Challenges and opportunities of nation building in Somalia

Forum Africa Program Director Shawn Houlihan (right) shared perspectives with Somalis at a conference in Ottawa on nation-building.

On May 22, 2008, the Forum’s Director for Africa, Shawn Houlihan, spoke at a conference in Ottawa on "Challenges and Opportunities of Nation Building in Somalia.” Mr. Houlihan’s remarks focused on the possible relevance of federalism to re-building a state and nation in Somalia and how Somalia’s changes were both similar and different from other deeply conflict-prone countries where the Forum has worked. For example, unlike other African countries turning to federal options, such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Congo, Somalia is linguistically, ethnically and religiously homogeneous.

During a question period following his address, Mr. Houlihan also discussed the very serious challenges of establishing new structures from scratch in societies where both administrative and political capacities are very low.

He noted also that there were useful lessons to learn, perhaps most notably from the current experience in Southern Sudan. The conference, organized by Canadian Friends of Somalia, took place at the Canadian Parliament; other speakers included Hon. Ali Jangeli, Somali Foreign Minister and HE Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, UN special envoy to Somalia.

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