Effective local governance is an essential part of rebuilding Somalia’s physical infrastructure and social mechanisms, much of which have been destroyed during decades of conflict and instability. The Joint United Nations Programme on Local Governance (JPLG) has played a key role in improving the way government is run at city and state levels. It helps to build roads, clinics, schools and other facilities, train government staff and improve the political representation of marginalised groups, including women. Journalists from Bilan Media have travelled across Somalia to assess the progress of some of JPLG’s work. Shukri Mohamed Abdi reports from the district of Warsheikh in Hirshabelle State where she discovers that the provision of basic equipment can lead to significant improvements in the way local councils operate.
Warsheikh is a good test case for the JPLG’s activities in Hirshabelle State because it is one of the first districts in the region to form a local government council. The body was elected in 2018 and has received office equipment and training from the JPLG.
The chairman of Warsheikh district council, Hassan Haji Mohamed, says the JPLG contributed towards the cost of office furniture, computers and scanners all of which have facilitated its work. He says it also provided a conference room for the council and helped maintain its offices.
A councillor, Mukhtar Hassan Omar, said the training given by the JPLG has significantly improved the way the council works and the way it interacts with the community. He said the most useful aspects of the training focused on decentralisation, how to manage local taxes and how to form village committees. He said the training gave the councillors the key skills and knowledge to enable them to work in local government.
Mr Omar said the councillors had helped set up committees in some villages in Warsheikh district. He said other villages had not yet established committees but that relations between the villages had become more harmonious which he said should make the process of establishing committees there run smoothly.
The JPLG project manager, Salah Abdirahman, said the training had produced visible change and that all members of the council had taken part. The main aims are to increase staff skills and build up their capacity.
Another member of the council, Abukar Abdikadir Haji, said the training provided by JPLG enabled councillors to improve communication with communities in Warsheikh.
He said an area of particular success was education.
“Before the council was elected in 2018 there was only one school in Warsheikh district,” said Mr Haji. “Now we are building schools in the villages and collecting contributions from the inhabitants so their children can be educated. After four years of hard work, the district now has about 15 schools.”
The improvements to local governance in Warsheikh show in addition to effective training, simple interventions like the provision of office equipment can transform the way councils work. It is important the staff care for and maintain the equipment so it lasts as long as possible.