On November 18, 2021, PJI co-Director Kathleen Roberts participated in person in the Somalia Learning and Research Day in Nairobi, Kenya, providing expert comment at a panel presentation of research and recommendations made under the auspices of the Somalia Stability Fund through an internal publication entitled Assessing the Scope and Parameters of Transitional Justice in Somalia.

Dr. Roberts’s presentation made the case for a re-centering of the victims in the proposed transitional justice steps, recalling the rights of victims of international crimes under international law and foregrounding the purposes of transitional justice not only or even primarily to promote peace but also to provide the victims with access to justice, truth, reparation, and guarantees of non-repetition.

Despite political progress and the establishment of state institutions, Somalia (apart from Somaliland) continues to suffer protracted armed conflict. Since the fall of the Siad Barre government in 1991, the country has been beset by armed conflict waged by a multiplicity of armed groups. Efforts to forge national reconciliation, often through internationally backed conferences, have proved mostly fruitless.

In response to this challenge and following public consultations, the Somali government established a National Reconciliation Framework in 2019, setting out five pillars of work to advance the objective of peace. The second pillar addressed acknowledging and dealing with the past, but it was laid out at a high, abstract level. No mechanism for its implementation has yet materialized. While the 2012 Provisional Constitution provides for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, this is also yet to be established.

To address this gap, Gist Research Ltd and Raagsan conducted research for the Somalia Stability Fund (SSF) through a team led by anthropologist Dr. Markus Hoehne. The project comprised a combination of desk-based and field research and reflected on the concept and objectives of transitional justice; what has been done to date in Somalia; the backdrop of violence that it will need to address; the attitudes and needs of Somalis towards addressing past violence; and what the scope, parameters, contradictions and limitations may be, as well as the policy setting in which it must operate. The research finally draws on some experiences of other countries that have undertaken transitional justice initiatives and proposes some initial steps forward that international agencies, the Federal Government of Somalia, and concerned Somali actors could take to move the issue forward.

This was not PJI’s first engagement with this research. On Monday October 4, 2021, PJI participated remotely in a closed seminar convened to strengthen the work as the research team entered final stages preparing their findings and draft report. Dr. Roberts participated as a discussant based on her years of work on Somali transitional justice and accountability issues. Although the seminar was attended by several INGOs and Somali scholars and activists, the PJI legal team members were the only international justice practitioners invited to participate either in the remote session or in the in-person Somalia Learning and Research Day.