On 15 May 2018, Somalia celebrated the Somalia National Youth Day. The day aimed to commemorate the Somali Youth League (SYL) – a youth-led political party that was instrumental in the realization of Somalia’s independence in 1960. As the major cities across the country celebrated, one city, Galkacyo, stood out from the rest. A group of young men and women, from both the southern and northern parts of Galkacyo, dressed in white caps and shirts imprinted with peace messages, marched the streets of the city. Holding hands and walking side by side, they chanted peace slogans and sang peace songs.
“We came out to spread peace, build bridges between communities” said Aidid, one of the youth in Galkacyo. “I call upon the youths to participate in rebuilding their country and avoid violence” he continues.
Galkacyo, a city located in central Somalia, is divided between the Puntland and Galmudug administrations. The north side of the city is administered by Puntland, while the south is administered by Galmudug. The city has seen recurring cycles of interclan and interstate violence, making Galkacyo synonymous with conflict. However recently, the local administrations and communities from both the north and the south have taken bold steps to change this narrative. In the aftermath of a deadly conflict in 2016, the local communities, through youth-led public dialogue, successfully lobbied the two mayors from North and South Galkacyo to sign a peace agreement. In December 2017, the two mayors signed a landmark peace deal and since then, have worked together towards promoting peaceful co-existence between communities. On Somalia National Youth Day the mayors agreed to a joint peace march by the town’s youth, which was supported by SSF through its local partner, Daryeel Bulsho Guud (DBG).
SSF has worked to support peacebuilding in Galkacyo since 2016. SSF constructed two youth centres; one in North Galkacyo and the other in South Galkacyo. With social amenities such as a football field, separate male and female gyms, a cafeteria and child friendly spaces, the centres provided platforms for social integration. Joint youth committees were established at these centres by the USAID funded TIS + programme, which have become a driving force in initiating civil dialogue and a youth movement to address conflict in Galkacyo. This movement has heavily influenced the ratification of the peace agreement between the two mayors.
“When the civil war broke out in Galkacyo, 2000 students from Galkacyo took the white flag, which says: “I want peace.” People stopped the fight, and we live in peace until this day. That civil war happened last year,” said a male respondent interviewed by Forcier as part of SSF’s midline review.
A review of SSF’s work completed by Wasafiri and Forcier consulting in 2018 found that SSF’s peacebuilding work in Galkacyo had supported youth groups who had been central in de-escalating conflict in the city by “successfully lobbying power holders to take steps towards joint conflict resolution.” As highlighted above, other stabilization actors are already building on the work initiated by SSF as a springboard to learn and invest in Galkacyo.
Going forward, SSF will complement its infrastructure investments in Galkayo, with peace programmes, engaging partners from both sides of Galkacyo. The objective is to implement inclusive peace initiatives that proactively engage all the community groups including youth, women and the business community, in supporting effective and integrated dispute settlement approaches.