SONSAF holds conference on causes, consequences of Somaliland election postponements

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At a packed hall at the Ambassador Hotel, Hargeisa, today, the Somaliland Non-State Actors Forum (SONSAF) brought together major stakeholders to discuss in length the causes and consequences of frequent delays of elections and extension of terms in office to the legislative and executive branches of the government.

The review conference had the government, national political parties,leading universities, members of the Somaliland non-state actors institutions, donors, the private sector, legislators, the national electoral commission, academicians and other, highly informed resource persons from the public fall into an earnest discussion of whether there were any justifiable reasons to the frequent delays or if they were avoidable political ploys which only wasted resources and frayed nerves all around.

Mohamed Ahmed “Barawani”, officially introducing the theme to be discussed, expressed hope that the cumulative mindset present would come up with recommendations which will help the country find a safe way out of the quagmire of jilted hopes, marred democracy, caustic political confrontations and frequent disappointments on the part of friends and international donors due to the frequently broken promises on elections held on time.

bravani-of-sonsaf“Since 2002,” Mohamed said “not less than 7 election dates were missed. We need to arrive at a stage where what we say is fully met and especially in election matters and in schedules set”.

Mr. Barawani stated that Somaliland cannot justifiably hope to be ranked among ‘modern states’ if it did not honor its electoral processes.

“We have overcome many a daunting hurdle by reverting to our customary, traditional mechanisms,” he added. “But by adopting this modern system of governance,” he said “and by overwhelmingly voting for a constitution that supports democratic processes, one-man, one-vote systems and the establishment of a government system based on time-tested democratic precepts, there appears a challenge that we need to resolve: cling on to traditions or implement the Constitution and the system it spouses”.

Mr. Angus Miller, DFID Governance Advisor, speaking at the forum underlined two reflections that he said were facts on the ground that ought to be seriously considered.

“The first is that the people, citizens of Somaliland are ready and deserve to engage in the presidential elections in March 2017. The second is that the Somaliland electoral systems are ready and technically able to run free and fair elections,” he stated

Mr. Miller went on to say that  Somaliland was a democratic success story.

Mr. Miller made it quite clear that donors stood on the side of Somaliland before in exercising their democratic rights, are doing so on and would continue to do so within reason. He emphasized that donors had systems to follow, offices and laws to answer to and timetables to run the success or failure of which decided nature of relations and the continuance of interventions – or lack of it.

Mr. Michael Thyge, Head Of Office/Programme Coordinator for DANIDA’s Programme Office in Hargeisa, expressed the hope that at least a skeletal framework for upcoming elections would come out of the two-day conference.

“I do hope that a roadmap delineating who is going to do what at what point along the road would be reached. We have issues to look back at. We have to look at lessons learnt,” he said.

Mr. Thyge believed that the conference came at the right time.

Faisal Ali Hussein, UCID party leader and the party’s candidate for the presidential bid in the upcoming March 2017 elections, walked the participants through a brief history of the Republic of Somaliland in order, he said, to highlight where in history Somaliland stood only a few decades ago.

“Somaliland lost its statehood to Somalia in 1960. It existed as a region/province until , 1991. In that duration, it suffered marginalization, domination, genocide, and near-total destruction. Since 1991, the country survived several breakouts of low-level civil wars, and proved its resilience and a genuine quest for stability through a number of reconciliations and state-building conferences. The 1997 conference succeeded to put the country on this present-day course of democratic perfection as a modern state,” he stated.

The Chairman welcomed the theme of the conference, stating that it was both apt and at the right time.

He was not as kind, however, to the highest chamber of the country, the Guurti – Elders – of the bi-cameral parliament which is the only body mandated to approve or reject the extension of term proposals for, either, itself, its sister Chamber of the Representatives or the executive branch.

“We have entrusted our destiny with elderly, traditional gentleman most of whom can neither read nor write,” he said. He recalled an occasion when he asked members of that august house how they decided what bill to pass or spike.

“We ask the President in office if we should let  that bill through or throw it back,” Faisal said he was told with straight faces, drawing laughter and applause from the hall.

Ahmed Abdi Dheere of the ruling party, Kulmiye, and Heris Ali Haj Hassan, representing the party he joined a few weeks ago, Waddani, also, both expressed their approval of the theme, hoping that the conclusions would be in line with the country’s need for solutions that bound together in order to sidestep challenges that may have the potential to rip it asunder such as unrequited promises and unfulfilled obligations relating to election timetables.

They, at the same time, did not rule out extraneous circumstances and constraints if and when they emerged and were collectively deemed as unavoidable.

Both speakers hoped that the country’s commendable relations with the outside world be further nurtured and that said relations be based on bilateral dialogue and mutual standpoints.

a-imanAbdulkair Iman Warsame, NEC Chairman, stated that his committee was right on target and that, up to date, their plans to hold the presidential elections in March 2017 were as they were.

“We are starting to print the voter registration cards from next week,” he disclosed.

Mr. Abdulkadir pointed out that the incumbent Commission have put major achievements behind them, including the country-wide exercise that wrapped up registration of eligible voters.

“Drawing on our illustrious record, we have no doubts that the forthcoming elections will be concluded freely and fairly. We are right on track”, he said.

Later in the first of the panel discussions, Ms. Lizzie Lovett, Political Officer and Second secretary of the British Embassy in Addis Ababa, appealed to the good sense of both Somaliland officers, quite convincingly stating that donors could not be hoped to indefinitely support election timetables that kept receding and disappearing further and further.

“I just ask you to bear in mind that it is difficult for us to justify delays to our capitals that the Somaliland democratization process is not going on a straight path,” Ms. Lovett said.

In the same panel, incidentally, participants missed an opportunity to explain to the donors that the bulk of registered voters are no longer anywhere near stations where they were originally registered, especially pastoral populations. It was apparent that thre was an information gap along the line which negatively impacted on the perception of the enormity, magnitude of the drought in Somaliland.

The proviso that no voter would be able to vote at a place one was not registered at would yet prove to be a major impediment to free, fair and convincing elections in the light of circumstances related to the devastating drought threatening Somaliland human and livestock masses at present.

During its two-day duration, conference participants will touch on:

  1. Donors Perspective of Somaliland electoral process , penal groups
  2. Causes and consequences of the elections postponements
  3. Political Parties Institutional Development
  4. Parliamentary Elections
  5. Voter registration and presidential Elections 
  6. Legal gaps on the electoral System

Read the 2-Day Programme here: final-program-conference-on-dec-7-8-2016

Saferworld/EU supported the conference.

 

 

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