Thursday, March 5, 2015

Land Conflicts in Southern and Central Somalia

The Rift Valley Institute published in 2015 a study titled "Hosts and Guests: A Historical Interpretation of Land Conflicts in Southern and Central Somalia" by Lee Cassanelli, University of Pennsylvania.

Cassanelli explains that many of the land conflicts are rooted in long histories of competition over land and water between neighboring communities, or in struggles between local landholders and a predatory state.  International actors attempting to address land conflicts tend to invoke universally acknowledged rights of restitution of property seized unlawfully from individuals and groups.  Circumstances in Somalia, however, make it extremely difficult to apply international norms in the allocation of rights and protection to those who have been forcibly deprived of their homes and properties.

He concludes that by drawing on indigenous and historically-grounded patterns of resource sharing by "hosts" and "guests", it may be possible gradually to reinvigorate the notion--rooted in local and Islamic tradition--that land and resources are gifts from God to all Somalis, and in doing so diminish a reliance on clan exclusivity as the primary principle for defining rights to territory.

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