Despite its status as an unrecognized country Somaliland has achieved immeasurable milestones through a relatively complex but home-grown set of political arrangements, providing concessions to and incorporating different interest groups
By: Yusuf M Hasan
HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – Since it declared independence in 1991, Somaliland has worked to develop a system of multi-party democracy. The result is a relatively complex but home-grown set of political arrangements, providing concessions to and incorporating different interest groups.
This was the unanimous summation of various stakeholders on the 27th June at the British Institute in Eastern Africa; Nairobi Kenya where the future prospects for democracy and the lessons learned from the last electoral process was the focus of discussions.
The event whose topic “What future for democracy in Somaliland?” organized by The Rift Valley Institute Nairobi Forum and Saferworld pooled its participants from a diversified somaliland democratization process stakeholders among them foreign diplomats based in Nairobi, Donors, International Election Observers , Academy for peace and Development-APD and the Somaliland Non-State Actors Forum-SONSAF among others.
While a representative from the National Election Commission-NEC failed to take part due to travel constraints the foursome of country’s delegates who also presented papers at the meet were the Chairperson, Executive director and women leader from SONSAF and a senior APD official.
The “What future for democracy in Somaliland?” discussions dwelt on the local election observers – report titled Somalilanders Speak: Lessons from the 2012 local elections” released by Saferworld and the Somaliland Non State Actors Forum (SONSAF) in April 2013.
This report provides a synthesis and analysis of
civil society organisations’ (CSO) observations, as well as highlighting the ways in which electoral procedures can be improved. The Report provides key findings and recommendations for actors ranging from the government to CSOs to the media, with the intention that lessons can be learned to further improve the democratisation of Somaliland.
While Somalilanders Speak indicates that there is much to be learned from the process to further strengthen the democratisation of Somaliland it also observes that despite the like the confusion created by lack of voter registration , rushed voter education, and need to update and clarify legal frameworks, the elections were peaceful, free and fair thence country passed with flying colours its latest test on Commitment to the democratic development that occurred during the 28th November 2012 elections.
On 28 November 2012 local council elections marked an important step for the people of Somaliland, with more than 800,000 voters casting their ballots, watched by hundreds of domestic election observers and others from 50 foreign countries and international organizations which coupled with a 400% increase in women representation after they clinched 10 of the 375 local council seats in contention earned the precious tag of PEACEFUL, FREE AND FAIR, a tag much absent in many third world countries elections.
The good democratization pass marks were courtesy of favourable reports the hundreds of local and international observers who described them as largely peaceful and fair, coupled with a 400% increase in women representation after they clinched 10 of the 375 local council seats in contention.
The process of institutionalizing the active participation of local observers in Somaliland numbering over 600 started far back in 2004 when Saferworld, with the support of the European Commission, led a process to set up legitimate and representative non-state actor structures in Somaliland that would be able to engage in policy dialogue. This culminated in the formal establishment in 2008 of the Somaliland Non- State Actors Forum (SONSAF).
This intervention by Saferworld was attracted by the process of reconstruction, organisations and institutions building and democratization process that has been developing within Somaliland Since it reasserted its independence in 1991.
“The result has been a
relatively complex but home-grown set of political arrangements which incorporate different interest groups and make concessions through inclusive policies based on a multi-party democratic system” notes Saferworld
With DFID funding the Saferworld’s Election Programme is an extension of the non-state actors programme and was designed and implemented to engage directly in efforts to strengthen democratisation in Somaliland.
With the training of 677 domestic observers to monitor the elections and the establishment of the Somaliland Civil Society Election Forum (SCISEF) Saferworld has provided a platform that is thriving and expected to do so in future for non-state actors to oversee electoral legislation and its compliance and advocate on election-related issues on behalf of their constituent communities.
Download the full SomalilandersSpeak: Lessons from the 2012 local elections