“Swerves on the Road” Part 4

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Excerpt IV An election observer’s experience: a personal reflection

Somalilandsun – The International Election Observer-IOE Mission to the 2012 local council elections released its final report titled “Swerves on the Road” contained in 40 pages herein to be published chapter by chapter on a daily basis with a link for those readers interested in reading earlier excerpts or downloading the entire report.

Excerpt I Introduction

Excerpt II Previous election observation & Local council elections 2012

Excerpt III The international election observation mission

Excerpt IV An election observer’s experience: a personal reflection

By: Saba Di Roberto

My first time in Somalia was two months after my birth in Djibouti, but my memory from that time doesn’t serve me well. As an Italo-Somali child, growing up in Italy and moving to different countries with my family, I have always taken an interest in discovering my roots, but fragments of my parents’ memories and the news on TV were all I really had to feed my imagination about Somalia.

Participating in the election observation mission has been one of the most memorable adventures of my

23 years. As excited as I was weeks before my departure, the days before I left were marked by concern about the unknown. I realised that I had no idea what to expect. To my surprise, life in an internationally unrecognised state is as mundane as it gets. For the first time I was recognised as a ‘Somali baby’, as I often heard people whispering. I was deeply impressed by the warmth of the Somalis and even amongst the foreigners at the Maansoor Hotel it was an absolute pleasure meeting people from all walks of life with interesting stories to share.

Towards election day, there was an air of growing excitement. I went to rallies and witnessed a sort of celebration with women, men and children dancing and performing. At first they were shy of our camera but then couldn’t get enough of posing.

I suppose life isn’t really too different: the equivalent of street markets in London was the livestock market, where the most expensive camels looked the part in all their grace, perfectly groomed, moving in synchronised motion. I was also pleasantly surprised to see familiar faces, from my aunt who invited us to a lovely traditional lunch and taught us the table manners used when eating with your hands, to a long- lost school friend who happened to be the pilot of our flight back to Nairobi. I loved wearing the ‘direh’, the traditional clothes, and learning new ways of tying my headscarf, so much so that I was taken aback by the amount of skin exposed upon landing back in Nairobi.

For days after, I couldn’t shake the New Zealand accent that rubbed off on me from some of my fellow observers, but I certainly left with much more than just a new accent. I think back to my time there very fondly and look forward to returning one day.

Saba Di Roberto

While the full report shall be published chapter by chapter on a daily basis interested readers can down load the full report “SWERVES ON THE ROAD” AS SOMALILAND CONTINUES TO DRIVE ITS DEVELOPING DEMOCRACY FORWARD here

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