Somaliland: Theatre to promote peace and understanding

The self-proclaimed state of Somaliland, which broke away from neighbouring Somalia more than a quarter century ago, will vote for a new president on Monday.


IREX Europe will run a series of drama-based activities across Somaliland to promote peaceful co-existence. Working with partner Kow Media Corporation from Hargeisa, a drama team will travel through six regions in Somaliland exploring tribalism, radicalisation, community tensions and other drivers of conflict in the region. Following each show, the theatre troupe will organise sessions using traditional spontaneous poetry blended with modern discussion techniques to promote critical thinking about Somaliland’s challenges.


Since declaring independence in 1991, Somaliland has surprised the world as a fledgling democracy, holding three consecutive competitive elections since 2001 and successfully integrating traditional Somali modes of governance into contemporary politics. However, following postponed national elections and increased regional instability, Somaliland remains vulnerable to extremism and violence. Communities have few models for civil discourse and little opportunity for constructive debate of political issues. As a result Street protests and violence are too often the way in which people attempt to resolve political and social issues. As Somalis become increasingly disenfranchised and frustrated, extremist voices can appear an increasingly attractive alternative to democracy.

IREX Europe’s Theatre Road Show program aims at helping people address and work through conflict using Drama for Conflict Transformation (DCT) methods that combine theatre debate, poetry and reflection to create a “safe space” for exploring incendiary issues. The program builds on Kow Media’s work through its “Geediga Nabada” Peace Caravan team of trained theatre practitioners.
Drama for Conflict Transformation is a rich methodology that encourages improvisation and play to help participants develop new views and behaviors. In situations of entrenched conflict, where debate and historical analysis rarely serve to change minds, DCT unlocks the creative power of individuals and communities to adopt new perspectives and develop novel solutions. Not only is DCT a powerful tool for transforming attitudes, it also provides a platform for practicing conflict resolution strategies.

Project Activities

IREX Europe, with its partner Kow Media Corporation, will utilise Drama for Conflict Transformation methodologies to organise a traveling theatre caravan to offer shows across Somaliland. Following each performance, members of the theatre troupe with training in facilitating discussion sessions will encourage dialogue amongst the community members present to promote critical thinking and challenge entrenched views. The theatre performances are envisaged as opening dialogue in the community and encouraging constructive exchanges. Community members will be invited to speak about challenges specific to their lives and areas, encouraging dialogue and the collective identification of solutions. During these discussion sessions, facilitators will also encourage viewers to create their own poetical verses discussing the issues addressed in the theatre performances. This is especially relevant in Somaliland, where poetry is an important component of l cultural expression.

Project History

IREX Europe built upon the success of its Indonesia Interactive Theatre Project, supported by the United Kingdom’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) Strategic Programme Fund, to explore similar themes of conflict and extremism in Somaliland. IREX Europe’s network partner, IREX, also is using interactive theatre models to address conflict in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. IREX Europe also drew on the experience of IREX media and civil society projects in Somalia. Kow Media Corporation is using theater-based approaches to conflict in Somalia through its “Geediga Nabada” Peace Caravan project funded by the United Nations Development Fund.


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