Launching Advocacy for Puntland Communities that suffer Secular Segregation
Launching Advocacy for Puntland Communities that suffer Secular Segregation

Garowe :  The Puntland Development Research Center (PDRC) in collaboration with the Puntland presidency and the Puntland Ministry of Women Development and Family Affairs (MOWDAFA) have mobilized the bulk of Puntland decision-makers and the public in the launching of an advocacy initiative aimed at promoting and protecting the rights of Socially Segregated and Marginalized communities in Puntland State, Somalia.

For many centuries, the Somali people have persevered customs that socially segregated some segments of its communities for different reasons. Participants attending this highly passionate launching event had voiced their support and echoed strong commitment to reverse anachronistic socio-cultural attitudes towards these communities in Puntland State, Somalia.

The Puntland President Abdiweli Mahamed Ali (Gaas), assisted by PDRC and MOWDAFA had mobilized the Office of the newly established Puntland Human rights defender, Speaker of House of the Representatives (HoR), key cabinet ministers, all nine Puntland regional governors, the Puntland Attorney General, senior police commanders, representatives of business community. On the other hand, PDRC mobilized representatives from socially segregated minorities, traditional elders from mainstream clans, religious authorities, scholars, L/INGOs and UN agencies, Academia and corporate Puntland to attend the launching ceremony.

To set the scene, PDRC presented a short film that was an offshoot compiled from a recent successful reconciliation process codenamed the Xero Jaalle predicament, a predominantly Madhiban inhabited village between Galdogob and Galkayo, in Mudug region. The film highlighting the socio economic paradigm of the feuding Madhiban community also presented the uncouth practice of segregation amongst the Somali people.

10 December: An International Human Rights Day and the Day of Repent in Puntland

In 1950, the United Nations has recognized the 10th of December as the International Human Rights Day by issuing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations of the world. After almost 64 years, the human rights situation of the world has substantially improved, but the scars of brutal human rights violations still persist in some areas of the world.

 In Puntland, this day is recognized as the Day of Repent: “I will not refer to today as a day of happiness and joy, I will not say that today is a big day; I will say that today is a day for us to repent our sins. A day to repent from the sins we have committed against fellow human beings who share with us the Somali identity”. Said the president.

The president continued, “It is a day to pray for our forefathers, those from whom we have descended, the pioneers of this ugly custom that we have inherited – to be forgiven for their sins. The reason why I suggest our repentance is because most of us do not comprehend the social segregation actions as sinful, let us know and admit that our actions are not positive”, the President admitted. Giving examples from his childhood experience, the president recalled the plight of his fellow classmates and students who suffered this stigmatization.

It is also important to mention that the Speaker of the HoR. H. E. Said Hassan Shire, suggested to step up a concrete decision by recommencing a partial amendment of Puntland Constitution to allow the membership of the Socially segregated Communities in the parliament. The speaker stated that“…the process of amending the constitution started during president Faroole’s term, but never materialized. It is not difficult to resume the process immediately”. A round applause of the audience roared throughout the hall.

Before the president’s touching speech and the Speaker of the HoR’s sympathizing suggestion, more than 18 representatives of these communities and advocates made emotional statements exposing the prejudices against them in the society. Nonetheless, some of the socially segregated speakers admitted that they are not alone in the marginalization, but are alone in the social segregation.

Deputy Minister Farhiya - Why I’m not related to any of you here....
Deputy Minister Farhiya – Why I’m not related to any of you here….

All of you seated here are related to one another in a way or the other, I wonder why I have no relation with any of you?” Deputy Minister Farhiya, a member of the Socially Segregated clan, said with irony!

Criticism of the Social Attitudes towards segregated and marginalized communities

Participants at the launching ceremony criticized the immoral social attitudes and practices towards these communities in Puntland and in Somalia at large.

The social segregation of segregated is not a religious doctrine but rather a custom. A custom that is rotten, illogical and ridiculous” The President added. “It is a culture void off the least rationality, a culture that violates the God given values of a human being.” He concluded.

an Elder emphasizing the suffering of his community....
an Elder emphasizing the suffering of his community….

The issue has attracted the attention of all categories of the society “…this topic of our convergence is a noble one and is widely embraced by all with the aim to end it.” Sultan Sa’id Mahamed Garaase said. “…This issue [social segregation of communities] has been sowed amongst the people by Lucifer and I doubt that people discuss it openly like we are doing here today.” The Sultan exclaimed.

Agreed Action Points

The ceremony churned out the biggest pledges ever made by the Puntland society for the protection of these community’s rights and their inclusion in the social system. Not only the advocates pledged their support, but also the representatives of the segregated communities have also promised to strive for “Change”.

At the closing of the gathering the following points have been agreed upon:

  • That the 10th of December is the advocacy day for the segregated and marginalized communities in Puntland.
  • That the president will issue a decree encompassing a set of assenting actions for these communities. Such affirmations may include the establishment of a “special fund” for their well being, social services and raising their economic and social statuses.

PDRC: A Platform for Peace and Better Life

Since it was established more that 15 years ago, PDRC stubbornly advocated for the irradiation of socially unacceptable “Customs” within the Puntland societal fabric. The organization, virtually, did not held a single activity without ensuring that the segregated and the marginalized communities are represented among the participants. PDRC successfully uplifted the status of some members of these communities by employing them, including them in its “Advisory Board” and through focusing some of their talented individuals, and supporting peacebuilding among themselves. In 2013, PDRC researchers and communication practitioners supported the Xero-Jalle reconciliation process to quell a cycle of revenge killings amongst Madhiban Community in Puntland’s Mudug region. PDRC teams not only supported the reconciliation efforts in that particular enclave, but also appraised the socio economic profile of the same community. These communities are desperate and in highly impoverished status. There is no school in their village and there is no police post to detain a wrongdoer, and above all there is no water-well for themselves and for their small numbers of their livestock. PDRC documented the appalling social and economic situations of Xero-Jalle. In a short film, initially aimed at fundraising to support the payment of blood compensation resulting from the ruling of the mediation committee in camels, because both conflicting sub-clans [Madhiban] cannot afford to pay for their mischiefs, but later turned into a perfect tool for advocacy.

The short documentary Film was screened on International Peace Day, 21st September 2014, and then to one of the Weekly meetings of the Puntland Government Cabinet Meetings. There the “predicament” of the segregated and marginalized communities sparked.