NAI research report warns against ‘re-ignition of conflict’ in Somalia’s Mudug region

Garowe ( PP News Desk) —  Last year, North Mudug region in north-central Somalia had over 160 fatalities, with clan conflict and insurgent attacks gripping the region as a whole. During this period, Galmudug State was undergoing a delayed election process, while Puntland state struggled with insecurity in Galkayo. The two states were not cooperating on security, which contributed to worsening security situation in Galkayo and the wider Mudug region. However, as of May 2020, the two sub-national authorities have increased security cooperation, and especially around Galkayo. At least four “joint security operations” have been conducted in Galkayo and wider Mudug region over the past three months, with Somali federal forces, Galmudug and Puntland police working together in the battle against insurgents.

In May, Puntland and Galmudug state ministers, accompanied by federal parliamentarians and Somali National Army (SNA) commanders, held meetings in Galkayo and agreed to support security cooperation and joint operations against elements of instability. This vital step has become the first initiative towards transforming the conflict drastically, through increased security cooperation between the two states, who have also engaged in resolving  feuding  in west Mudug, between clan militias hailing from Puntland and Galmudug. The conference concluded with a ceasefire between the two clan militias, and a joint security agreement between Galmudug and Puntland states.

2015/2016 Galkayo Conflict

A report published in June by New Access International (NAI), a research and development agency based in Somalia, details the complexities of the long-running conflict in Mudug region, describing it as a “multi-layered” conflict which has “impacted millions of lives and turned Mudug region into the epicenter of Somalia’s complex political rivalries”.

The report details the Puntland-Galmudug conflict, which erupted in October 2015 and resurfaced again in November 2016, in the period after the formation of Galmudug state in mid-2015. The report notes the “heightened tensions” and the “escalation of conflict and political rhetoric” during this period, and draws parallels to the 2019/2020 period as Galmudug state was forming its second parliament and electing its third president of the federal member state.

The report identifies the political actors of the 2015/2016 conflict in Mudug region as Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), Puntland and Galmudug, and suggests that “successive FGS administrations pursued policies to monopolize the statebuilding process…resulting in a top-down process that adversely impacted peace and social cohesion within Mudug region”. The report lays culpability with Puntland and Galmudug officials, who engaged in “accusations of destabilization…which exacerbated a deteriorating security situation”.

The research report suggests that the 2015/2016 conflict was partly driven by “election-focused FGS leaders…jockeying for influence with state governments in the lead-up to the formation of the country’s first bicameral federal parliament”. Also, at fault was the breakdown in relations between Galmudug and Puntland, as well as shaky relations between the FGS and Puntland. This was compounded by “public exchanges” between the two states of Puntland and Galmudug that “accentuated the rift and directly contributed to conflict drivers in the region”.

Detailing acts of insecurity, the report provides a substantiated viewpoint of the lead-up to and aftermath of the 2015/2016 conflict. However, after Galmudug made an agreement with Ahlu Sunna to incorporate the group into Galmudug state institutions, it transformed relations within region. Continuing on that trend, Galmudug also mended its relations with Puntland, which “contributed to ensuring peace and allowed for stability to be maintained” for a period. However, after the tumultuous Galmudug election process commenced in 2019, “communal conflicts and insecurity in Galkayo continued to last into 2020”. The report further notes that, “despite setbacks, opportunities of cooperation between Galmudug and Puntland on security matters also took place in 2020”.

In 2019, the Galmudug election process was different from 2015/2016 period, as “Galmudug state’s land boundaries had been defined. This eliminated an important driver for controversy between the two neighboring states”.

Recommendations for Peace in Mudug Region

The report by NAI notes that, in Mudug region, “practices of conflict resolution have been prioritized and applied as conflict arose, and ignored the contextual complexities that drive and perpetuate the conflict”. However, as the roots of conflict remained unaddressed, the conflict in the region became recurrent and, “tensions remain high in rural areas and frequently become a catalyst for wider instability in Mudug region”.

NAI report emphasises “tripartite cooperation”

Instead of conflict resolution, NAI suggests that, “a process focused on conflict transformation instead presents a more feasible approach, and organically integrates aspects of reconciliation”. NAI proposes the use of conflict transformation, which proposes four avenues namely: “Actor Transformation”; “Issue Transformation”; “Rule Transformation”; and “Structural Transformation”. The report underscores the need for new presidents of Galmudug and Puntland to take a different approach than their predecessors had taken  to cooperation in beefing up security Mudug region. The report further outlines the need for Xeer , the Somali customary law,  to be reformed, to better suit the contextual issues that impact Mudug region: “Attempts at reforming and adapting Xeer, to fit the current context are vital and should be enhanced. Xeer’s ability to adapt,  as witnessed in the past century,  is its underlying strength”.

The Future of Mudug Region

Kainan Mussa, executive director at NAI, tells Puntland Post that transforming the conflictual relationships in Mudug region will require ‘adaptive peacebuilding’ that is grassroots oriented, which requires genuine commitment from all stakeholders.

“Mudug [region] is A microcosm of the larger Somalia. The region bears all the hallmarks of all the problems that regions in Somalia face. This is what makes it [Mudug] the ideal region to implement a rigorous approach to conflict transformation. By transformation, I mean the need to transform relations between the two clans and two states, from one that is adversarial to one of collaboration. This needs to be underpinned by an iterative and adaptable approach to peacebuilding,” Mr. Mussa said. “Recent reports of Galmudug-Puntland security cooperation are indicative of the transformations needed for regional stability.”

Mussa also noted that Mudug region “has six major infrastructure projects planned”. He specifically named three projects in North Mudug (Galkayo new airport, Garacad Port and Tuurdibi customs area) and three projects in South Mudug (Hobyo Port, Hobyo-Abudwak road, and Abudwak customs area), and that the projects provide “opportunities for new jobs, trade and logistical access” for central Somalia.

“With increased cooperation and a genuine focus on conflict transformation, the state administrations and local communities in Galmudug and Puntland have an opportunity to focus on economic development, job-creation, revenue generation, and investment,” Mussa said. “This would provide new opportunities for youth and contribute to a reduction in radicalization, poverty and instability.”

Since the early 1990s, Mudug region has experienced clan conflicts, terrorism and piracy crimes. By the 2010s, sub-national conflict between Puntland and Galmudug led to deteriorating instability in the region. Renewed cooperation between the two states could bring many positive dividends for local communities. However, as the NAI report notes, tripartite cooperation between the FGS, Puntland and Galmudug must form the foundation of a new relationship built on trust and cooperation, which benefits peace and development in Mudug region and Somalia as a whole.

To read the full report, kindly access it at the NAI Somalia website.

 © Puntland Post, 2020