Somaliland: Disputed Elections Threaten Image of Stability

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Protests were organised by the leader of a political party that appeared to have fallen short of the local vote total needed to qualify for national recognition-Ambassador Rashid Nur

By Kevin J. Kelley

In Summary

• Press reports from Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital, say three people were killed as demonstrators charged that the local voting was not conducted fairly.

• A team of 50 observers from 17 countries said in a preliminary report on December 3 that the local voting was “a largely peaceful and transparent expression of democratic will.” But the international monitors also cited “weaknesses in safeguards against multiple voting.”

Somalilandsun – Somaliland’s reputation as a stable and democratic entity has been shaken by violent disputes over the outcome of local elections held late last month.

Press reports from Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital, say three people were killed as demonstrators charged that the local voting was not conducted fairly.

Somaliland’s representative in the US, Rashid Nur, said in an interview that the protests were organised by the leader of a political party that appeared to have fallen short of the local vote total needed to qualify for national recognition.

In accordance with Somaliland law, the three parties receiving the most votes in the local elections will be registered on a national level, Mr Nur explained. Four other parties that ran candidates in the November 28 elections will not gain national standing, he said.

“It looks like the worst is over,” Mr Nur commented on December 11, noting that calm has been restored in Hargeisa.

A team of 50 observers from 17 countries said in a preliminary report on December 3 that the local voting was “a largely peaceful and transparent expression of democratic will.” But the international monitors also cited “weaknesses in safeguards against multiple voting.”

Internal instability is just one of the threats facing Somaliland, which declared itself independent of Somalia in 1991.

Somaliland’s border with Puntland, a self-proclaimed autonomous state to its east, has not been demarcated and could become the scene of armed clashes, warned Mohamud Jama, Somaliland’s representative in Kenya.

Speaking at a recent Africa scholars conference in the US, Mr Jama said that because Somaliland is not internationally recognised as an independent state, it has no hope of gaining donor support for a $1.2 billion “national development plan.”

He described Somaliland as “very poor,” with Nur noting at the same conference that its population of 3.6 million has a per capita annual income of $226.

The newly installed Somalia government in Mogadishu wants Somaliland to be re-incorporated into a single national entity. But re-unification is “off the table” as far as Somaliland is concerned, Mr Nur said.

He argued that Somaliland had achieved peace and democratic governance during a period when Somalia was being torn apart by civil wars. Mr Nur said Somaliland had no intention of risking its gains by rejoining a failed state.

Talks needed

Mr Nur added that Somaliland intends to carry on negotiations with Somalia, even though “the government in Mogadishu does not represent the people of Somalia — it represents those who created it.”

“If there is no talking in that region,” Mr Nur said, “the only thing that happens is shooting.”

There are “many issues” that Somaliland and Somalia can fruitfully discuss, such as economic co-operation, Mr Nur commented in last week’s interview.

But Somaliland is likely to feel growing international pressure to strike a deal with Somalia now that the authorities in Mogadishu are asserting control over growing parts of the country.

Somaliland meanwhile enjoys “very good relations” with neighbouring Ethiopia, while relations with Djibouti, another bordering state, are improving, Mr Nur said.

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