The Pursuit of Peace: The Leadership Dimension

For the past two decades, the quest for peace in South-central Somalia has been painfully unsuccessful despite international and local efforts. Somalia have defied intensive international military, diplomatic and statebuilding interventions. Post-conflict peacebuilding efforts have largely focused on a top-down internationally driven approach with limited local participation in the strategic direction of the process. The peacebuilding missions in Somalia continue to be extraordinary in its scale, cost and mandate of international peace initiatives. The international community has sponsored and lead the peacebuilding process in Somalia by promulgating a single cosmopolitan vision of peacebuilding referred as ‘liberal peace’, which is based on liberal democratic values. There have been very little questions as to weather liberal values are complementary or contradiction in a traditional society emerging from conflict. Though liberal peace has some value in post-conflict peacebuilding, it has been critiqued as impractical ‘one size fit’s all’ approach that is in conflict with local customs, values and conditions.


Traditional Somali Conflict-resolution setting. Photo from: New Horizon facebook page

The international approach to building peace in South-Central Somalia has experienced intermittent positive outcomes but continues to fall short in remaining sustainable. Currently the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) is experiencing humanitarian, security and governance challenges at an intensified levels. There have been very little progress made towards the stated objectives of Vision 2016. Additionally, post-conflict peacebuilding efforts have largely focused on policy prescriptions and fail to address the essential national leadership qualities that are crucial part of the peacebuilding equation. In Somali Society, dynamic national leadership with patriotic inclination to serve above all, the interest of the people and country has been a rare commodity at all levels. The crisis of national leadership is the primary reason why development and progress has been painfully slow and destroying the hope of a nation.


Today is the International Day of Peace and after high hopes in 2012, we are not any closer to peace and stability than we were in 2012. It is clear that the Somali executive leadership and Parliament have failed to deliver on their promises of a stable and prosperous Somalia. While there is a general consensus of the failures, there are three fundamental reasons:

  • The statebuilding process was not locally initiated and led in policy and strategy to reflect the culture and religion of the Somali people.
  • The international community’s propensity for quick fixes and unrealistic time frames to achieve complex democratic reform in a mostly nomadic and traditional society, overshadows and obstructs the need to reconcile the drivers of the Somali conflict.
  • The absence of national peacebuilding leadership that are patriotic and have the capacity to adapt and maneuver between local dynamics and international expectations.

It is absolutely critical that the international community and the Somali people understand peace as a locally constructed reality. It is also important to recognize that outsiders are most helpful to have a positive impact when they act as facilitators rather than leading the process in policy and strategy. Similar to Somaliland, the somali people must be willing to fund the process and sacrafice for peace in order to own the process and outcome.


The realization of a lasting peace in Somalia demands more than the momentary support and short-lived determination generated by the pressures of changing international geopolitics. Peacebuilding strategy in Somalia must include an agenda of ‘localizing peace’ to increase prospects for sustainability. Post-conflict peacebuilding is a national challenge that requires integrated approaches and dynamic national leadership that inspires not just hope but trust in the process and direction. The Somali people have the right to peace and better leadership.



Ahmed “Nabaddoon” Abdurahman Abdullahi is a Somali-Canadian commentator and peace activist. He has a Master’s Degree in Peace and Reconciliation Studies from Coventry University, in the U.K. His interests include: Somali affairs, Islam, peace-building, good governance and conflict transformation.

| twitter: @Real_Axmed

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