Sool and Sanaag are disputed regions. There are long standing differences between Somaliland and Puntland on who administers the two regions. This has exacerbated the divisions and conflicts between local communities along political and clan lines. The youth in the regions lack opportunities to engage in community integration activities and dialogue.
The Football for Peace tournament was one of many peace initiatives that has been supported by the Stability Fund via its partner, FCA. It was organized to promote peace and encourage greater participation of the youth in peacebuilding. The tournaments are the first of their kind in the semi-arid landscape around Lasanod, Erigavo and Galkayo, grabbing the attention of thousands of spectators.
The tournaments included 256 players from 16 districts representing their communities. Around 3,500 to 4,500 spectators from the community and local media attend each day. Youth of conflicting clans from the same district were mixed to form one team. Each representing their district competing against another district.
Women, elders and youth from different communities cheered the teams along. Local and regional authorities praised the activity and urged its continuation in the future. During the closing ceremony in Lasanod, Garad Jama Garad Ismail, a former football player during the 1980s, said “It is good for us to use a football tournament to improve peaceful coexistence”. Garad now one of the most prominent traditional leaders in Sool also added “I will encourage youth from districts not to stay in hotels but the homes of their fellow team players so as to build relationships”.
The Football for Peace tournament has captured the attention of regional authorities, including the Ministries of Youth and Sports in both Puntland and Somaliland, as well as the local stakeholders in other regions. We should all be encouraged by the youth’s enthusiasm for such activities, and local authorities’ support for similar initiatives in the region.