Vengeance replaced with peace and forgiveness

Traditional Somali culture is burdened by the accountability system between clans. If one member of a clan commits a crime, the whole clan is held accountable. Settlements often involve paying large material damages that many clans cannot afford. “This generates new crime,” says Jama Egal, FCA peace work professional.

The Somali Peoples Peace Initiative project in Erigavo in Somaliland brings together community leaders, the local government, women, and young people to discuss how these practices could be changed. The work is carried out one dispute at a time. One of the great successes was to break the cycle of vengeance within the Lo´hir clan.

“The arbitration started inside a mosque. In this sacred space, the parties agreed that they want to stop the cycle of vengeance and that they are ready to make peace in another way,”  Jama Egal says.

The initiative now has success stories to tell. Mohamed Mohamud Mohamed forgave his father’s killer. “The most important realisation was that revenge and killing will not bring my father back. I had thought for my entire childhood that I had to avenge my father’s murder. I realised that I was a victim of the cycle of vengeance. My father’s killer must be punished, but it is not my job,” says Mohamed, 25.

“I regained my life at the beginning of this year. For twenty years I had been afraid and in hiding. I only focused on two things: to kill or be killed. The hardest part was to sit in front of Mohamed Mohamud Mohamed. We swore that we would forgive, tell the truth and stick to our decision,” says Said Adam.

Peace work gains ground

Finn Church Aid has been working in Somalia since 2007. The work requires perseverance, because building peace cannot happen without the trust of the local people. The Somali Peoples Peace Initiative project supports traditional conflict resolution mechanisms that have been proven effective in addressing regional level conflict in Somalia. The project is funded by the Somalia Stability Fund. It started in February 2013 and will last 23 months.

The Somalia Central Regions Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation Initiative supported preparation for longer term conflict resolution and reconciliation in the autumn of 2013. It was funded by the UK Government. The local partners were the Center for Research and Dialogue (CRD) and the Horn of Africa Centre for Peace (HACP). In 2014, peace work will be expanded in Somalia both in terms of quantity and geography.

Text: Hilkka Hyrkkö
Photo: Ville Asikainen