The English wisdom (Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater) teaches us what is important in life; what to treasure and what to throw away. Our people in Somaliland are travelling through trying times which are testing the character of our people. I have no doubt which way they will go. There is no doubt they will pull through. However, our collective advice is to tread carefully and not allow the delaying of elections erode vital issues such as peace, cohesion and stability.
For the past 18 years there was peace and stability in Somaliland unlike most parts of our country. The government of President Dahir Riyale Kahin has been in power for 7 years since 3rd May 2002. His government’s biggest achievement has been continuity and stability. This is by no means a minor achievement and our people should guard their achievement with their lives.
It is easy to condemn but nothing is ever achieved by condemning anyone. In Somaliland the election has been delayed many times owing to a number of reasons. But that is now water under the bridge. What is now important is how soon and when to hold the election without complicating matters. Moreover, there are a number of issues that need to be taken into consideration.
Patience and time are needed
Opposition parties in Somaliland who are anxious to take part in the election should also set their eyes on how to make the elections safe and without repercussions. Winning an election would be meaningless if anarchy descended. For that reason, the most important task which the opposition parties should be pressing hard for is: voter registration.
Voter registration: a must!
Without voter registration there can be no election. Voter registration is important to differentiate between voters in the registry and those who had not bothered to register so that on polling day only the registered would be allowed to vote. Also the importance of the campaign is to help plan how many voting stations and poll-workers are needed and to gauge voter turnout and so forth.
How long should it take to register voters?
The government and the opposition parties in Somaliland should jointly decide on how long it should take to register all voters eligible to vote. It is not for me to say here how long it should take but to successfully register voters may take up to 12 months.
Resources and logistics
Voter registration campaign shall require resources such as capital, manpower, and transportation. By now these issues should have been resolved. However, Somaliland needs to appeal to the world community to find funds for the campaign to register voters.
Election immediately after voter registration
Once the campaign to register voters has been concluded successfully the election itself should be held within three months. The three months limit would allow time to plan and prepare polling stations, assign and train polling-workers, invite observers etc.
Work together to achieve a peaceful election
Rather than make a lot of hoo-ha about the delay of the election which would serve no purpose, our people should work together to achieve the conduct of a peaceful and transparent election. To do so the government and the opposition parties should appoint emissaries to work out a timetable to conduct a campaign of voter registration and a date for the election itself.
Demonstrations are unhelpful
There is nothing to be had from staging demonstrations. Demonstrations can also cause instability and worse can lead to mob rule. Anyone who comes to power through staging mass demonstrations can be thrown out of power by using the same method. Demonstrations can also cause counter demonstrations and usher in a cycle of violence. The best way for opposition parties who have something to offer is through hard work and perseverance.
What would a year cost to conduct voter registration?
Haste is the work of the devil. The opposition in Somaliland will be equally blamed if things get out of hand. At least a year is now needed to conclude voter registration. The opposition would be wise to accept that it is always to the incumbent’s advantage to decide when to hold an election.
An opposition party of the highest order
When it comes to the virtue of patience an opposition party which merits the highest admiration is the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) party of Zimbabwe. This is a party which has continued its journey despite having been cheated of victory for four elections. Why do it? There can be no reason other than love of country.
Why free and fair elections are important?
The aim to join politics is to serve and to help further one’s society and its interests. The purpose of elections is the wish and choice of the public to reign to either retain the serving or allow the elected take the mantle. It is also to allow the transfer of power peacefully when the public have voted for a change of leadership. Those who did not win the election are required to give way and allow the incoming take the seat. This is in the best interest of the country otherwise one may make a mess of things or a mockery of one’s society.
Rigging elections is un-Somali
One of the things which is never part of our character is rigging elections. The answer lies in the nature of our people. Somalis are from an open society where everything is known and nothing can be hidden. For that reason rigging elections is not only un-Somali and impossible within our society: all the more reason why the issue in dispute in Somaliland is not over rigging an election.
A message for Dahir Riyale and his government
By now voter registration should have been concluded and the outcome of the election should have been known. However, that is not the issue now. The government should work with the opposition to establish the timetable for voter registration and the actual date for the election. The government should also find the funds and put in place the logistics to register voters. Above all, the government should show genuine willingness to conduct the election once the voters have been registered. President Dahir Riyale should be careful not to go down in history as the man who [on his watch] presided over the collapse of Somaliland. He should know better that if the country goes down there will be no power to hold on to.
We care about our people in Somaliland and we have reason to be concerned what is happening there. Elections are important. They serve to renew society and governance. However, without voter registration there are pitfalls which make holding elections impossible. There is no way of knowing voters and the number of voters which is a major requirement for holding elections.
Somaliland has always been proud to conduct its affairs by itself within its confines without outside involvement. Governments in the region and the world community can only do so much to help those who throw their own country into the furnace. A year and three months is a small price to pay for the wellbeing of one’s country and society. Our people should be careful not to jeopardize their achievement. They should work together (government, opposition and the public) to pave the way to a peaceful and transparent election. Somaliland should tread carefully not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Somaliland should pull itself from the precipitous!
Finally, we have a message here for individual Somalis who hate Somaliland. He is a moron who does not know what Somalis mean to one another. It goes without saying that the wellbeing of Somaliland is the wellbeing of every Somali and the message for those who love unity among Somalis is: Unity cannot come by wishing ill to our brothers and sisters in Somaliland. Unity will come one day when we have a government and a leadership which can make possible Somalis from different communities and backgrounds living side by side in peace and harmony working together to further our nation, its interests and wellbeing. Our people in Somaliland should be commended, not vilified, for administering themselves over a long period of time when there was only mayhem and anarchy in much of the rest of our country.