No More 'Grass Grown by the Spear': Addressing Land-based Conflicts in Somaliland
Land ownership and access to land are the most frequent source of violent conflicts in contemporary Somaliland, especially in pastoral and agro-pastoral communities, which form the backbone of Somaliland’s domestic economy. The collapse of Somalia’s central government in 1991 had led to the breakdown of institutional and social structures. Returnees who had been displaced during the civil war find their homes occupied by others who lost their homes in the war or who migrated to the area. The privatisation of previously state-owned properties is another bone of contention. The complete absence or falsification of ownership documentation regularly results in overlapping ownership claims. Especially in urban areas, land is sold illegally, while the original owners have difficulties to prove their case. The focus of this report is on the rural areas of Somaliland, which experienced considerable socio-economic transformation since 1991. Changing modes of production undermined traditional land management patterns. Land grabbing and sedentarization tendencies, spread throughout the country, have effectively undermined traditional common land user rights and deprived large numbers of nomads of urgently needed resources. The dramatic increase of enclosures was aggravated by the lack of formal state authority able to implement the existing legislation. Returnees who had lost their livestock during the civil war also try to generate new livelihoods out of common grazing land. As a result of land grabbing, the remaining open range land is under increased livestock pressure, leading to overgrazing, environmental degradation and competition over shrinking resources.