Somalilandsun- Anyone surveying Somaliland at the current time will be heartened by the degree of engagement in the body politic. Certainly campaigning in the country’s forthcoming Presidential Election appears to have resulted in a spike in demand for caps and t-shirts of various colours. The amount of public interest is really encouraging. On the surface at least everyone appears to be talking about politics. Campaigning has been fierce, but generally good natured. Admittedly some politicians have allowed their emotions to run away with them, and there have certainly been a few intemperate remarks. There is always an element of theatre about elections, and it is clear that Somalilanders are enjoying democracy in action. Of course there has been a certain amount of propaganda and grand promises, whether these can be delivered, only time will tell. What is clear is that there is a real desire to see democracy flourish, albeit with a strong local flavour.
To outsiders the use of iris recognition technology in the voter registration process has been a real step forward. To many this is a lesson not just for the region, but for the world. International observers are already working assiduously to ensure that all is well monitored, and no doubt the whole democratic process will benefit from their observations and recommendations. Certainly Somaliland owes a debt of gratitude to those working tirelessly across the country to support the democratic process. The Police and other security personnel are playing, and will continue to play a vital role in protecting hard won freedoms.
It is important that all regions of Somaliland are fully engaged, and given every opportunity to exercise their democratic right. Some have voiced their concern that external powers might wish to influence the result, either through donations to certain party’s campaigns or via other material support. Somalilanders are likely to be sceptical about such activity and appear intent on guarding what they have, a fact that is especially pertinent as they reside in a land of relative calm. Whilst some of the journalistic endeavours are occasionally somewhat fanciful, the vast majority of local journalists realise that they have a duty to be as objective as is humanly possible. Theirs is not an easy task, and in view of what is at state, there will always the temptation to be influenced and even corrupted. That said, there are many courageous journalists in Somaliland eager to due their duty. As in all elections it is important that expenses and funding is carefully monitored, especially as some major donors are seeking to ‘lean on’ the people of Somaliland. It is a matter of public record that the people of Somaliland do not take kindly to external interference.
Whilst Somaliland continues in its quest for international recognition, it can take considerable pride in how it is approaching the Presidential Elections. No system is perfect, but it is abundantly clear that Somaliland is eager to learn and ready to engage. Countries elsewhere could learn much from what is taking place. If people are looking for an interesting case study from Africa, surely Somaliland deserves to be up for consideration. Anyone who has never visited Somaliland would be amazed at the passion, the commitment and the sense of duty that permeates the land at the current time.
Mark T. Jones