Book: The Strategy of Isolation in Somalia Has Failed

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March 19, 2012

Isolating designated terrorist groups like al-Shabaab has had a counterproductive effect on reducing violent extremism and building lasting stability in Somalia, says a January 2012 book. Produced jointly by the University of Uppsala's Life and Peace Institute in Kenya and the University of Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Somalia: Creating Space for Fresh Approaches to Peacebuilding calls for reforming the U.S. law against "material support” to designated groups and recommends that the international community “demilitarize its policy toward Somalia in favor of civilian led diplomacy, development, and peacebuilding initiatives.”

“The black-listing of al-Shaabab prevents one of the main stakeholders to participate in the mainstream political process and discourages interest in dialogue from all sides. This means that state and non-state actors are self-censoring themselves, in fear of the consequences that engagement with a proscribed organization might generate. There is a scarcity of alternative perspectives among policy makers that could encourage the design of an inclusive peace process in Somalia,” the book says.
The authors say the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project, which upheld the ban on “material support” to designated groups, even when the support is intended for humanitarian assistance or peacebuilding, has been significant:
“First, it constrains the scope for peacebuilding among the direct parties in conflict. Once they are isolated as a result of the criminal enforcement, powerful groups are left with no other option than to resort to violence, as non-violent, creative possibilities for peace are excluded. Second, this juridical decision perniciously impacts the peacebuilding agencies as a whole. Even in nonviolent advocacy of the listed organizations, NGOs can be charged with a crime punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.”