HARGEISA, 31 August 2009 (Somalilandpress) – Since declaring its independence from Somalia in 1991, Somaliland has set up its ownGovernment institutions, written its own laws and constitution, and held credible elections. No government in the world has yet recognized Somaliland’s independence and for 18 years the territory has been left in legal limbo—a country that does not exist. During that time Somaliland has gone a long way towards building security and developing democratic institutions of governance.

Somaliland is unrecognised state that managed holding three elections peacefully without registering the voters; among those elections, the first presidential election includes, which its results was ruled by the court verdict. It was believed that Somaliland finished a clannish based political process and moved to ballot based power climbing. This political system promotes individualistic participation and diminishes collective representation based on the clan. Also the introduced democratic model didn’t omit absolutely for the traditional governance system which is based on clan values and it is final product of combination of tradition, religious and western democratic governance system. The new system was expected it would have been improving the overall governance mechanism in the country as well as socio-economic indicators.

Since the last parliamentary election, a number of political and electoral related disputes were observable and gradually they were increasing and escalating. The conflicting parties polarised new tactics that enables them precede the arguments from their own perspectives; It was reported that Somaliland witnessed more then ten electoral disputes variant from one to another but have common factor of pursuing each one’s own needs, concerns and interest. from the first arguable decision between opposition and ruling party was related to the nomination of a new electoral body, since then the conflicts wasn’t de-escalating until recently over the abandonment of voter registration lists and the expulsion of Inter-peace staff person from the country. On the other hand, this tension is the worst, it happened at crucial period while Somaliland presidential election was due to happen in two months time.

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However, the existing pre-election disputes and political conflicts attracted the eyes of the local and external stakeholders. These tensions are being perceptive to Somaliland stability is in dangerous, rather then expecting it was improving socially and economically. Since last parliamentary election was held peacefully, Somaliland witnessed a wave of political dispute which was involved by political parties and ruling party, NEC or donor agencies. However, the election related disputes could happen at any stage in any place of the world Regardless the strength and weakness for particular state. But, the consequence will vary over the states; the volatile states like Somaliland will likely having severe consequence rather then established countries;- it would have been a threat to rule of law, governance structure, peace and stability and human right record. If not taken proper measures at righteous time, for Somaliland it wouldn’t be possible maintain its stability as well as the process of democratisation. The repetitive and escalated arguments are symptoms predicting incredibility of the elections that lacks fairness and freedom.

What are the current election related problems in Somaliland?

Somaliland witnessed number of election related crisis. Key stakeholders were playing an influential role for the existence of the crisis. Precisely, Key stakeholders lost their faith in the process of democratic governance and they failed to integrate the framework of governance system with human right, democracy and peace context. The escalation for the current crisis were contributed by the ineffectiveness and weak institutional capacity regardless to Executives, legislatives and judiciary and also opposition political parties, they operate under poor governance conditions

In this case, Somaliland electoral stakeholders are identified all interesting parties that have either have direct engagement or indirect involvements, Donors, Somaliland Governments, Political parties, citizens, civil society organisations, supreme courts, legislatives, international observers etc. therefore, except the international observers which engaging the elections at voting day, but all other above groups have contributed the disputes escalating that endangers the stability and the rule and law.

Somaliland Government and ruling party

I deliberately focus on this article the contribution of donors, political parties, NEC, legislatives, supreme courts and Somaliland governments to the escalation of the electoral based conflicts. First I should start looking down what the Somaliland government has contributed to the current political crisis?

Somaliland government failed to frequently hold periodic elections. The current government’s term expired and was extended accordance to a provision in the constitution that is disputable. During its mandate, it arrived into power through consensus reached by key stakeholders which was mediated by elders and intellectual people from Somaliland. It should be praised for the losers accepting for court verdict as well as consensus built and substituted it for surviving peace in Somaliland. The government of Somaliland was to be there to serve not to rule, it presently seems that it encoded vice-verse; it is there because of to rule not to serve. I am trying to identify the role played by the Somaliland government and its ruling party for the escalation of the election based conflicts?

If the responsibility of the current problem is to be divided for its stakeholders the government would receive the big portion. This reflects to my beliefs, I know that for other stakeholders aren’t pleading guilty free. Enlightening how significantly the government should be blamed for the existing political crisis particularly on voter’s lists. The constitutional responsibility for the government includes holding periodic election at every five years once. This means that the financial, Technical and logistical arrangements for the elections should be available in order the elections to be hold periodically. It is constitutional, it wasn’t stated that international community should contribute financially and technically to Somaliland electoral process in order to be conducted a periodically. There isn’t a way that Somaliland government should avoid to be blamed that it failed to conduct a periodic elections without relying on the financial support of the international community.

The voter registration task is like a project which has several progressive cycle that needs before passing the next cycle the first one should come into finishing ; if one cycle isn’t finished or omitted before it get finished, it wouldn’t be possible for the project achieving its goals. Vice verse, if one cycle is considered has more significance then others the project will fail. Therefore, it wouldn’t be possible for Somaliland government argue that the production for the voter’s list isn’t reflecting to free and fair election while the process was abused at initial stage before the government’ eyes. It failed to ensure and monitor that actual registration tasks are in compliant with the objectives of the registration. Therefore, if the registration has failed produce a list that is fair, because it is a mistake that was done in the process of registering the voters.

Why the government shouldn’t abandon the registration process while it was reported multiple registering is undertaking or underage registration? The same is true for the NEC why they don’t suspend temporarily for the tasks of registration after Sahel? Why Sahel wasn’t considered as pilot for the project and should be reviewed by all key stakeholders for the outcome before they go into other regions? Why inter-peace shouldn’t be expelled from the country while the staffs of the registration company were withdrawn from Somaliland? Why presently they are expelled? If all these interventions weren’t taken, they are indicator showing that registration failed at initial stage not its final stage of production of final lists. It is the responsibility and duty for the government safeguard the interest of the country as the president currently emphasising that abandonment in the registration safes from Somaliland fall post election conflicts.

If the above measures were taken at its convenient time, by now, we would have fair registered voters and accurate lists that allow us hold a credible presidential election. Somaliland then becomes a model for the post conflict countries. The people analysing the political conflicts in Somaliland argue that the current problem isn’t based on efficiency or effectiveness of the voter registration project, they say it is conflict of interest between opposition political parties and ruling and government party. If the current produced lists was reflective to the interest of government they would have accepted and indicate it as credible and accurate lists, and the same was true for opposition parties.

Therefore, the decision that is abandoned for the lists of registration was irrational and illegal for three main reasons:

It is relevance to a particular project cycle, while the project was deviated from its objectives at initial implementation stage; the Somaliland government didn’t engage the process of rectifying to avoid such problem happen at final stages.
The approach that decision was reached symbolises partiality while the key actors was ignored in the process determination.

determining going election without registering the voters isn’t a decision that was based on public interest as it was based on preferential results that is unfavor for the ruling party and the decision didn’t consider the negative impact that it could have for the entire nation.

To opposition party’s roles and responsibility for the current crisis

Kulmiye and UCID are the only registered opposition parties in Somaliland. The opposition parties are legitimate institutions that have obligations and rights in the political mainstream, without them no democratic system is prevailed across Somaliland. The Somaliland political analysts assert if the institutional capacity of the opposition parties has been stronger then the ruling party, a weaker government wouldn’t have ruled over the citizens. The opposition parties are to monitor over the government that violating the charter, shape public politics and policies, while recognizing and respecting the authority of the elected government. This is possible because of democratic societies commit to the values of tolerance, compromise and cooperation.

The role for the opposition parties in the current crisis

If the current problem is that all key actors losing their faith in the democratic system and weak capacity in their institutions contributed the deterioration of the political circumstance. Therefore what roles have the opposition played in escalating the current problem? The opposition parties have direct responsibility to the postponement of the elections, because, the electoral process are shared responsibilities; shared responsibilities are defined as collaboration between two or more persons or bodies performing the same kind of activity in the creation of the content of an item.

The contribution of each may form a separate and instinct part of the item or the contribution of each may not be separable from that of the other. Therefore, each part should be held accountable for its contribution positively or negatively. The opposition receive their share of responsibilities in three ways; 1- being a part of the primary actors of the conflict, 2- annexing their power desire to the political conflicts 3-The style they manage to the conflicts.

1- The opposition parties either proactively or reactively engage to pre-election disputes, therefore they become one actor in the conflicts. the context of the electoral disputes have an influence to cross-cutting issues that is indistinguishable from one to another, E.g. election schedule, term for the presidency and the power arrival process are integrated issue that if one part deviates from its path, it effects to the second part. In this scenario, if the opposition engage in a dispute it effects to cross cutting issues. Contrary to pre-election disputes; if there has not been a dispute, or disputes are managed positively (win/win situation), the election is not postponed, the term for the presidency will be legitimate and the power is arrived through democratic elections. In this case, neither of the two sides will be blameworthy.

2-The opposition parties are criticised annexing their power desire to the conflicts or the problems, in the above case, the opposition parties often address on the impacts of the disputes instead of the causes and effects of the problems (a power arrival process). This type of concern is interoperated that oppositions are deliberately engaging the arguments in order to topple down the current government undemocratically. E.g. biometric registration lists, Siilanyo was the one preferred an election without registration instead of it is being postponed, as the government endorsed recently going election without registration, the opposition’s position automatically changed to other way round.

3- The style of conflict management: intolerance itself is a form of violence and obstacles to the growth of true democratic spirit. The aggressive style that opposition utilize in the process of conflict mitigation is based on non-charter provisions while they accuse the government mishandling the provision in the constitution. Good example is that the suggestions made by the two opposing sides in resolving the power arrival process; ruling party is suggesting that an extension should be made for the term of the current government, which is based on an article in the constitution restricted to a particular condition that is being unfit to the present situation. The second suggestion is forming a caring government that rules over the country during the transitional period, the second part is not referred from the charter and it is a baseless proposal that needs first to be legalised.

My points of view is, the two opposing suggestions are based on provisions in the constitution, but one of them has a reference in the charter although it can not be asserted that it fits for the present condition, but the next suggestion is wholly unconstitutional and innovative resolution that needs to be legalised, the sad thing is that oppositions that were to monitor the infringement of the charter asserted the one that has not constitutional reference.

Opposition parties should act responsible by showing their supporters and external world for their tolerance during the conflicting period by emphasizing on finding concrete solutions for the causes and effects of the problem, they avoid addressing the impact of the problem instead of its route causes. They should blame themselves that weak government is ruling over the country because of they are not strong enough to compete with the existing weakness that this government posses.

Way forward

Opposition parties should arrive to the power through ballots not violence, before they climb the power they should demonstrate that they are different from the ruling party and their administration by strengthening their internal democracy and improve party’s governance. Then they can easily win in the ballots. I have therefore, several points suggesting for opposition parties improve their weakness to be able to change the current administration they are:-

Develop alternative Dispute resolution strategy which enables proactively resolve the conflicts being reactive to imposed resolutions.

Avoid focusing the power destination instead of political process or arriving the power undemocratically regardless the illegal extension for the term of the presidency that was caused by electoral postponement in the expense of the long term future and stability, tolerance and democratic governance.

Adhere to provisions in the constitutions generally not endorsing particular provisions while ignoring the others

Strengthening governance and democracy in the party level and the tolerance culture horizontally or vertically ( in the party or interacting to other parties)

Increasing and improving the participation level of their supporters to be able to differentiate themselves from the ruling party

opposition parties should be responsible institution that takes government to be accountable through sensitising the community


To be Continued …………………………

Written by Ibrahim Saed Hussein