Understanding Statebuilding: Traditional Governance and the Modern State in Somaliland

Underwstanding state building and traditional mentods in somaliland

Somalilandsun: Much analysis of state building focusses on dissecting specific projects and attempting to identify what has gone ‘wrong’ in states such as Afghanistan and Iraq.What draws less attention is what has gone ‘right’ in non-interventionist statebuilding projects within ‘unrecognised’ states.

By examining this model in more depth a more successful model of statebuilding emerges in which the end goal of modern democracy and good governance are more likely to be realized. Indeed ‘states-within-states’ such as Somaliland where external intervention in the statebuilding process is largely absent can provide vital new lessons.

Somaliland is a functioning democratic political entity in northwestern Somalia which declared its independence from the troubled south in 1991 and then embarked on an ambitious project to create a democratic government and successful state in the post-conflict environment.

The leaders and the people of Somaliland have since succeeded not only in maintaining peace and stability, but also in building the institutions of government and the foundations for democracy that have led to a succession of elections, peaceful transfers of power and a consolidation of democratization.

The resulting state of Somaliland is widely hailed as a beacon of success within a politically turbulent region and provides a useful framework for successful statebuilding projects throughout the world. “Author by  Rebecca Richards ‘the  book  Understanding Statebuilding: Traditional Governance and the Modern State in Somaliland  attempts to break relatively new ground in academic literature about the statebuilding process. Focusing on the de facto state of Somaliland, rather than Somalia, conventionally described as a failed state, Richards looks to uncover positive narratives of creation in the midst of an area long marked by destruction. The book begins with an overview of previous literature on the nature of defining a state and the act of state creation, focusing largely on the interplay between internal and external demands for control over the statebuilding process. Somaliland, unlike other areas of recent conflict and state construction like Iraq and Eastern Europe, has largely been a self-contained project, much to the chagrin of international donors and aid workers. This has led to a uniquely hybrid political system for Somaliland, with a blending of traditional clan-based conflict resolution and electoral democracy. The traditional Somali dispute resolution system, or guurti, involves convening a meeting of a council of elder clan leaders who attempt constructive dialogue on matters ranging from grazing disputes to retributive murder cases and everything in between. In the Somaliland political system, the guurti has been enshrined as an official arbiter of the law, with a House of Elders as the upper body of the Somaliland parliament. Understanding Somaliland travels through a historical overview of the Somali people from before the colonial era, with appropriate time given to the differences in development between Italian-governed Somalia and British-governed Somaliland, which would fundamentally impact the running of the post-colonial, ostensibly united Somalia. Richards uncovers that differences in administrative style meant that the Italian-backed government in Mogadishu had much better infrastructure than the British-administered government in Hargeisa, as well as a preexisting centralized governance structure lacking in the loosely controlled British protectorate that would eventually become Somaliland.

Follow the link to obtain a copy of  Understanding Statebuilding: Traditional Governance and the Modern State in Somaliland