A senior British diplomat said on Sunday that the world would be surprised and disappointed if Somalia held its elections on time this year and Somaliland failed to meet its own timetable of March 2017 for Presidential polls.
Andrew Allen, the Deputy Ambassador to Somalia, said on his first visit to Hargeisa that Britain was disappointed by the postponement of parliamentary elections due next year and hope that the government would stick to its timetable for Presidential elections in March.
He pointed out that parliamentary elections have been repeatedly postponed, prolonging the body’s live from five to 12 years, while Presidential elections are two years overdue amid speculation that they might slip from the target date of March 2017.
Somalia, he said, was on track to hold key elections by the end of the year, dispute the difficulties caused by war and conflict since 1992.
“Somaliland’s democratization process has been a light in the region,” he told a group of journalists. “There is a sense in which a delay (in the Presidential elections) would put a huge question mark about whether that momentum has been lost.
“If Mogadishu does hold a successful election, and Somaliland slows down its democratization, I think some people might make a comparison,” he said.
The Deputy Ambassador said Prime Minister Theresa May’s new government would make no change to UK policy of support for both Somalia and Somaliland and looked forward to an international donors’ conference to continue funding in the coming year.
Allen answered multiple questions on Somaliland failure to get the international recognition it seeks since breaking away from Somalia in 1991 by saying it was a matter for the international community, not one for Britain alone.
“That decision will be made by the community of nations,” he said.
He pointed out that when Czechsolovakia split into two nations – Slovalia and the Czech republic – it was with the agreement of the peoples of both nations.
“That was a ‘velvet divorce” because the two countries were speaking to each other,’” he said, in reference to Somalia’s continuing claim to hold sovereignty over Somaliland in a federal Somali republic.
The British official played down any significance to the fact that UK diplomats based in Mogadishu are also responsible for Somaliland. “We have people in Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Mogadishu and London following Somaliland so we can continue to support it. There is no change to our policy,” he said.
Allen said he was “depressed” to hear about the detention and harassment of Somaliland journalists by the authorities and its impact on the freedom of press.
But he welcomed the assertion of one journalist that the Somaliland media sometimes makes mistakes.
“I will take with me (back to Mogadishu) the fact that journalists are sometimes wrong as well (as the government). It is important that journalists report in a balanced way.”
He welcomed discussion of a Code of Conduct for government and media in forthcoming elections and regretted that the current Media Law “does not satisfy the requirements of a fair and responsible media.”
He said journalists had a special responsibility to report responsibly in difficult circumstances both in Somalia and Somaliland.
“We see the benefits of sensible journalism and the damage of irresponsible journalism,” he said.