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Africa retreat save crc 29/3/07 11:17 am Page 82

dismissal by the British head of the Civil Service in northern Nigeria for what

was considered a lack of “loyalty” to the British Empire when responding to a

series of riots in the area.


In 1994, protracted communal clashes had been taking place between the Kusuv

community and the Ikurav-Tiev community over their boundaries along the

Kungwa Jov River. Both sides had been systematically sending raiding parties to

carry out killings and to destroy property and houses across the river.

Dent was familiar with the Tiv mediation process and was invited in 1994 to

mediate this dispute. Dent met the leaders of both communities and realised that

both sides favoured an effort to find a resolution. The central authorities had

been relatively inactive in dealing with the dispute. By invoking and referring to

indigenous Tiv traditions, Dent brought together fifty community members

from both sides in the traditional council chamber in what was effectively the

jir (dispute mediation session). During the process, he encouraged the discussion

to focus on the “causes” of the conflict.As the session progressed, Dent proposed

a solution which would recognise the Kungwa Jov River as a boundary, but at

the same time would provide the Ikurav-Tiev with some land beyond the river.

Initially, both communities had entrenched positions and at one point in time

no progress was being made culminating in an impasse. Dent persisted and urged

both groups to forget about the past and focus on a new future for their mutual

benefit. Since the parties were predisposed towards finding a solution, the

inclusive nature of his arguments to all the parties contributed to finding an

agreement. The impasse was broken as “more and more speakers asked for a

declaration of peace to end the ruinous quarrel that had caused so much

The leaders of the two groups agreed to end hostilities and signed

bloodshed”. 14

a peace treaty.The momentum for peace was underway at this stage and Dent,

anxious to make sure that they consolidated the peace-making process, sought

the backing of the governmental authorities (the state commission of inquiry

and boundary settlements) so as to work towards a final settlement. 15

The Guurti and mediation in Somaliland

In northern Somalia, also known as Somaliland, people rely upon their

traditional clan Elders as “the repositories of moral authority and catalysts for

societal harmony with regards to dispute resolution and the socio-economic

Rules of self-governance within units are adapted

distribution of resources”.


and based upon the principles of inclusion, consensus and kinship among the

elders and society. According to Haron Yusuf and Robin Le Mare “two key

elements of the kinship are blood ties and a concept known as Xeer

13 This discussion is taken from Martin Dent,“Practical Peacekeeping”, Unpublished paper, Keele

University, England, 1994, p. 2-4.

14 Dent, “Practical Peacekeeping”, p.6.

15 For his efforts Martin Dent was honoured by the Tiv Traditional Council with a chieftancy title

A-Sor-tar-U-Tiv, which literally means Peacemaker of Tivland in 1994.

16 See Murithi, 2003.



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Under the Acacia: Mediation and the dilemma of inclusion

(pronounced “hair”), which is essentially an unwritten but loosely accepted code

The Xeer govern relations among members of different clan units

of conduct”.


regarding the sharing of common pool resources such as grazing land and water

Xeer emphasises “the values of interdependence and inclusiveness and

resources. This

forms the basis for social contracts or covenants between lineage groups”.


concept also, defines obligations, rights, and collective responsibilities (including

sanctions) of the group. Within this contract members are pledged to support

Xeer does not eliminate strife, but provides accepted and workable

each other.

ways of dealing with disputes and conflicts.

According to Yusuf and Le Mare “when disputes arise over matters such as

grazing rights, water, or other resources, or political influence, they are arbitrated

Shir – council of elders”. The Shir “deals with relations

by what is known as a

between groups, in war and peacetime, and lays down the laws and principles by

Shir of different clans meet, they form an inter-

which members act”.When the Guurti. The Shir and Guurti act as

clan mediating council known as the Guurti can mediate

mediators and operate in open assembly, not secretly. The Xeer.

between Somalis and sanction, monitor and reinforce the adherence to the

In this regard, this indigenous institution maintains clan coexistence and social

order by managing disputes when they arise.

Contemporary applications of the Indigenous Somali

Mediation System 6

Following the collapse of the Somali state in 1991, the breakaway territory of

northern Somalia or Somaliland, with its capital in Hergesia, utilised indigenous

mechanisms to make peace. In contrast, south Somalia, with its capital in

Mogadishu, was then and remains now wrought by violent conflict. In 1991,

Somaliland’s elders organised inter-clan reconciliation conferences, which were

followed by meetings at the district and regional levels. In January 1993, a

conference held in a town called Erigavo produced a peace charter which ended

hostilities in several parts of Somaliland and recognised individuals’ rights to

move, trade, and pursue their aspirations within the clans’ boundaries. This was

effectively a peace agreement that stipulated the return of property, land, and

other resources occupied, stolen, or looted during the war. Conflict resolution

committees were set up to keep the peace and interpret the charter. In effect,

these committees operationalised a monitoring system that maintained the peace

in the region, despite the tension in the less stable neighbouring regions.

The Erigavo conference led to the Borama peace conference held between

Guurti members from

January and May 1993 brought together more than 150

all of Somaliland’s clans, plus hundreds of delegates and observers from inside

Guurti, Somaliland

and outside the country. As a result of the mediation by the

managed to achieve:

17 Haroon Yusuf and Robin Le Mare, “Clan Elders as Conflict Mediators: Somaliland”, in Paul

van Tongeren, Malin Brenk, Marte Hellema and Juliette Verhoeven, (eds) People Building Peace

II: Successful Stories of Civil Society, (London: Lynne Rienner, 2005), pp. 459 emphasis added.

18 All citations on Somaliland drawn from Yusuf and Le Mare,“Clan Elders as Conflict Mediators:

Somaliland”, p.460-5. mediators’retreat | 83


Africa retreat save crc 29/3/07 11:17 am Page 84

The peaceful transfer of power from the armed factions to a president,

Mohamed Egal, whose was elected by the council of elders and assembly

in May 1993;

A Peace Charter that established a national security framework;

A National Charter that established a bicameral legislature, creating for

Guurti – as a non-

the first time an Assembly of Elders – or National

elected upper house;

An elected lower house.

In the intervening years, despite difficulties in implementing the provisions in the

Peace Charter, using indigenous mechanisms, Somaliland managed to maintain a

relatively high degree of peace.Today, a relatively peaceful Somaliland has applied

for membership of the African Union and has requested the UN to grant it special

status as it had previously done for Kosovo, Palestine and Timor Leste. 19

Strengths and weaknesses of indigenous processes

Based on the discussions above the key strength of indigenous mediation processes

is that they are familiar to the communities where they are utilised and appeal to

local cultural norms and leadership structures. Therefore, the outcomes they

produce are more likely to be internalised by the parties. Indigenous processes are

inclusive, promote public participation and seek consensus in addressing the root

In this regard, they ensure the local ownership of peace

causes of conflict.


processes. Also, indigenous processes are cost effective because they rely on a

community’s own internal resources rather than on the infusion of funds from

external actors.This can also protect a process from external pressures. Furthermore,

indigenous approaches emphasise the nexus between mediation and reconciliation

rather than viewing them as separate and distinct processes. Finally, indigenous

approaches emphasize the importance of a sustained and continuous mediation

effort. For example, the Boroma conference mediation took place over five months.

This is in contrast to other processes which are intermittent and periodical often

due to the high costs involved of maintaining parties at a particular venue.

Paradoxically, the duration of indigenous peacemaking can be viewed as a

weakness, because depending on the willingness of parties to achieve consensus,

such processes can become indefinite.Where indigenous processes are inclusive

do not encourage expediency.

and consensual, for a variety of reasons, they often

However, an inclusive process is more likely to have widespread legitimacy and

acceptance. Ideally, a mediation process with a small number of interlocutors is

more likely to lead to an agreed outcome and to facilitate relationships of trust

which are critical to agreement. However, such a narrow process can also bring

the legitimacy of the process into question, if powerful actors are left out.There

19 Mohamud Jama, Somalia and Somaliland: Strategies for Dialogue and Consensus on Governance and

Democratic Transition, (Oslo: UNDP Governance Centre, 2003).

20 On the merits of cultural norms and collective wisdom see the work of Thomas Schelling and

Kenneth Arrow in, James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds (New York:Anchor Books, 2005).



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Under the Acacia: Mediation and the dilemma of inclusion

is a trade-off to be considered when addressing the issue of inclusion or exclusion

in mediation. In addition, indigenous approaches rely on traditional norms that

have been developed over centuries. While indigenous processes contain a range

of progressive values, some of their practices are patriarchal and therefore not

gender sensitive. This has the effect of undermining the role of women in

mediation and peacemaking processes.

Indigenous or official:

Towards a hybrid approach?

This review of indigenous processes points to a number of strengths and

limitations in terms of their effectiveness. It suggests that it may be worthwhile to

think in terms of a ‘hybrid approach’ that might take best practices from each to

promote higher thresholds of inclusion, while maintaining efficient mediation

processes. A hybrid approach may therefore be described as follows:

Hybrid process:

Relies upon a combination of official and indigenous elements – for

example the AU Panel of the Wise is an official structure of the

organisation, but utilises cultural norms about the role of the “wise” or

elders in mediating disputes;

Encourages parallel forums and interactive problem-solving workshops 6

with key opinion leaders and civil society at the regional, national or local

levels to complement processes drawing upon cultural norms and values;

Facilitates national talks which can be sequenced to complement an official

mediation process and can also bring in community leaders and civil

society into the process.

Comparative approaches: Hybrid

Indigenous Official Mediation

Elder or Council of Elders Flexible Envoy or Diplomat

Mediator Many constituents Mixed Usually limited to government

Negotiators and main armed group(s)

Open/public Mixed Generally closed/formal

Process Long process Variable Shorter time periods/use of

Time frame artificial deadlines

Collective rights often Balanced approach Individual rights prevail

Human rights prevail

Traditional justice Mixed International norms;

Justice mechanisms; Retributive justice

Restorative justice

In sum, a hybrid approach may build broader-based support for a process, while

maintaining some of the strengths of formal diplomatic processes. In order to

assess which issues or individuals to exclude or include, it is helpful to conduct a

mediators’retreat | 85





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Dispensa al corso di Teorie e tecniche della trasformazione dei conflitti della Prof.ssa Maria Luisa Maniscalco. Trattasi del saggio di Tim Murithi e Paula Murphy
dal titolo "Under the Acacia: Mediation and the dilemma of inclusion" all'interno del quale si discute dell'importanza della negoziazione indigena e dell'inclusione nei processi di peacekeeping e peacebuilding.

Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea magistrale in relazioni internazionali
A.A.: 2010-2011

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Atreyu di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Teorie e tecniche della trasformazione dei conflitti e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Roma Tre - Uniroma3 o del prof Maniscalco Maria Luisa.

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