Kenyan IEBC drops biometric voter registration after controversy over tender–Updated

UPDATE 1 Aug. 20:30GMT  Press coverage indicates a major credibility challenge for the IEBC over the voter registration issue.  Both the Daily Nation and the Standard lead stories report that the failure of the tender for the biometric registration system is being attributed in part to “boardroom wars” between the Commission and its Chairman Hassan on the one hand, and the Secretariat led by Chief Executive James Oswago.

The Standard reports that Speaker Kenneth Marende has ordered a Parliamentary inquiry into the failed tender which is to report back in 14 days.  

See also: Daily Nation, “Fraud fears as IEBC turns to old poll kit”.

Kenya falls back to manual electoral register  — Daily Nation. After civil society groups and others raised concerns about the evaluation of tenders and the qualifications of the vendor selected, the IEBC has acted quickly to move on with critical election preparations. Maintaining public confidence is crucial, as is the schedule, with some members of Parliament suggesting slipping the election date. This–sticking with the manual registration system that worked for the constitutional referendum–seems the safest course.

CPJ: “Somaliland elections and coverage surprisingly . . . normal”

The blog of the Committee to Protect Journalists gives an assessment of the state of media coverage of the Somaliland elections.

I thought this was particularly interesting:

In comparison to greater Somalia, however, where insurgents banned viewing the World Cup and a near-powerless government continues to arrest journalists for negative coverage, Somaliland’s media scene appears robust. Journalists were allowed to move freely throughout the polling stations without hindrance, Associated Press reporter Mohamed Olad told CPJ.

The public and local press feared violence after two former ruling party officials alleged there had been vote rigging in favor of the opposition in five precincts, Abdi told CPJ. “But I was pleasantly surprised when I visited the offices of Radio Hargeisa,” Abdi said. “I found Radio Hargeisa staff actually complaining that the allegations were false and could lead to post-election violence.” Even Riyale supporters objected to the allegations and the two officials were arrested, Abdi added.

How has Somaliland kept the elections and its media coverage relatively peaceful? “They have learned from example—the bad example of their neighbors,” said Olad, who often reports in the war-torn Somali capital, Mogadishu. Somaliland has become a haven for exiled Mogadishu journalists fleeing the fighting in Somalia, where 33 journalists have been killed for their work since 1993.

Somaliland journalists told me they now hope government and media relations will improve under Silyano. Whereas Riyale was a former intelligence official and wary of the press, Mohamed said, Silyano was more open with the press as an opposition party leader. “But let’s wait and see,” a cautious Amin told me, as opposition leaders often change their spots once they attain power. A once-popular Senegalese opposition leader, Abdoulaye Wade, had promised upon his 2000 presidential election to decriminalize libel laws against the press. A disgruntled local Senegalese press, who had strongly supported his 2000 candidacy, is still waiting.

Somaliland: Gracious outgoing President Riyale to stay on as leader of UDUB in loyal opposition

HARGEISA (Somalilandpress) — The outgoing president Dahir Riyale Kahin, UDUB party leader, said he will stay in Somaliland politics as an opposition while speaking to BBC Somali-Service on Friday night.

Mr. Riyale who gracefully accepted the out come of the election said he will step down in accordance with Somaliland’s legal system and urged Somaliland public to work with the new leader and maintain their stability.

A statement issued on government website said: Somaliland president H.E Dahir Rayaale Kahin and vice president Ahmed Yassin sent congratulatory messages to the president elect Ahmed Mohammed Mohammed and vice president Abdirahman Abdillahi Ismail.The president thanked the people of Somaliland for their support and urged them to work with the incoming government and continue to support the stability and security of Somaliland.

“I congratulate President Ahmed Mohammed Silaanyo and his Kulmiye party for winning the presidential election,” he said.

Mr. Riyale who takes great pride for his years in power said he will not harm the democracy his very own party and leadership has created in the country. He added the election was a “friendly match” but Somaliland’s interest always comes first.

Full Story here.

Congratulations to Silanyo, Kulmiye Party on Somaliland election win (Update)

The AP story via the Houston Chronicle.

With Silanyo and Kulmiye leaders in his office

Visiting Silanyo and Kulmiye leaders

Coverage and Silanyo interview with BBC World Service.

Congratulations are also in order to UDUB in particular and to UCID for honoring the process, to the National Election Commission and to the voters for their patience.

Perhaps outgoing President Riyale will be a candidate for next years Mo Ibrahim prize?

Vote Count News from Somaliland

The party of President Riyale Kahin, UDUB, has called for a delay in announcing election results due to “huge irregularities“. Since then, a new AFP report this morning carries a statement from the President that he will step down if he loses the vote.

Thus much weight rests on the shoulders of the National Election Commission to maintain credibility and independence. It has been a long, hard and contentious process over a period of years to get to this point in terms of the composition of the NEC and the creation of a voter registration system from scratch in a “new” and unrecognized country with uncertain borders and much of its population nomadic.

We know from Kenya that a peaceful transition of power requires not only a willingness to step down by a leader who loses the vote, but also either a willingness by the leader to lose the vote in the first place or an independent election commission. In Kenya neither of the latter two conditions were met at the end of the day.

The President’s elective term in office ended as I was ending my term of service with IRI and we were opening our new office in Hargeisa. The serial delays and extensions have extended the time in office and it may be that we will now see a lot more about whether this truly reflected the best efforts to get the process right or as some critics suggested were more motivated by a wish to stay without a new decision by voters. It is encouraging that the President has made this new personal statement, which is certainly something that did not happen in Kenya during the vote counting. Although it has been awhile now since I have been there personally, I did feel that my colleagues and I had cordial working relationships with the leadership of all three parties and I would be personally optimistic about the sincerity of my friends in UDUB in making wise choices in a difficult time, serving the interests of the country as first priority–something we are all called to do to have a democracy.

Somaliland election as pivot point for US?

Kevin J. Kelly’s piece in this week’s East African, “US urged to cut lifeline to struggling TFG”, comes as the Progressio international team and IRI’s observers have made positive statements on the status of the voting in Somaliland Saturday.

It seems that at least some people in Washington are taking stock of the gravity of what Jeffrey Gettleman reported on in the Times on the TFG’s use of child soldiers. Perhaps the “now what?” is a different approach.

To me, an orderly election in Somaliland in which the violence was limited to confrontation with militia supporting Puntland in the disputed region should not come as a surprise–this reflects society in Somaliland. This should be appreciated and “recognized” by the rest of the world. Nonetheless, let us see the electoral process to a conclusion before we offer our own conclusions.

Somaliland Election Update

Progressio’s press conference will be at 11:00am local time tomorrow (in the wee hours in the U.S.).

Here is the links page from Somaliland Focus for news sites and background. And their Election Observers’ Blog.

Somaliland Election status

From the Somaliland Press, positive news and photos of the voting in progress, now that it is closing time at the polls.

Progressio will issue a preliminary statement as the international observation coordinator tomorrow on how things are going so far at that time.

Somaliland Elections and Oil in Mississippi Sound

Best wishes to all in Somaliland on Saturday’s long awaited presidential election.

Oil from the BP blowout is now finally entering the Mississippi Sound for the first time, so we can now expect to be seeing here more of what has been happening in Louisiana, and to a lesser extent Alabama and Florida.

There are those who anxiously await an opportunity to drill off Somaliland.  Oil has been the basis for the economy in Louisiana but it has threatened the physical future of a large chunk of the state, as well as the social and cultural heritage, and the wildlife and environment.  Definitely a situation that demands good governance.  Perhaps in the age of globalization, people can learn from our mistakes.

Burundi vote; Coke(TM) in Somaliland

“This is Africa” has a good new discussion of the state of things after the first round of elections in Burundi.

Meanwhile, with the presidential election in Somaliland now just less than a month away, plans for a local Coca-Cola bottling plant between Hargeisa and Berbera hit the media this week:

Coke will be supplied in Somaliland by SBI (Somaliland Beverages Industries) and after the launch of the factory, bottles of Coke products will be priced to compete with locally bottled no-name brands and all Somalilanders will be able to take advantage of the great Coke taste at a great price.

There is no word yet as to whether or not SBI has considered recycling options for their output, however, perhaps somewhere in the future we can read about another group of Somaliland Entrepreneurs opening the country’s first recycling plant.