The Berbera conflict, 1992
In March 1992 a major clan war erupted between two neighbouring clan groups of the same clan family in Berbera (the conflict mentioned by Noreen Michael Mariano, above). The conflict was further complicated by the involvement of the recently established national army, composed of ex-combatants but which the majority of the population saw as being a clan army by another name. Zeynab Mohamed Hassan described how women reacted to this new conflict:
Women did everything we could to stop the bloodletting that dragged on for a considerable time. To begin with we addressed demands to the government, asking for it to use all means at its disposal to bring an end to the war. This effort came to nothing. Finally we wrote a declaration to the National Council of Elders and the government, copying it to the press and both sides of the warring factions, basically saying that:
• the clan war in Berbera must be immediately brought to an end
• there should not be international military intervention9
• there needed to be a clean water supply established
• there needed to be a police force established.
On 5 October 1992 hundreds of women with banners and slogans marched to the presidency and parliament building urging men to stop the war and solve the disputes peacefully. At the end of the demonstration the women presented their declaration to the National Council of Elders. The demonstrators stood outside the presidency while inside the declaration was read out on behalf of all women by Noreen Michael Mariano, Shukri Hariir Ismail and Anab Omer Leye. Those of us presenting the declaration refused to leave the building until a peace process had been agreed and signed. By 2.30pm a tripartite (government representatives and the two warring sub-clan representatives) reconciliation committee had been formed with the task of coming up with a final peace proposal. We left the building.
There were no women members of this committee, as traditionally formal mediation between two warring parties is a male affair. So the women’s organisations sent two of us – Shukri Hariir Ismail and Noreen Michael Mariano – to represent women’s views.
The committee was being slow to act and women could not stand this foot-dragging attitude; in response we organised a major peace demonstration demanding that the reconciliation activities be effected immediately. We gave the committee an ultimatum that if agreement on the date and place of the reconciliation meeting was not reached that same day, the demonstrators would force the doors of the meeting hall open and pelt the members with stones. The threat worked: the agreement was signed and the council of elders started preparations for the reconciliation meeting.