The word Somali may come to you in an ugly and negative way- the piracy, the terrorists, to mention but a few. But little is always true about this! On the contrary, there is a place in the world where this name is associated with hope and success. However, one may question where in the world this place is. No wonder, Somaliland is a country known by few which lies in the Horn of Africa. It is a country that has maintained peace and set remarkable records in terms of good governance and democracy over the past twenty-five years.
Somaliland is a self-declared state internationally recognized as an autonomous region of Somalia. It is a former British Protectorate, achieved its independence in 1960 and then united with the former Italian colony of Somalia, to create Greater Somalia- a union that lasted for forty years!
Unhappy with their ‘marriage’, and frustrated 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.
Somaliland has not been affected by much of the chaos and hostility that prevail in Somalia. Though not internationally recognized as a sovereign state, Somaliland has a working political system, government institutions, a police force and its own currency.
Shedding a light on Somaliland’s challenges
Although there is a flourishing private business sector, poverty is still widespread and youth unemployment is exceptionally high. The lack of international recognition has inevitably 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 economy is highly dependent on livestock exports. Remittances from the Somali Diaspora and customs duties from the port of Berbera that is used by landlocked Ethiopia are significant sources of revenue.
Despite the above challenges, Somaliland is still soldiering on! Somaliland people showed resilience in the most testing circumstances.
Somaliland has demonstrated success signals in state building with the meager resources, but crafting public institutions is a huge challenge. The formal justice system, like most sectors in Somaliland, is shaped by the legacy of dictatorial Siad Barre regime which muffled the development of laws, abridged the ability of the judiciary to function independently and eroded the public confidence in the justice system.
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. Hard struggle was the establishing the rule of law in the country. The successive governments in Somaliland have paid every price to restore the fair justice system. But much triumph has not yet been realized on this regard.
Horizon Institute- an Oasis of Somaliland’s Justice Sector
Now there are indications that many of the difficulties can be defeated, with right alignment of domestic political will, investment and targeted international support. Nevertheless, Somaliland has got a hopeful face; Horizon Institute is one of the few organizations that have lit the candle light for the justice sector.
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 currently implementing a two-year Somaliland Justice Sector Project (SJSP), funded by DFID.
Additionally the core focus of the institute is to promote access to justice for all Somalilanders. More importantly the project supports Somaliland’s formal justice institutions – the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney General’s Office, the Law Reform Commission, the High Judicial Council, the National Human Rights Commission, the Lawyers and Licensing Committee and independent associations of lawyers providing pro bono legal assistance – to provide a fair, efficient and effective justice system. Horizon Institute works closely with these institutions to build capacity, improve self-sufficiency and stimulate justice sector reform in accordance with international human rights standards.
On the other hand, Horizon Institute is building the capacity and strengthening of judiciary institutions through reforming their operational frameworks, elaborating their policies and procedures, and conducting targeted capacity building training at every level.
Horizon Institute has thus far enjoyed buoyant and promising relationships with almost all the justice stakeholders in Somaliland. Horizon Institute is slowly turning to become a bridge between the public and the justice sector.
The Attorney General’s Office (AGO), being an important institution in the Somaliland justice framework, Horizon Institute has developed a nurturing and close relationship with them and provided a number of trainings on case management and analysis, juvenile justice and Gender Based Violence (GBV). The Institute 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 has left no stone unturned in supporting the establishment of Somaliland’s Bar Association; an association the country lacks for many years. The realization of the setting up of the Bar Association is work at hand. Horizon Institute has so far organized meetings with Somaliland Lawyers Association (SOLLA), Somaliland Women Lawyers Association (SWLA) and independent lawyers on how to turn this fruitful dream into reality. Once the Bar Association in place, 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 such a dire situation, Horizon Institute became a forerunner to bring together all legal aid providers in Somaliland on taking a partnership approach to legal aid in order to meet the front-line justice needs of the vast majority of Somalilanders.
In conclusion, Horizon Institute is committed to addressing the challenges faced by the Somaliland justice sector including building the capacity of justice institutions, strengthening local ownership of investments and improving the self-sufficiency of institutions. Hopefully there will be a light at the end of the tunnel while achieving the project aims successfully in minimal time.