Reiventing the Wheel

Unhappy with their Somalia’s ‘marriage’, and upset with what appeared to be a policy of neglect, the people of Somaliland reclaimed their independence after many years of a die-hard struggle and became a republic on May 18th, 1991.  Since then Somaliland has enjoyed relative peace and stability which has enabled its people to reach  national consensus. Though not internationally recognised as a sovereign state, Somaliland has a working political system where the checks and balances between the government branches are in place.

Somaliland’s economy is highly dependent on livestock exports. Remittances from the Somali Diaspora and customs duties from the port of Berbera used by landlocked Ethiopia are also significant sources of revenue for the state.

The private business sector, for instance, is flourishing in spite of the youth unemployment is exceptionally high.  The lack of international recognition has undermined the capacity of the private sector to develop itself in Somaliland. Being invisible translates, in practical terms, to being cut off from international markets.

The formal justice system, like most sectors in Somaliland, is shaped by the legacy of dictatorial Siad Barre regime which subdued the development of laws, abridged the ability of the judiciary to work independently and eroded the public confidence in the justice system.

Despite the above challenges, Somaliland is still crafting its public institutions with the meagre resources at its disposal. The formal justice system is getting better, however at a snail’s pace.  It is emerging out of this challenging period and has started to restore essential services.

With the right alignment of domestic political will, investment and targeted international support, such deadlock can be ironed out. However, there are international organisations who are ready to invest in the country’s justice sector, notable among them is Horizon Institute.

Horizon Institute, an international consultancy and technical specialist firm, has taken a leading role to respond to the some of the issues and needs highlighted above. It is now implementing a two-year Somaliland Justice Sector Project (SJSP), funded by DFID.

The Institute is strengthening the capacity of judiciary institutions through reforming their operational frameworks, elaborating their policies and procedures, and conducting targeted capacity building training at every level.

The Attorney General’s Office is an essential institution in the Somaliland justice framework. Bearing this in mind, the institute has developed a nurturing and close relationship with them and provided training on juvenile justice and case management. It has also played a key role in improving the institutional relationship between the police and prosecutors by supporting intense joint training on cross-cutting issues.

Horizon Institute is currently supporting the establishment of Somaliland’s Bar Association-an association that has not functioned well since Somaliland’s re-birth. The setting up of the association is work at hand, but once the Bar Association is entirely finalised, it is believed, it will take a leading role in combining the legitimate aim of overseeing the quality, competence and conduct of the legal profession, with protection for lawyers against undue interference.

The legal profession in Somaliland has long been starved of adequately educated and trained professionals. As a result, vulnerable litigants can hardly afford the cost of hiring a legal representative. On responding to this  question, the institute became a forerunner to bring all legal aid providers in Somaliland together on taking a partnership approach to legal aid  and meet the front-line justice needs of the vast majority of Somalilanders.

As a final point, the institute hopes to reinvent the wheel by building the capacity of the justice  institutions, strengthening local ownership of investments and improving the self-sufficiency of organisations.

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