- Title: [SW News]( Arlaadinet) Land Ownership Key to Somali
- Posted by/on:[AMJ][Thursday, January 4, 2001]
KEY TO SOMALIA SOLUTION
Arlaadinet (3 Jan 2001) - The control
of economic resources is one of key factors caused Somalia political
meltdown, specially the land ownership. The quest for a peaceful
Somalia, one must look into remaining occupied/disputed regions and
their economic values in order to remedy insecurity and establish law
The land ownership and control of its
harvest is the lifeline for many militias. The strategic importance of
fertile riverineland is manifested in the ongoing insecurity in the
area. Overall Somalia is relatively peaceful except Mogadishu
and occupied land in Lower Shabelle and Kismayu. While Mogadishu deals
with private properties and economic gateways (airport & seaport),
the insecurity in the remaining area are directly related to the issue
of land ownership.
Land ownership issues and problems of
access to natural resources have been aggravated by changes that began
with colonization. Somalia’s ability to feed itself has declined
over the past four decades. In some cases this has been due to changes
in traditional access to land for pasture or agricultural production.
Agricultural land has traditionally
been allocated to households by village elders. This land is passed
from one generation to the next, and could be rented or sold. Land
ownership patterns and practices have changed dramatically since the
1970s. Much of this results from western ideas involving private
ownership of land, and its monetary value.
The fertile land of Digil and Mirifle
(D&M) was confiscated and divided among the ruling clan members
during Siad Barre regime. To justify this wicked plan, the so-called
Land Ownership Law, (No. 23) was passed on 21st October 1975 decreeing
that land title had to be acquired from the State (which
"owned" all the land), in order to claim usufruct rights.
This piece of law was primarily intended to systematically extort land
from D&M. At the same time, riverine farmland which had been held
by D&M and Bantu farming communities for over a century
became extremely valuable, as a result of major irrigation projects
and a revival of the banana export business in the 1980’s.
This led to an epidemic of
‘land-grabbing’ by civil servants and other well-connected
individuals who were able to register large tracts in their names,
even though the land had been historically farmed by villages. Few
smallholders could afford to register their land, and even if they
could afford the trips to Mogadishu, and the necessary bribes, they
often discovered that more powerful individuals could gain title to
the same land, and then pay the police to back up their claims. At the
same time, the state was expropriating large areas of prime riverine
land from D&M farming communities, so as to establish
internationally financed state farms.
In the process, many D&M
smallholders went from being subsistence farmers to becoming landless,
semi-landless sharecroppers, or rural wage laborers. In some cases,
pastoral lands were enclosed, and access restricted which led to new
confrontations between nomadic pastoralists and newly settled farmers.
The civil war accelerated this
struggle for land. Semi-automatic weapons replaced title deeds as the
method of expropriating land from weaker groups. Until recently, the
militias involved do not actually take up farming, however they lay
claim to the harvests. In some farming areas, smallholders are coerced
into sharecropping by militia overlords, who take up to 50% of the
harvest. They can also be forced to work for powerful landowners.
During Somali peace process in Arta
it was claimed to have ended all clan differences without any real
commitment as to the future the occupied territories of D&M. The
issue of the occupied land was left for the interim government to
resolve it. Whether the interim government can or willing to fulfill
such delicate issue one has to see the facts on the ground.
The occupation of Lower Shabelle
farmland are the most serious one. All the commercial activities,
employment and NGO's whether local or international are controlled by
militia groups, while the locals are forcefully displaced and work as
labourer on the farms they used to own, they are also forced to pay
taxes on what ever they possess.
There is grave concern about the
speed of new wave of settlement that is taking place since the
announcement of A/qasim Hassan as an interim president. The occupying
militia are paving the way and facilitating the settlement process for
their families and clan members from middle regions of Somalia. While
so-called religious groups have shown solidarity and had participated
militarily in the name of Islamic Courts. The interim government was
also alleged of its intention of recognizing the existing militia
based administration in the area.
The international communities are
encouraged to exercise extreme caution before they approve any funding
to the interim government or local NGOs operating in occupied land to
ensure that the basic human rights for indigenous and local
communities are protected.