Economic and livelihood rehabilitation

With the exception of Somaliland and the northeast region, rehabilitation efforts have been limited and international aid is still largely confined to emergency assistance. Reconstruction initiatives suffered the same problems as the emergency aid programs led by the UN and no coherent framework for rehabilitation has yet been developed. Bryden argues that `many of today’s “reconstruction” and “rehabilitation” programs are designed to do little more than to repair, piecemeal, the ruins of the former system’ .47 In Somaliland, perhaps the single most external rehabilitation program has been the restoration of the water system to the city of Hargeisa by Oxfam and UNICEF. An estimated two-thirds of the city’s population now have running water, compared to less than a third before the onset of the conflict.


In Somaliland, the informal and medium-scale enterprise sectors have proven resilient. The economy is buoyant; livestock and crop production and public service provision have since recovered. This is less true of the northeast, which never had much production. The current stable free-market environment has facilitated the re-establishment of remittance flows from Somali expatriate workers in the Gulf, Europe, and North America. There has been a shift from war- and survival-orientated economy to a functioning market economy. Encouraged by the absence of excessive regulations, corruption and market intervention, the private sector has started providing a whole range of new services that the country had never seen before. The economic boom in Somaliland is partly reflected in the foreign trade that goes through Berbera. The current merchandise exports and imports are estimated to be at least twice the level of those before the war in 1988. The small port of Bosaso in the northeast has experienced a similar increase in the volume of foreign trade; it is used by traders to export livestock and other commodities such as incense and hides from Somalia, and to handle imports because Mogadishu port is hazardous.

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The resilience and success of the informal sector is not new. Even during Barre’s regime it `demonstrated considerable resourcefulness and resilience by weathering frequent policy reversals, persistently high inflation and worsening security problems in the 1980s’.48 In many areas, it has proved to be an engine for economic reconstruction and has increasingly become an incentive for peacemaking and political rehabilitation. It is a factor that aid programmes would do well to understand so as to promote an environment for the continued growth of the domestic commercial and transport sectors.

Political rehabilitation

Perhaps the most critical of all reconstruction efforts in Somalia is the question of political rehabilitation. Views diverge greatly on how to reconstitute the Somali state. Some argue that the question of state reconstitution should take its own course, in the hope that new state (or states) structures will emerge from the civil society once hostilities end.49 Indeed, `the fact that Somalia did for some time constitute a state cannot be considered a sufficiently convincing reason to go back to it again unless one finds that there were elements in it that are still worth retaining or building upon’ .50

Still, under UNOSOM’s broad mandate to rebuild Somalia, the UN has persistently endeavored to reconstruct a central state. The influence of the UN model has trickled down into subsequent non-UN Conferences on political rehabilitation. The Cairo peace talks held in late 1997 and their subsequent agreement was challenged by Ethiopia over Egypt’s apparent hijacking of the peace negotiations and failure to consult Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) member countries. Although neighboring countries have a vested interest in a peaceful settlement to the Somali conflict and have supported reconciliation initiatives, their role has been limited in the past by UN intervention. The surrounding states have been burdened by both the overflow of insecurity (including light arms) and a significant flow of Somali refugees. The only apparently successful state reconstitution is in Somaliland the old British Somaliland. It has peace and personal security almost everywhere, an elected two-house Parliament and President, a functioning civil police/magistrates’ court system, municipal government and some albeit limited basic service delivery by a professional public service.

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