Somalilandsun -International donors have consistently made big efforts so that Somaliland’s elections would take place in time, and they do not hesitate to offer mediations whenever conflicts arise about elections. The reason for this support is, as they often proclaim, to strengthen Somaliland’s democratic process. Somalilanders are very much aware of this international support and are grateful to the international community for it. But as much as we appreciate this support, it is also important to point out its shortcomings. One of these glaring shortcomings is that the international community’s insistence on elections does not give adequate emphasis on the vital elements that create the context in which successful elections take place. Specifically, the international community has shown a marked tendency of ignoring the fact that much of the independent media was destroyed by the current administration to the point that only a couple of the media are still free from government influence, and those that choose to keep their integrity are constantly harassed and are under a great deal of pressure.
Similarly, civil society groups were trampled upon by the current Somaliland government and the only ones left operating are those that do not dare to criticize the government. It is indeed a bleak picture. By not taking a clear and unequivocal position against the government’s frequent assaults on the independent media, and by often not meeting with media representatives, and caring only about the holding of elections, the international community is being widely seen in Somaliland as colluding with the government.
The question facing Somaliland today is whether a free and fair election could take place without an independent media, without credible human rights organizations and without vibrant civil society groups. We think the answer is obvious: There can be no democracy in a country where the independent media are banned and their private property confiscated by the government for writing about corruption and nepotism; where human rights defenders are punished for doing their job; and where peaceful demonstrators are shot with live ammunition by the RRP, an entity funded by the international community for fighting terrorism but that was turned into an instrument for domestic repression and the shooting of innocent civilians.
It is also obvious that the international community’s approach which promotes elections in Somaliland without insisting on the freedom of the press and other components that make for a successful election is flawed. The donor community’s stance cannot be attributed to lack of information. It is simply taking the easy way out, and by doing so, it is contributing to the unfolding situation where Somaliland’s coming elections seems increasingly likely to be an election just for the sake of having an election, not an election to strengthen and deepen democracy.
Written originally in Somali by Haatuf Staff Nasir Adan Muhammad (Nawa)