Somali elders step in to mitigate conflict among drought-stricken pastoralists over scarce resourcesPhoto | Elbuh elder Mahamud FArah Ali speaking to Radio Ergo/Faadumo Taxadar/Ergo
(ERGO) - Conflict among pastoralists has been erupting in different parts of Somalia over the increasingly scarce resources left by the harsh drought, even though rain has begun in some places.
Drought-ravaged pastoralists have been converging with their remaining livestock on areas where rain has fallen, hoping to find water, pasture and shelter.
Elbuh in northern Somalia’s Sanag region was one of the first areas to receive rain at the beginning of April. Around 4,500 pastoralist families from other parts of Sanag, as well as from Bari, Togdheer, and Sool regions, flocked to Elbuh causing tensions to emerge among communities.
However, the local elders have succeeded so far in accommodating peacefully the large numbers of pastoralists from different regions in a relatively small area of land.
Mohamud Farah Ali, an elder and a member of Elbuh village’s drought response committee, told Radio Ergo that one of the major causes of friction was the lack of shelter, as well as the shortage of food and water storage containers. The elders have taken action to prevent an escalation of violent conflict.
“When it rains in places like this and the nomadic people gather together in a small area, they find it hard to share the land and often fight against each other. This already happened here and some families took up arms against each other at the beginning of the season,” Mohamud explained.
“Those who were living in this place previously and were displaced, but then returned, believe they have more rights on the land than the newcomers. But we called for a meeting and have agreed that the newcomers and the hosts can equally share the resources. We have worked to peacefully settle the people here and we direct every new family to somewhere they can set up their shelters.”
Under the agreement brokered by the elders, every family that owns a house hosts another family. This means that every family can get a place to build their own shelters and enclosures for sheltering animals.
As more and more people arrive every day in Elbuh, the elders have had to step in to stop tempers flaring. Mohamud Habar, the chairman of the Elbuh response committee, said those who arrive are unaware of the agreement that has been made in the village.
“Someone arrives in a vehicle and sees an animal enclosure and then decides to settle in the place, thinking that it is unoccupied,” he said. “So we try to relocate him to the other side of the compound and tell him to build an enclosure there, because there is nowhere else to take people as the land is limited.”
The intervention of the elders has not always been respected. Not everyone in the village is willing to move over and share what they occupy with others coming in. In such cases the elders rely on back-up from the local authorities.
“If a person is resistant to accommodate the arriving families, we then send the local forces to arrest him. People get convinced easily and the arrested individuals quickly learn their lessons and once we arrest them, they quickly say ‘we will not do it again’ therefore we set them free. We make them shake hands and kiss each other and it is over,” Mohamud said.
Warbixinno la xiriira