Somalia is experiencing its worst drought crisis in a decade as result of failure of three consecutive rainy seasons since October 2020. There were also disastrous droughts between 2000 and 2011; resulting in famine, food insecurity, water scarcity and loss of livelihoods. Somali rural population who make up 60% of the country’s people are heavily affected by depleting water resources, as a result of rising demand and increasing drought frequency. This has resulted in fierce competition and conflict over water resources, something remained widespread among the rural communities in Puntland and Galmudug states in Somalia.

More than 91 water-related conflicts were recorded in Puntland and Galmudug states in Somalia for the year of 2021 alone, some of these conflicts have been deadly and destructive. Two clan conflicts that broke out in 2021 in Sool region of Puntland left death of more than 70 lives, and more than that number also died in successive clan conflicts that has been taking place in Balanbale and Ethiopian-border areas in Galmudug state in Somalia. These conflicts have had severe effects including loss of lives, massive displacements, inequitable access of water resources, expensive prices and vulnerable groups to fetch water from far and from unsafe open sources. Women and girls who mostly have responsibility of collecting water, face risk of physical or sexual assault at water points, and there have been even several women died in these incidents in Galmudug.

According to the communities, the local grievances and community tensions are mainly triggered by whenever one clan-group seeks to take the control of communal water sources without consent of other clan-groups.  For example, a violent inter-clan conflict broke out in Dhabar Dalool, a remote village in the arid plains of northern Puntland’s Sool region in April 16, 2021 after one clan-group in the area claimed control of a shallow well sparking refusal and anger from other group, and finally dragged them into deadly confrontation that left death of more than 30 lives.

Another mentionable cause is disruption or violation of queues at shallows wells, surface water and water distribution points. There have been 31 cases of disputes over water distribution in Xingod in Galmudug state in Somalia where vulnerable rural families disputed over distribution of water trucking donated by charity organizations. In such situations, unequal distribution and access to water is common and also further escalation into conflict is highly possible.

The water conflicts and lack of sustainable water management contributed to water scarcity, degradation and loss of freshwater as well as increased vulnerability to the climate affects in the face of worst drought conditions. For example, 4 shallow wells and water sources located in Gumasoor rural area in Galmudug where rural communities have been getting water for centuries, destroyed and dried up as result of the conflicts and lack of maintenance.

Role of third parties in water conflicts

The water conflicts destroy inter-clan cohesions and divide a community already fractured by a number of internal conflicts, sometimes transforming into broader conflict when exploited by political groups, and this is even highlighted as a key driver of ongoing conflict and state fragility in Somalia according to the Global Risk In Sights. For instance, the self-declared region of Somaliland and autonomous Puntland State in Somalia who have been fighting over control of Sool region, are accused to have had role in two deadly inter-clan conflicts that broke out in that region in 2021.

Furthermore, the traditional elders of Bitaale rural village under South Galkacyo district in Galmudug as well as other external sources both indicated that Al-Shabab, a terrorist organization that controls much of southern and central Somalia has been taking advantage of climate impacts, fueling clan conflicts in Mudug and Galgaduud regions of Galmudug State and other regions in Somalia. Global Risk in Sights highlights that Al-Shabab exploits inter-clan tensions to fuel their jihadist insurgency in a manner which ominously foreshadows the future climate wars of the twenty-first century. 

How rural communities are going to overcome water conflicts

The rural communities of Jariiban in Puntland and Bitaale in Galmudug states of Somalia discussed water conflicts openly in series consultation sessions conducted for the rural traditional elders, women and minority groups in April 2022. They have come up some appealing solutions that can be even replicated in other rural communities in Somalia. For instance, they come up set of procedures or guidelines to use for establishment of their own water management and governance structures through fair and inclusive process with participation of all groups such as elders, women and minority groups to reduce the risk of conflict and ensure equitable access to water in the face of climate crisis.

The water governance structures and terms of references identified by the rural communities in Puntland and Galmudug states may vary, but the main work of the suggested rural water management committee is to manage and be responsible for shared water sources and communal water-related activities in benefit of all. They will manage all key water sources in the rural areas such as boreholes, shallow wells, streams or surface water, water tubes or water trucking meant for the communal uses. They will also facilitate fair distribution of water donated for vulnerable rural people in the time of droughts, and also mediation of water-related conflicts.

As this is an immediate relief to the water conflicts as well as fair management and use of water sources, both communities addressed that water scarcity will remain and needs to be effectively addressed under the national and local climate strategies in Somalia to overcome water scarcity as droughts are becoming more frequent and more prolonged, linked to the global climate crisis. Furthermore, the rural communities in Galmudug particularly highlighted the importance of addressing climate-related violence, and preventing Al-Shabaab and other armed groups from taking advantage of climate impacts.

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Abdikhayr Mohamed Hussein
Bertha Fellow 2022

Somalia is facing the worst drought following the failure of three consecutive rainy seasons since October 2020. The worsening drought conditions devastated the vulnerable population’s access to water both in terms of quantity and quality particularly the rural people who make up 60% of the country’s 15.8 million (2020) people.

Somalia is a water scarce country with approximately 411 m3 of renewable fresh water per capita as of 2017 (World Bank, 2020). This is a staggering decline over time from 2 087 m3 in 1962 (ibid) which is far below the UN recommended threshold of 1 000 m3 per capita per year. The continuous decline of freshwater availability and repeated droughts as result of the climate change has resulted in fierce competition over water resources and increased water prices, which pastoral people meet through increased debt accumulation and/or livestock sales.

Pastoralists who typically breed cattle, camels, goats, and sheep depend on water trucking or water from boreholes and Berkads (Reservoirs) which are sold for higher prices. Less 20% of them receive from rivers, streams, and shallow wells for pastoralists for free but they mostly dry up in the time of drought. Pastoralists have to sell their livestock to buy water, but in this devastating drought, they run out of saleable livestock due to lack of water and pasture that impacted negatively to the animal conditions with livestock deaths increasing in many areas and an increasing proportion of the surviving ones being in very weak conditions. The pastoralists in Jariiban district under Mudug region of Puntland, one of the hardest hit regions share water scarcity and associated debts as their biggest problem in the face of the devastating drought.

 “In this area (Jariiban) is a water scarce, and water is bought from water truckers for human and animal consumption as there are no free water (streams or surface water) as other regions. The livestock condition are poor and not fit for sale, and no one can afford to pay water in this condition” says Mohamed Said, a traditional elder in Jariiban district of Mudug region in Puntland, Somalia.

Pastoralists in Jariiban receive water through water trucking from the strategic boreholes that exhausted by dropdown of water levels and constant breakdown of boreholes due to long hours of pumping, fuel shortage and limited spare parts. Somali Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM) indicates that water trucking is on the rise with some boreholes pumping for more than 12 hours in a day and serving more than 15 trucks per day.

“In the rural, lack of water exists, lack of money exists. Lack of saleable livestock exists, lack of food exists. All exist. Livestock receive water with water trucking, and the water trucking is not enough for livestock. The nearest place, we are charged with $250. The remote areas, it is more than that; $300 and more…. And no one can afford it” says Madina Nor, a pastoralist woman in Jariiban district of Mudug region in Puntland, Somalia.

Most of the boreholes use fuel-powered generators to pump out water, and the recent fuel prices that jumped to $1.1 per liter makes the situation even worse, sending a 200-liter barrel of water to more than $7 in some areas being the highest prices ever recorded in the area. The increasing water and food prices will send poor pastoralists into deep crisis and unpayable debts while they are still owed debts incurred in previous years.

 “We have to pay back the heavy water debts incurred during the drought in the time of prosperity (rain season). I still pay back the water debts incurred previous droughts let alone of those incurred now and recent droughts” says Haji Farah, a pastoralist in Jariiban district of Mudug region in Puntland, Somalia.

“The vulnerability of the people using the borehole who cannot pay the fuel ..and the worsening situation of the drought and impact on livestock and the people, so we are calling for the concerned entities.. either of the government, the district of Jariiban, the regional administration, the state government and other generous individuals who give, to assist these people with whatever they can. We are asking Allah for blessed rain and take these people out of this situation” says Said Karshe, a member of Jariiban local council of Mudug region in Puntland, Somalia.

Water scarcity and drought conditions will get worse if this rainfall that expected to start in April fails, given that likelihood of below average rainfall in March – May 2022 as forecasted by IGAD Climate Prediction and Application Center (ICPAC) on March 24, 2022.

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Abdikhayr Mohamed Hussein
Bertha Fellow 2022

Despite years of anarchy, Somalia has a successful ICT sector, providing one of the most cost-effective voice and data service in Africa. More than 2 million people make their way into the internet and the onset of COVID-19 pandemic and measures imposed to contain the spread of the pandemic has exacerbated the use of the Internet. The COVID-19 crisis has also brought new needs for digitalization of public and private services to the citizens. With increasing availability and quality of internet connectivity as well as new communication technologies in Somalia, private sector has been moving into the digital and embraces new digital services every-day. Many services are available online today such money transfers, transportation, food delivery and shopping.

With realization of fast growing Internet, digital information technology and Somalia has the cheapest data in Africa where 1GB of data costs $0.55 on average, ranked top seven in the world. Mobile money is the primary access point to financial services in Somalia where 73% of the population over the age of 16 use mobile money services according to the World Bank Report in 2017. With all these developments, Somalia ranks 191th worldwide in adoption of the e-government system according to a recent survey published by the United Nations in 2020.

More and more often, people see no reason why public services should be paper-based and that government does not take advantage of growing Internet connectivity and new technologies to transform its public services. Despite of development of first ICT Policy and Strategy 2019-2024 to facilitate Somalia’s digital transformation, local authorities still rely on legacy systems in a time of 89% of the people would like to see digitization of government services. Due to limited advocacy and concentration, the adoption of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve better delivery of government services to citizens is the least progressive area, and there’s little chance of meeting ambitions laid out in the country’s ICT Policy and Strategy.

With support of Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), Bareedo Platform organises a roundtable discussion for Mogadishu Municipality’s officials, commissioners of Mogadishu’s districts, academia, media and other important stakeholders in Mogadishu, Somalia. The main objective of this discussion is to advocate and push for Mogadishu Municipality to adopt e-governance practices and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve better delivery of government services to citizens, empower citizens through access to information, and improve interactions between citizens and public officials.

Mohamed Abokor, Director of Bareedo Platform says “There is no excuse and hesitation to stay at paper-based era while we have a good Internet connection and that 80% of our population has mobile phones. We need to come up something that can pave a way to the adoption of e-governance practices in Mogadishu”

In this discussion meeting, officials will know more about e-government concept and also examples of cities that successfully adopted e-governance. And after, they will have an open discussion focusing on adopting e-governance system at Mogadishu Municipality, how to be adopted and implemented the digitization of public services and the challenges surrounding to the process. The discussion is also expected to address the challenges and barriers that residents and Mogadishu Municipality encounter on the process of effective and efficient service delivery in the face of continued insecurity and political instability weights particular to Mogadishu.

At end of the meeting, Bareedo Platform will produce a detailed report covering entire discussion and hope that this will add weight on ongoing efforts to encourage government to digitize its services.

In the occasion of commemoration of International Day for Universal Access to Information, Bareedo Platform commends the Puntland Parliament’s positive move toward adopting and practicing openness of information to the public, the first move ever in Somalia. Puntland parliament is one the three legal structures of Puntland government founded in August 8, 1998 as an autonomous state government after collapse of Somalia’s central government in 1991. Puntland parliament practiced a culture of limited openness to the public and less engagement of citizens in the parliamentary work to improve access to information, accountability and transparency. 

Puntland citizens were hard to find or know what their representatives do, the media coverage of the opening session in the first day of parliament’s scheduled sessions has been the only information that public could heard. In an online poll conducted by Bareedo Platform in 2019 indicates that 89% of the citizens unaware of and not familiar with the parliament’s work, sessions and proceedings. And 81.5% of respondents said they are curious to know information and work of the parliament to ensure that they are fulfilling the mandated work and not pursuing their own interests.

Bareedo Platform advocated openness of the parliamentary information and engagement of citizens in the parliamentary work to improve parliamentary accountability and transparency in Puntland as well as citizens’ right to know to ensure that their representatives are working for their benefit and not pursuing their own interests.

In November 14, 2021, H.E. Abdirashid Yusuf Jibril, a member of the parliament and former Presidency’s Information and Communications Director is elected as the new Speaker of the Parliament. Mr. Jibril who had understanding of this matter quickly moved to establish a communication office for the parliament first time and appointed Abdiweli Hassan Abdi “Gooni” , a well-known journalist and long-time media practitioner as the director of the new office.

Mr. Abdi quickly proceeded to lying foundations of the Parliament’s Communication Office and created a website where all parliament work, information and legal documents are openly available to public as well as created social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where parliament information and updates are constantly published. From 2020, the parliament’s work, information, meetings and reports become available to the public first time ever in Puntland and generally Somalia. And public began to follow, discuss and comment on parliament’s discussions, proceedings and reports first time ever though they are hardly engaged.

“I have started the office from scratch and with no single support available for such activities. I have put priority on establishment of the parliament’s public information channels such as social media pages, a website as well as recruitment and training of a competent team to work with me in delivering of the office’s mandate” the Parliament’s Director of Communications Mr. Abdiweli Abdi said. 

“Before this office, people couldn’t know what their representatives are doing or what is going in the parliament, but now I’m proud of that Puntland people and generally Somali people are fully aware of and follow the parliament’s daily work more than ever.” Mr. Abdi added

“I’m now fully aware of the parliament’s sessions, live discussions and schedules, something limited before now. I feel happy for seeing parliament’s work on daily basis while their sessions are ongoing…” a member of Puntland Diaspora Mr. Ahmed Jama said.

“Since 1998, the parliament has been endorsing countless legal documents and policies and has been hard to find single copy of these documents, but now I can download these documents from the parliament’s website easily..” A lawyer and social rights activist Mr. Sharmake Nur said.   

This is an impressive and positive move forward in the face of the looming access to information situation in Somalia, but there is still more need to be done and looking forward to adoption of access to information laws to fully absorb the people’s right to know and access the information without barrier. Bareedo Platform also calls for other states and the federal parliament in Somalia to follow suit.

The Ministry of Education and Higher Education of Federal Government of Somalia concluded the national secondary exams for the school year of 2020-2021 without shutting down social media platforms to prevent exam cheating.

This is a remarkable change after in response of exam papers leaked on social media platforms in 2019, ministry ordered shut down of social media for five days as a measure to curb the incidence from recurring. This move greatly affected the flow of information as social media is a key source for latest news and information and also journalists depend on it for research, interaction and news distribution.

This was not the first time in Somalia but similar measures were put in a place in Somaliland, a self-declared independent region in Somalia.

As result of the efforts and campaigns made by Bareedo Platform to end the practice, the country’s national secondary exams were concluded in June 2, 2021 without disruption of social media communications to discourage cheating any more.

This is a remarkable progress and perseverance of flow of information and hoping that the practice remain sustained over the coming years as promised by the ministry.

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