International efforts to resolve the Somali crisis have foundered on one central paradox: the restoration of state institutions is both an apparent solution to the conflict and its most important underlying cause. Somalis tend to approach disarmament and demobilisation-two central pillars of the ‘state-building’ process-with the fundamental question: who is disarming whom? If the answer threatens to entrench unbalanced and unstable power relations, then it may also exacerbate and prolong the conflict. In this paper, the authors examine disarmament and demobilisation initiatives from southern Somalia, Puntland and Somaliland. In southern Somalia, externally-driven disarmament and demobilisation initiatives in support of successive interim ‘governments’ have been widely viewed with suspicion and alarm. In Somaliland and Puntland, Somali-led, locally owned efforts have achieved a degree of success that can be instructive elsewhere. The authors conclude that conventional international approaches to ‘state-building’ in Somalia must be reassessedâ-notably that security sector issues must be treated not as a purely ‘technical’ issue, but as an integral part of the political process.