Pathways and Institutions forResolving Land Disputes in MogadishuThe Expanding Access to Justice Program in Somalia (EAJ)January 2020
Pact is the promise of a better tomorrow for communities challenged by poverty and marginalization. Weserve these communities because we envision a world where everyone owns their future. To do this, webuild systemic solutions in partnership with local organizations, businesses, and governments that createsustainable and resilient communities where those we serve are heard, capable, and vibrant. On theground in nearly 40 countries, Pact’s integrated adaptive approach is shaping the future of internationaldevelopment. Visit us at www.pactworld.org.January 2020Disclaimer:This report was developed with support from the American People though the United States Agency forInternational Development (USAID) under the Human Rights Support Mechanism (HRSM). HRSM is aUSAID funded, five-year leader with associates cooperative agreement implemented by the FreedomHouse-led “Protecting Global Rights through Sustainable Solutions” Consortium (PROGRESS). Thecontents are the responsibility of Pact and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the UnitedStates Government.Recommended citation:Expanding Access to Justice Program. 2020. Pathways and Institutions for Resolving Land Disputes inMogadishu. Nairobi, Kenya: Pact and the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative.Contact:Anton PestanaEAJ Chief of PartyPact KenyaNairobi, Kenya nts:EAJ wishes to express gratitude to the author of this report, Joakim Gundel, as well as to Yahya Ibrahimfor research inputs; Tanja Chopra for revising the document; Anton Pestana, Mason Ingram, and LouisAlexandre Berg for their reviews; and Rachel Elrom for editing and formatting this report.
ContentsAbbreviations and Acronyms . iKey Terms and Translations .iiExecutive Summary . iii1. Introduction . 11.1. Study Background and Purpose. 11.2. Study Methodology . 21.2.1. Geographic Scope . 21.2.2. Qualitative Methods Used . 21.2.3. Limitations. 32. History of Land Disputes in Mogadishu . 42.1. Italian Colonization . 42.1. The First Civil War . 42.2. Post-War Rivalries and the Islamic Courts Union . 62.3. Present Day . 72.4. Key Types of Land Disputes in Present-Day Somalia . 83. Available Justice Institutions for Land Disputes. 113.1. Primary Institution Types . 113.1.1. The Xeer . 113.1.2. The Shariah Courts . 143.1.3. The Formal Courts . 143.2. Alternative Institutions .153.2.1. Community Mobilization .153.2.2. Media .153.2.3. Alternative Dispute Resolutions. 163.2.4. Al-Shabaab Courts.174. Pathways for Land Dispute Resolutions . 194.1. The Case Study’s Chosen Pathways . 194.2. Reasons for Choosing the Pathways . 224.2.1. Expectations for Justice . 224.2.2. Costs and Corruption . 224.2.3. Status and Clan Alliances . 224.2.4. Access to Legal Documents . 234.3. Differences between Urban, Peri-Urban, and Rural Areas. 234.3.1. Resolving Disputes in Urban and Peri-Urban Areas . 244.3.2. Resolving Disputes in Rural Areas . 245. Vulnerable Groups and Land Disputes . 255.1. Women . 255.2. Internally Displaced Persons . 275.3. Bantus . 285.4. Benadiri. 295.5. Diaspora Members . 306. Conclusions and Recommendations . 31Works Cited . 32
Pathways and Institutions for Resolving Land Disputes in MogadishuAbbreviations and N/An.d.NGORVISWDCTFGTNGUNDPUSCUSDalternative dispute resolutionAlternative Dispute Resolution CenterAlternative Dispute Resolution UnitAfrican Union Mission in SomaliaExpanding Access to Justice programFederal Government of SomaliaHeritage Institute for Policy StudiesIslamic Courts Unioninternally displaced personkilometersMother Child Healthcare ClinicMinistry of Justicenot applicableno date givennon-governmental organizationRift Valley InstituteSomali Women’s Development CenterTransitional Federal Government of SomaliaTransitional National Government of SomaliaUnited Nations Development ProgrammeUnited Somali CongressUnited States dollarsThe Expanding Access to Justice Program in Somalia (EAJ)i
Pathways and Institutions for Resolving Land Disputes in MogadishuKey Terms and TranslationsabbaanHost or protector.daminyaaleLand for permanent development.deegaanHome territory, environment, locality, stronghold, or turf. Where those who share acommon clan affiliation can claim ultimate authority over the land and its naturalresources. 1 Similar the Western concept of land tenure, but more closely aligned toidentity.dhul-boobLand grabbing.duqAlso known as koofi. A head of families, or qabiil.galtiNewcomers or outsiders. Used to refer to invading clans during the 1991–1992 civil war.gatekeepersAlso called “black cats.” Individuals, usually from the dominant local clan, that control,represent, and provide security for internally displaced person (IDP) camps and othertypes of informal settlements. 2guriIndigenous inhabitants.ku dhaqmayWhere a person lives or has citizenship. A kind of universal Somali citizenship.ku dhashayBorn in a region, thus having rights because of place of birth.munishibaaleLand for temporary use.sheegadClients. A designation given to outsiders, giving them certain rights and obligationsand thus embedded them in the local xeer of the host clan.u dhashayBlood rights. Born to a deegaan through kinship.xeerCustomary justice, or “a complex set of norms and rules that govern inter and intraclan relationships.” 3Cassanelli, 2015, p. 11.RVI and HIPS, 2017, p. 79; Bryld, et al., 2013, p. 34.3 RVI and HIPS, 2017, p. 63.12The Expanding Access to Justice Program in Somalia (EAJ)ii
Pathways and Institutions for Resolving Land Disputes in MogadishuExecutive SummaryOne of the thematic areas selected as a result of the inception phase analysis of the United States Agencyfor International Development (USAID)-funded Expanding Access to Justice Program in Somalia (EAJ)was a focus on land disputes and grievances in Mogadishu. Disputes often start with the aggrievedparties addressing the elders in traditional institutions and may even end at the Supreme Court.However, at the same time, in the urban environment, elders often lack the mandate and power toresolve these issues and the judiciary plays a very small role in actually solving land disputes. Even wherejudgments are delivered, the police have shown little capacity to enforce them.In order to inform its planned interventions with granular understanding of the origin and types of landconflicts and of the justice pathways aggrieved parties take, EAJ carried out research on access to landrights in Mogadishu. Key research questions concerned the historical background of Mogadishu and howhistorical population movements explain the depth and nature of some types of contemporary landgrievances. In view of the present day land disputes, the research questions focused on the type of justiceinstitutions available to justice seekers, the justice pathways people or groups of people take in order toseek solutions to their grievance, and what constituted vulnerability in the context of land disputes. EAJaimed to understand the “user perspective” and elaborate on how people navigate different justiceinstitutions and authorities and on the basis of what type of advice, information, or contextual factorsusers take their decisions to address a particular institution or authority. Such perspective promises amore comprehensive view of justice sector challenges, rather than only focusing on the performance of aselected justice system. The scope of findings follow and demonstrate how access to justice is a feature ofpower controlled by economic, social, and political networks.Sources and Context of Land DisputesLand dispossession in Somalia occurred in multiple forms at different levels. Urban land was violentlyseized, especially in Mogadishu during the wars of 1990–1992. The capital was “clan-cleansed” of Daroodduring this period. With subsequent conflicts and more recently with economic development, urban realestate has dramatically increased in value. However, the history of land seizures and the numerous casesin which land has been inherited, divided, leased, or sold without a sovereign authority to authenticatethe transactions have led to an extraordinarily complex problem of contested land ownership in thecities.In terms of the major sources of land disputes, land grabbing (dhul-boob) by powerful groups andindividuals remains rampant and constitutes the most significant source of conflict. Land grabbing ofteninvolves government officials acting in collaboration with private interests, and the main victims are thepoor, minorities, or other vulnerable groups who are powerless and cannot defend themselves.Overlapping with the land grab issues are land disputes relating to Somali diaspora. Returning fromoverseas, diaspora members either try to claim back their land that they lost during the civil war, or toobtain land using the wealth from abroad. The claimants are mostly from the Darood sub-clans, and theirattempts to reclaim land causes a variety of land grievances since the land has often been occupied byothers in their absence, in many cases by internally displaced persons (IDPs), but also by the mainlyHaber Gedir clans who took over after the civil war.The issuance of multiple and fake title deeds since the civil war has fueled multiple claims to the sameland. Without a clear land registry this is a cause of complex land disputes. Many land disputes inMogadishu could be solved by establishing a well-functioning land registry. However, the land registryissue is linked to a more general lack of interest in making justice work because “political disorder”enables illegal land grabbing. While a diaspora Somali in Sweden tries to maintain the old land registry,he prefers not to hand it over to the government because he is afraid it will be manipulated andcorrupted.Arbitrary and illegal sale of public property, in favor of private government officials interests and/orprivate businesses or individuals who bribe governmental officials, has been increasing and is a majorproblem as is illustrated by the media cases found in this study. Government handing over land toThe Expanding Access to Justice Program in Somalia (EAJ)iii
Pathways and Institutions for Resolving Land Disputes in Mogadishuindividuals for personal interest without consultation or prior information to owners, leads to forcedeviction of IDPs and returnees from land on which they have settled.Inheritance disputes can be complicated due to the complex Somali family structures and the tradition ofcollective family ownership or use of land rather than individual. The status of women regardinginheritance, which differs significantly in the different legal normative orders, does not promote women’saccess to land and, therefore, economic resources. In addition, the diaspora’s claims to propertyinheritance can be very complicated because of historical perspectives. These claims pit customary landrights, registered land titles, and forceful takeovers against each other.Disputes also arise from informal and unplanned land occupation in Mogadishu due to overlapping anduncoordinated land administration systems. This includes the grabbing of farming and grazing lands inrural and peri-urban areas without demarcations, although such areas are quickly disappearing as urbanMogadishu spreads.Pathways to JusticeThe pathways of justice in land rights cases vary based on the type of case and the social, economic, andpolitical positions of those aggrieved and their opponents. The general image is of a mosaic of paths,which in most cases appear to disadvantage the weaker parties. The common order of chosen pathsbegins with the confrontation between the individuals or families, then the involvement of clan elders. Ifnecessary, the case is taken to the formal courts, then often to Al-Shabaab courts as a last resort. Manycases de facto receive a temporary resolution as case pathways do not continue due to the use or threat ofillegal force. But, even where solutions are identified or judgments rendered, the police rarely enforcedecisions. There have been a few successful cases where the local community has been mobilized. Noneof the justice users interviewed mentioned alternative dispute resolutions (ADRs) as an option, except forthe three selected ADR users, which may indicate that very few know about this possibility.People choose customary dispute resolution handled by the elders because it is cheaper, and generallythe court system is avoided because it is considered time consuming and corrupt. However, in the urbanenvironment, elders often lack the resources and power to resolve urban land disputes and xeer is notwell adapted to the urban social structure, thus rendering it unable to help solve urban types of disputes.Interview data showed that the judiciary is often not able to solve land disputes satisfactorily, and whenverdicts are granted, the police has little capacity (or will) to enforce them. Political, clan, and spoilerinterests often block the justice system from functioning, reflected in the widespread corruption in thesystem. Weak government and judicial institutions allow for strong clans, private individuals, andcompanies to dominate land grabbing efforts in Mogadishu and the larger Benadir Region.In the rural and peri-rural areas, government officials get away with illegally allocating land arbitrarily toprivate companies and for personal interests because grazing lands are not clearly demarcated norregistered. The expansion of urban Mogadishu puts the rural inhabitants in vulnerable positions becausethey have no formal ownership over their land. This especially affects Bantus and other minority groups.Access to justice and positive outcomes seem to depend on the applicant’s or defendant’s wealth,connections, and social standing, in other words, money, power, influence, and clan. The main obstaclesagainst winning cases mentioned in the interviews was the degree of vulnerability of the justice user, thedegree of corruption, nepotism, and lack of enforcement. This confirms the widespread experience ofcorruption in the court system, which, together with weak structures for verifying claims, endemicnepotism, clan dominance, and family relations, render the justice system nearly inaccessible for theaverage Somali citizen. This is even more true for vulnerable minorities because they lack essential socialpower and are often forced to pay larger bribes and fees than other groups.For many land cases, having legal documents and/or the money to buy copies from the privately ownedarchive is vital for the outcome. Without title deeds, many resort to the elders, where the best achievableoutcome in the urban context mostly is a compromise. Elders appear powerless in cases where the losingparty has the force to refuse their verdict.The Expanding Access to Justice Program in Somalia (EAJ)iv
Pathways and Institutions for Resolving Land Disputes in MogadishuChallenges for Vulnerable GroupsAccess to justice remains especially challenging for members of vulnerable groups. The primary obstaclefor women’s access to justice is the dominant patriarchal culture, religion, and male-dominated politicalstructures in Somalia. Most women cannot access justice without a male to represent them, there are nolaws that specifically protect women’s rights in land ownership, and women are expected to pay higherfees and bribes than non-vulnerable groups. These problems are aggravated by the comparable povertyof women to men because the former traditionally are not allowed to oversee their own financialsituation. However, women from powerful and armed clans may be quite strong in land disputes,especially successful businesswomen or wives of influential politicians, who may often even be theinstig
land. Without a clear land registry this is a cause of complex land disputes. Many land disputes in Mogadishu could be solved by establishing a well-functioning land registry. However, the land registry issue is linked to a more general lack of interest in making justice work because “political disorder” enables illegal land grabbing.
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