Somalia

“An empty mind is the devil’s playground”

2019 was an extremely challenging year for our partner, Social Life and Agricultural Development Organisation (SADO). Continued clan fighting, weak state institutions and high youth unemployment has left young people vulnerable to manipulation and recruitment by warring elites. This has enabled the terrorist group Al-Shabaab to maintain their insurgency over port towns, hijacking the informal economy in many areas and using violence to exploit people and resources. Heartbreakingly, their continued attacks on civilians led to the death of Abdullahi Isse (known to us as Isse), Executive Director of SADO, to a bomb attack on a hotel in Kismayo in July. Isse’s death was a tragedy for peace efforts in Somalia and worldwide.

Isse passionately believed in the potential of young people to resist violence and drive change in Somalia, and spent his adult life working for this vision to be realised. His leadership and direction pushed the perimeters of SADO’s work to inspire and empower thousands of individuals to work for the peace and prosperity of their communities. While SADO’s work inevitably had to scale down after Isse’s death, the continuation of participant-led activities in Kismayo demonstrates the legacy he left behind, and how his vision permeated every corner of his work.

  • 204 people participated in SADO’s vocational training programmes in 2019, and were given small grants to start their own businesses.
  • 88% of respondents to follow up interviews gained a job after graduating, 39% of whom opened their own businesses with the grants provided.

This has helped hugely with reducing social and economic exclusion among young people – a key incentive for joining armed groups.

The programmes have also helped women to realise their potential by encouraging them to train in a field of their choice, and not restrict themselves to female-associated industries. Compared to previous years, a much-increased number of young women chose to learn the typically male-dominated careers of electronic repair and auto-mechanics.

While finding pathways to build a future, young people were also given access to training on their rights and citizenship. The inspiration they drew from these sessions was evident when, later that year, many of the trainees went on to organise dialogues with different groups of society in efforts to bridge barriers to communication between citizens and people in power. These conversations provided a platform for marginalised groups, like young people and women, to share their grievances with local government representatives – an important step in working towards a peaceful and prosperous society that includes everyone.


"You often do things like to join clan militias or rob people because an empty mind is the devil’s playground.”

Read more stories about how SADO’s programmes transformed the lives of young people in our first ever comic book:

The Challenges of War:

A Peace Direct comic book

Read more