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Somalilanders for Free & Fair Elections

Photo: a woman places her vote in the box during the Somaliland elections 2010 (photo © Claudia Simoes/Progressio)

by Adan H Iman
Tuesday, December 30, 2014

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The upcoming election must be in the minds of Somalilanders. Will the election, which will elect the President and members of Parliament, be peaceful, free and fair?  “Free” means that everybody, who has reached the voting age, if he or she so desires, can vote while “fair” means that every voter casts one, and only one, vote and that each candidate gets exactly the votes cast for him/her. Will the seeds that were, and are being, planted today have a bearing on the type of fruit that will be harvested come Election Day? The following may impact the conduct and outcome of the 2015 Presidential election:

First, the 2012 municipal election, which utilized, for lack of voter registration list, a procedure where index fingers were dipped into ink to cast votes, ended up being anything but free and fair election. There were massive voting irregularities during the election and violence after the unfair results were announced. The massive fraud in this election ended the use of this procedure altogether in Somaliland. It must be added that under former President Dahir Rayale this procedure was used successfully in two presidential elections and one parliamentary election.  The 2012 municipal election took place under the current administration of President Ahmed Silanyo. So if the 2015 biometric voter registration fails, not an improbable scenario, then Somaliland’s experimentation with electoral democracy will be aborted and Ahmed Mohamed Mahmoud Silanyo should be held responsible. There will not be an alternative to holding convention like the 1993 Borama Convention to select a new leader. 

Second, the 2008 biometric registration:  The total Somaliland electorate during the past two presidential elections and one parliamentary election never exceeded 600,000 voters. Yet the number of people who registered during this so-called 2008 biometric registration was 1.2 million. There were reports of people holding multiple cards. Donors lost $11 million in that failed effort. There were political forces in Somaliland who were determined to scuttle the effort and they succeeded.  It is under this cloud that the 2015 biometric registration is being held. To avoid the same fate, donors, who will be paying the bills, must be intimately involved in the bid and award process, scrutinize the Request for Qualification (RFP) of the applicants and select a contractor who has a proven track record in biometric registrations so that what happened in 2008, when millions of dollars of grant money was wasted by an incompetent contractor, is not repeated. Over 450 million people in the developing world has their biometric data catalogued (Larry Diamond) so a good, experienced, firm can be given the job. Additionally, donors should release the funds in installments with each progress payment being contingent on the fact the process goes on as expected. At the end of the day, the registered electorate, as well as votes cast, should not exceed 600,000. If during registration it’s discovered that there will be people who succeeded to obtain multiple cards, however small, the project should be cancelled to minimize costs and time  wasted and in order to face and deal with the new reality on how to move forward probably by holding a convention of Somaliland communities.

Third, the bullying Leadership Style of Ahmed Silanyo's:  Increasingly, the Silanyo administration is using the coercive forces of the State to bully and intimidate the citizens. We are seeing the administration imprison members of parliament, members of municipal councils, and dispatching supporters to vandalize hotels and cars that belong to the opposition. We are seeing the administration put journalists in jail, shuttering their offices and even preventing TV channels that criticize the administration from broadcasting into the country while at the same seemingly creating a personality cult for President Ahmed Silanyo by continuously streaming praise for the President through the state-owned media. The question is: Shall the bullying tactics we are witnessing today be employed during the registration and Election Day?  

Somaliland was once called an “oasis of stability”, but now there are crisis everywhere in the country: In the west, Awdal/Selel, there is widespread discontent. A study submitted by the elders last August to President Silanyo showed that their children do not have equal access to public resources as those in Hargeisa; that ministers have turned their ministries into employment agencies for their relatives; that of the nearly 4,000 public employees hired under President Silanyo, none are from Awdal/Selel. President Silanyo’s lack of serious interest to this complaint is evidenced by the fact that he entrusted the very ministers who had created the disparity in the first place to find a solution. Except for an acknowledgment there is a merit to their grievance, the administration took no steps to offer a remedy or address the root causes of the glaring disparity. As a result two prominent persons, Sultan Abibakar Elmi Wabar and former Borama mayor Abdi Shide Bile, declared that they gave up on Somaliland and crossed the border into Ethiopia with their supporters. In the middle part of the country, communities are divided more than ever. In the east, a group led by Ali Khalif declared they are an independent State of Khatumo.

Given the political crisis in the country, it makes sense to emphasize the significance of the upcoming election for the stability of the country. If the registration process goes smoothly and the election is declared by independent observers as being free and fair, it will bestow legitimacy on the newly elected leader. If on the other hand the election is rigged, as many fears, it may be like a spark thrown into dry grass.

Somalilander for Free and Fair Election is a newly created organization to monitor and report on the registration process as well as the election. It’s voluntary and impartial and its membership will be both from inside and outside the country. It joins other organizations that are also interested in the voter registration process and the election. If you have any comments please contact the e-mail address below:
Email: [email protected]

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