Somaliland: Critical Choices for the Youth



Abby of Somalilandsun donates a football to a youth team in Hargeisa

Somalilandsun- After Assessing the Effects of Education and Civic Engagement on Somali Youths’ Propensity Towards Violence” Mercy Corps published in Nov 2016 a study in Somaliland titled : “CRITICAL CHOICES:


Hargeisa, the sprawling, dusty capital of Somaliland, is an oasis in the harsh desert terrain. The bustling
city boasts new development. Money ows from client to vendor through cutting-edge mobile cash transfer technology at every corner of the city—from the most expensive hotels to everyday stores. Somaliland is on
the rise. It has achieved what most independent African countries have failed to accomplish: competitive
and democratic elections leading to peaceful transitions of power. The focus now is on spurring the edgling democracy’s economy. Relative to neighboring regions in Puntland and South Central Somalia, Somaliland has been able to maintain a semblance of peace and stability over the past few decades. 

Despite all of Somaliland’s success, the threat of violent extremism and clan based political con icts threaten to reverse much of the progress to date. Though the region has largely escaped the scourge of the violent extremist group, Al Shabaab (the 2008 Hargeisa bombing being the last major attack) the danger that violent extremism might spread to Somaliland is not negligible. Al Shabaab recruits from Somaliland have been implicated in recent attacks, including the Daallo Airline and African Union base attacks in the past year.1 In response, the Government has arrested suspected Al Shabaab cell members in Somaliland and has cracked down on radical clerics promoting the use of violence, concerned that disgruntled youth may heed these calls to take up arms.2 In addition to the threat of extremist violence, clan based grievances over resources and governance have at times been exploited to foment violence, presenting another threat to stability. 

In the midst of these developments, Somali youth are often at the center of ongoing debates. Youth, who
account for over 75% of the population in Somalia
3, are a signi cant force in the country’s trajectory. They
are simultaneously seen as the hope for a bright future and a possible source of instability. The Government of Somalia, recognizing the importance of youth in building stability, has invested in opportunities to help youth gain the skills they need to become positive and productive citizens with an underlying objective of also countering violent extremism. Chief among these investments has been formal education. For example, the Government of Somalia’s new National Strategy and Action Plan for Countering and Preventing Violent Extremism states that “education is an essential part of preventing violent extremism” and calls on the need for more educational programs to help youth resist radicalization.
4 Moreover, in recent years, the Government of Somalia, with support from international donors, has ventured on an ambitious effort to increase access to secondary education for youth through programs like the Somali Youth Leaders Initiative (SYLI), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Mercy Corps. 

Yet, education can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, education offers opportunities for youth to gain knowledge and skills that are meant to help them advance economically and socially. On the other hand, education can also create awareness of historical injustices and raises expectations, which, if unmet, can turn into frustration and anger. If youth have no peaceful alternatives to shape their futures or seek redress for perceived injustices, then frustration and anger can lead to violence. Oftentimes gifted, ambitious and conscientious yet powerless to realize their dreams, these youth have been catalysts for change, both positive and negative.5 For Somalia and other developing countries, the trajectory of having an increasingly educated youth population with persistent high unemployment, social inequality and political grievances, may increase the risk of political violence. 

As the Government of Somalia moves towards actualizing its strategy on CVE, there is need to understand
the effectiveness of speci c interventions and approaches in reducing support and participation in violence. Understanding the effects of education on stability is particularly important given the Somali government’s signi cant emphasis on education within its CVE policy. This study aims to contribute to the re nement and effective implementation of this policy. It does so by presenting evidence on the impact of increasing access to secondary education, and civic engagement opportunities on reducing propensity towards violence amongst youth. By evaluating an ongoing youth-focused stability program, this research helps shed light on what types of CVE approaches and interventions are empirically proven to work and thereby worth further investment. 

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continue reading Critical Choices Report on the propensity of Youth to Violence in Somaliland{jcomments on}