The Nabadhon System of Truth and Reconciliation Process for Somalia

A conversation recently asked? After 30 years of civil war we moved to democratic system of secular governance but we are yet in Somalia to come to terms with the civil war. Many said we need a Truth and Reconciliation Plan outreach all across Somalia. Thanks to my uncle being a tribal leader I got to sit in on many tribal meetings in the 90s all the way to today even here in America. There exists a class of people within each tribe, clan, sub clan and sub sub clan called Nabadhon’s. It means peace makers. When ever there is conflict within the tribes they act as counselors for reason and make decisions on amendments or resolutions.

The first time I saw one of these Nabadhon. Was when one of my tribesman killed another tribesman from a different clan. He brought the culprit into the meeting of the tribes in my fathers house which hosted the meeting. He had the culprit bound and tied up. He asked the room. According to our tradition and religion. A Life pays for a Life. Do you want to take this mans life it is yours to take. The other tribesman Nabadhon came over and unbound the man. He said we want blood money in exchange for the life taken. I was astonished. Growing up all I knew is matters of Murders were dealt with the legal system. Involves Police, courts and Jail systems. The murder happened in a refugee camp Utange our house was in Mombasa, Kenya. I asked my father what does this mean. This man should be arrested and charged for Murder. He told me this system is older than democracy or secular laws. It is the ways of the tribes much more ancient going back millenia’s.

Our tribal Nabadhon or peace maker pulled out a book that looked like an encyclopedia. He had all the details of previous mishaps between our two tribes. He went down the list as to what was acceptable compensation for the life lost. The other tribes Nabadhon contested the amount specified. Citing importance of the man killed, level of education and being the sole income earner among a large family of dependent’s. This went back and forth for a whole afternoon. Each citing compensations from previous killings among our two tribes. Finally they came upon an amount. This was specified in cattle, camels precisely. For the murder of one individual our tribe was charged 100 camels or equivalent worth to be paid within 10 days from the verdict.

Then came the second shock to me. My father was tasked to pay for two camels worth, and every member of our tribe was assigned a monetary cost. All this was raised in the meeting to end with a feast and reconciliation of the tribal brother hood affected by the murder.

There exists within the Somali tribal system a format to address the past 30 years of civil war. No tribe is clean in that they have not been aggressors. Lands, Houses and even businesses got looted some still held today by the looters. Truth and reconciliation is needed to heal a nation of this wounds. If we do not confront the past and put it behind us all we are bound to repeat it. A healing process where all grievances are aired is needed and compensations made to rectify the injury and hurt caused from our internecine tribal civil war past.

South Africa and Northern Ireland got the best outcome out of Truth and Reconciliation process. In Rwanda they chose to use Gacaca system. With goals to end the impunity that transpired, bring about a return to law and order. A system that is uniquely African. The Nabadhon system is just exactly that, uniquely African and Islamic which fits the Somali people well. What Somalia needs is a revamped political authority to give all the Nabadhon’s to go about in locals reconciling the tribes. Air grievances and find tribal solutions to them. Chaired by our Sultans or Ugas or Bokors. To go around the entire country and resolve the impunity that has not yet been addressed. No politicians needed just the people to do so. Many things failed in Somalia but our Sultans or Bokors or Ugas are the most respected of all entities in existence in Somalia. The results of these meetings to be done across the breadth of the country to be legally enforced by law. We Somalis are a very tribal people. We are also conservative muslims. It only makes sense to use their existing mechanisms to bring about a lasting peace.

At Average Mohamed Organization we learned. What is foreign not our own as Muslims or tribal people will get rejected. Why we are effective as spokes people against extremist because we use our culture and religion to make our case not orientalist views that have so far failed miserably. We understand we live in a multicutural world where one size does not fit all.

The Nabadhon’s system should be our form of Truth and reconciliation process for Somalia. Only by clear eyed dealing with the past can we hope to create a future of secular democratic governance where the tribes are at peace with each other. Any one got a better idea? like I said this is our conversations, we believe it takes an idea to defeat an idea. Our role is to educate with new ideas or old ideas but the goals is simple. Peace, Secular Democracy and prosperity against all enemies of our people be they extremists or bad tribal actors. Let’s use what already exists to be effective. It pays to know the ways of the tribal people. Tribal ways are more ancient than 600 years of Democracy or even modern living understanding. The Nabadhon system needs to be incorporated into Somalia democracy to achieve true truth and reconciliation process.