The New and Emerging Trend of Peacebuilding in Somaliland

The “New Emerging Trend” of Peacebuilding in Somaliland

By Khalid M. Abdillahi

According to, more than thirty years ago, the word "peacebuilding" was coined in the field of peace studies. In his seminal work "Three Approaches to Peace: Peacekeeping, Peacemaking, and Peacebuilding," Johan Galtung invented the phrase in 1975. He argued that Peacebuilding has a structure that is distinct from, and arguably superior to, peacekeeping (conflict management) and peacemaking (conflict resolution). “More specifically, structures must be found that remove causes of wars and offer alternatives to war in situations where wars might occur." Hence, peacebuilding is about permanent conflict transformation.

Based on this understanding of peacebuilding, the act of an immigrant individual sacrificing $200 from his/her monthly budget and sending it to their extended family in the country of origin is an act of peacebuilding because it reduces poverty, which is one of the fundamental causes of conflict.

The self-organized and self-motivated diaspora peacebuilding is deeply rooted in the Somali traditional culture of sharing, kinship, and cooperation. The very meaning of the compound noun “Soomaal” is “Go and Milk”, it consists of two words, one is “soo” which means “go” and the other is imperative, “maal” which means “milk”, hence “Soomaal” means “go and milk”. To contextualize this historically, Somali people were a pastoral society characterized by livestock production. There were no restaurants and hotels in the rural areas, so when someone is traveling and food supplies finish, they would just land on a Somali family and ask them to host them as guests. Their culture was to host strangers as guests and whenever a stranger in need knocks their door, they would welcome them and say “Go and milk the camel or cow for the guests”, in other words, “Soo-maal” and that is where the noun “Somali” originally came from.

This role of the diaspora can be considered a structural element for building peace in the Somali territories in the horn of Africa. This role seems to developing constantly as the immigrants get integrated into their countries of destination, opening the way for a new kind of development action, that is competing with the traditional development aid programs. Recently, on April 7th, 2021, a prominent Somaliland diaspora member and multi-millionaire based in the UK named Ismail Ahmed, the founder of World Remit, has launched the Sahamiye Foundation initiative and committed $500 million of his wealth to promote local entrepreneurship, fight illiteracy, poverty, and disease for the coming 10 years. Ismail Ahmed criticized international aid agencies for exaggerating their role and spreading negative information against Somaliland, hence hindering development and undermining efforts to attract foreign investment.

The Ineffectiveness of the now outdated NGO-Based Peacebuilding:

NGO-based top-down development and peacebuilding have proved themselves to be inherently ineffective and even harmful in two ways. First, foreign donors come up with foreign priorities, interests, and objectives that are often alien or contradictory to the local contexts. Local peacebuilding actors don’t have a choice but to implement what the donor organization wants them to do because the funds come with strict conditions.

Secondly, these donors often raise funds through charity and from foreign governments by claiming that they are doing peacebuilding in post-war countries like Somaliland, but as Ismail Ahmed said “a tiny fraction of what they raise reaches intended beneficiaries”.

This is because most of the money they commit to peacebuilding or development is often wasted in their big remunerations, travel costs, benefits, and other indirect operational costs. In this way, the business of INGOs and donor organizations has become a swamp for institutionalized corruption and ineffectiveness.

The Emerging Trend of Sustainable Peacebuilding:

Ismail Ahmed says that the Sahamiye Foundation initiative intends to help Somaliland move past the “traditional models of donor funding and towards a more entrepreneurial, scale-up approach”. This is the new emerging trend of sustainable and diaspora-led peacebuilding.

The peacebuilding model of the Sahamiye Foundation is based on the social-entrepreneurship mechanism for change. This is a peacebuilding approach where entrepreneurs of start-ups and other established businesses can develop, fund, and implement affordable business solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues.

The newly created website of Sahamiye Foundation writes We’re a team of entrepreneurs who are exploring innovative ways to create lasting, positive change for the people of Somaliland. We leverage the innate qualities of the nation’s character and our own expertise and resources to overcome the country’s biggest challenges. We support people and communities with the opportunities that help them build the lives they want.”

Ahmed Ismail said, “Somaliland still faces development challenges that require significant investment to lay the foundations for economic growth, good health, and prosperity,

The main goals of Sahamiye Foundation according to their website, are;

  1. Raise the nation’s literacy level from 45% to 90%, because literacy unlocks all our potential. We’ll do this by helping one million young people and adults acquire literacy skills in the Somali language.

  1. Help over 100,000 people develop the skills, attitude, and confidence for employment and entrepreneurial success.

  1. Improve the nation’s health by supporting better health education and provision.

  1. Support innovative approaches to improving infrastructure.

The organization’s strategy for realizing these big goals is;

  1. Launching “Daariz” educational program, offering a free mobile app and cheap smartphones, designed to “…remove common barriers to learning: barriers of cost, time, motivation and access.” By supporting young people “with free or cheap smartphones to access Daariz resources, it’s open to everybody.

  1. Launching the “Books for Change” program, supplying the local community schools, academic institutions, libraries, and bookshops with “one million low-priced books every year.”

  2. Launching “Entrepreneurship Accelerator” program designed “to fight health inequality, to improve sanitation, to provide access to high-quality healthcare for all, and to champion health empowerment for women and girls.”

  1. Launching “Systems that help people flourish systems that help people flourish” designed to “develop, scale-up and improve the infrastructure systems that help people and communities to thrive. Also, to improve the quality, availability, and affordability of water supplies, to improve road and rail networks, to maximize the potential of the digital network, and to make the work of emergency response teams easier, safer, and more effective.”

You can read more on “Why I’m committing $500 million to entrepreneurship in Somaliland?

The Way Forward:

All peacebuilding efforts in the horn of Africa should learn from Sahamiye Foundation and adapt to this emerging trend by focusing on the diaspore-led peacebuilding and private sector-led social entrepreneurship model for peacebuilding from below. The old models of NGO-based peacebuilding are found to be ineffective and highly corrupt and that is why a major shift is required in order to move forward. This can be done by encouraging, motivating, capacity building, and funding social entrepreneurs and diaspora communities without abusing donor funding to impose foreign political and cultural l interests on local peacebuilders. Peacebuilding should never be politicized with foreign political or cultural orientations, it aims to improve human wellbeing.