone, because we had not previously such program. This program was campaign through media and was leading by Somali Finnish journalist namely (Wali Hashi) and also was backing by a well known other journalists including Abdalla Ahmed Mumin (Award winning freelance journalist and human rights defender).

This program was launched in Thursday of June 28th, across Somali regions particularly Mogadishu, Kismayo, Baydhabo, Galkayo and also Nairobi at the same day.  And were hosted five thousand guests from members of the civil society, clerics, poets, singers, journalists, government officials, women, Diaspora members and business community.

In this regard, the aim of this lucrative and fruitful campaign was to encourage forgiveness among the Somali community and at the same time to enhance and uplift the reconciliation and healing process amongst the people. Additionally, in June 28 was suggested marking as a CAFIS day among our Somali community.

GALKAYO LEARNING EVENT

There is another unique and unprecedented program which is leading by a local organization namely, Somali Disaster Resilience Institute along with international partners including Oxford University and Albany Communication Trust.

This program is aimed to stay away the frequency of the war and conflict which causes drastic human rights violations amongst the people. And In the mean time fosters to reach a reconciliation and forgiveness within the society .

This pioneer and seductive program was held in Galkayo city especially Galkayo University (GU) and were participated by different sectors of the community including Academicians, Lawyers, Journalists, government officials, traditional elders, youth organizations, women organizations, research institutions and other participants so as to debate and exchange their ideas towards this emerging issue of transitional justice. During that learning event a lot of issues were discussed and enormous improvements were suggested

Why was started Galkayo?

Galkayo is one of the Somalia cities which occurs and recurs bloodshed wars and the conflicts between the local people either in a form of clans or administration level. Galkayo hosted so many catastrophic wars between the local residents which paved the way along standing hostility and hatred among them.

Some of Somali people labelled that Galkayo is the home of rhetoric people (AFMAAL), in this regard, there is a huge demand that the healing process of the city must be engaged by the traditional elders, because Somali people prior the government system, they were depending on the traditional elders or public opinion leaders. So if Galkayo’s conflict is solved and well treated, then it is so easy to address the remaining parts of Somalia.

Is it something which has been tested already?

The role of traditional, informal, or local mechanisms of transitional justice has been an area of growing academic and policy interest. Peru, Northern Uganda, Rwanda, Mozambique, and East Timor stand out as places where local forms of justice have been or are being practiced as an explicit approach to reckoning with mass atrocities.

While there is a great deal of debate and controversy about the meaning of “traditional,” “informal,” and “local,” there is a general understanding that these terms involve practices that take place at the community level and have some origins in that communities cultural repertoire.

Those justice processes, combining elements of retributive and restorative justice, hold low-level perpetrators accountable for past abuses and impose non-criminal, community-oriented penalties, such as monetary compensation or community service.

“The aims of transitional justice will vary depending on the context but these features are constant: the recognition of the dignity of individuals, the redress and acknowledgment of violations; and the aim to prevent them happening again.”

Who should engage the transitional justice process in Somalia?

Transitional justice needs to adopt participatory approach to achieve long-term sustainability, shifting away from the top- down “one size fits all” approaches to allow “voices from below” to be heard and heeded. Because, when the civil war erupted in Somalia earlier in 1991, a massive and tremendous human rights violation was taken place, and the government’s judicial system solely can’t handle all that issues, so it requires a holistic engagement. In this regard, the process includes:-

The government: is the highest organ which is responsible the protection and the care of the people, and in the mean time, punishing those participated human rights violations including killing, torture, gender based violence (GBC) and other forms of human rights violations.

Religious leaders: We are a Muslim community; so, we give drastic consideration the religious leaders while they are in the right track. Because our religion encourages the protection of human rights and also discourages violations of the human dignity.  

Traditional elders: In our culture gives the lead the traditional elders when it comes to mediation and reconciliation within members of the society. Furthermore, they have a say when it comes to prevention and stopping a war between the communities. Moreover, one of the tricks they employ when they are reconciling and mediating warring sides is to give girls each others, in order to terminate the conflict between them.   

Civil society: Transitional justice programs also generally mobilize extensive civil society networks and members of the national judicial system, potentially contributing to a sustainable community of citizens engaged in the protection of human rights.

Media: in this era, the media is paramount when undertaking any event. Previously, the media in Somalia was exaggerating and enriching the war and conflicts between the clans. For instant, each former warlord was having a specific media platform in order to demonize other warlords.

The primary function of the media in warlord’s era was escalating the violence, creating propaganda, deepening the conflict and weaponizing the information. So, in this age, the media platforms are useful when we are performing this new brilliant initiative of transitional justice.

For example, the broadcasting media (TV’s and Radio) can be used to broadcast peaceful and reconciliation messages to the people especially the conflicting parts. Additionally, media hosts CAFIS IYO ISKU GARNAQID (Forgiveness and Confess) programs in order to divorce and shrink the hostility and cruelty among the society.

Recommendations

  • To divorce past bad situations so as to forgive each other’s and deepen the reconciliation process within the community, because reconciliation is the cornerstone in any post conflict countries across the globe.
  • The government should take draconian rules and regulations when it comes to protecting and preventing human rights at domestic level.
  • Religious leaders, traditional elders should include the healing process across the country
  • To activate and accelerate the national laws specifically those related to this topic and also step up and that entails enforcement.
  • To maintain and sustain the reconciliation process in order to dilute and deter the reparation of the conflict among the people
  • To sweep and update some national laws which are outdated particularly those related reconciliation and human rights violations  
  • There is a drastic need for confess and frankly within the community in order to pave the way to reach a lasting reconciliation and forgiveness
  • To bequeath compensation those trampled during the conflict time , because it’s not enough to tackle the problem only whisper and over speech
  • Transitional Justice is a holistic approach, in this regard, it entails to engage all the different sectors and classes of the people collectively including religious men , traditional elders, government , civil society , women and youth without exception.

Anwar Abdifatah Bashir (Freelance Journalist and Independent Researcher)Email: anwarcade100@gmail.com