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The House of Elders: Where Modernity Meets Tradition

The pre-colonial political systems of most African countries were constituted by absolute, centralized, unified governments similar to those of their counterparts in the kingdoms and empires of Europe. Unlike other African countries, the Somali political system had no central authoritative power. The informal organization of traditional leadership—known in Somali as the ‘Guurti’—was the only body that had legitimate authority to resolve conflicts, maintain peace, declare war, collect resources, and adjudicate between the people. Following the civil war in Somalia, the Somali National Movement (SNM) incorporated the Guurti into the formal organizational structure of the political system. The Guurti played a vital role in resolving inter-clan conflicts in the post-Siyad Barre regime.

Mohamed Farah Hersi

Academy for Peace and Development

Mohamed Farah Hersi is an lawyer and human rights researcher. He holds an LL.B (Bachelor of Laws) from the University of Hargeisa in Somaliland, an LL.M (Master of Laws) from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and is currently a researcher at the Academy for Peace and Development