Election Day in Somaliland

Ministry's Murals
MINISTRY OF TOURISM AND CULTURE

[Update: Polls have now closed. Here is a VOA story with interview with Dr. Steve Kibble of Progressio.]

Voters in Somaliland will chose local officials around the country, and the results will determine the three officially recognized political parties for the next ten years under the Somaliland Constitution. Kulmiye, UDUB and UCID have been the three parties, and will face competition from recognized “political associations”. The three parties will then compete in the future parliamentary and presidential elections.

Here is the link to the “From the Ground” blog from Progressio, which is leading the international monitoring.  Also follow the hashtag #SomalilandElection.

From the Somaliland Press:

Here in the capital voting started around 7 a.m. in most of the 404 polling stations including Ga’an Libah, where President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo cast his vote. He was joined by first lady Amina Sheikh Mohamed Jirde and members of his cabinet including minister of presidency, interior, minister of finance and members of the ruling Kulmiye Party.

The president expressed a sense of opportunism and congratulated the people of Somaliland for their commitment to democracy and stability.

He urged everyone to vote peacefully and respect the electoral officials, volunteers, observers and the outcome of the result.

An international observation team of 56 from 15 countries is on the ground monitoring the elections. They see this as a crucial step in the democratization of the whole Horn of Africa region. Two teams from Puntland and Mogadishu are also there to observe and discover their neighbour’s voting system.

The polls close 6 p.m. and results might not be known until the weekend. . . .

Fighting was reported with militias in the town of Hudan in Sool, in the uncertain eastern border region with Puntland.

Good reads

“Kenya’s once safest town, now famous for the wrong reasons” Xinhua,

Kenya’s northern town of Garissa that was once voted as the safest town in East and Central Africa by Interpol has all of a sudden lost its glory as it continues experiencing a spate of grenade and gun attacks allegedly being executed by Al-Shabaab militants. . . .

“Somaliland Elections: Everything’s fine, except when it isn’t” Progressio Blog.

“Why fighting corruption in Africa fails” by William Gumede in Pambazuka News.

The Citizen reports on the release of the 2012 Afrobarometer “Round 5” poll for Tanzania, highlighting growing public perception of corruption by the CCM government.

Weekend reading on Somalia and the Somaliland elections

The Daily Nation’s Rashid Abdi reports on a new review of security in Mogadishu:

The 27-page report by Saferworld, a conflict-prevention research and advocacy organization based in London, entitled Mogadishu rising? – Conflict and governance dynamics in Mogadishu”, notes tentative gains in security.

It acknowledges that there is an improved public perception, but says progress “remains inadequate and uneven with significant areas of Mogadishu – particularly the city’s northern districts – almost entirely unpoliced.

“In the absence of state-provided security, residents and officials have formed an array of neighbourhood vigilante groups and private militia to protect themselves and their property.”

The report, based on a comprehensive field research that involved opinion surveys and focus groups, from April to July 2012, accuses the TFG of failing to capitalise on the military gains achieved to improve security and instead fuelling a “privatization of security” likely to undermine the efforts to stabilize the capital in the longer term.

Here is the link to Saferworld’s summary and to download the full report.

Lisa Otto at the South African Institute for International Affairs writes in yesterday’s Africa Portal “At the End of the Transition Period Somalia is Going Nowhere–Slowly.  Her piece is dated August 10 and doesn’t reflect the latest developments in the final week of transition, but provides a pessimistic summary of the TFG’s eight years.

Super Market & Baby Shop

In Somaliland, delayed local elections are now set for November, with a new court ruling upholding the selection of six “political associations” to participate in addition to the three established parties (Kulmiye, UCID and UDUB) in the last two presidential elections.  Progressio has released a report on August 31 entitled “Preparing for local elections in Somaliland: plans, challenges and progress.” From the announcement:

The lack of a robust voter registration system could also lead to issues such as multiple voting.

There are also concerns about the process of assessing new ‘political associations’, which are vying to join the three existing authorised political parties and so be able to participate in the elections. According to the report, there is “the potential for six political associations to join the three existing political parties to contest the elections, and for each of those nine parties/associations to stand a candidate in every seat”.

Recent and continuing challenges to press freedom also pose a barrier to legitimate elections, and there are worries that recent gains in promoting women’s involvement in democratic processes could be undermined by the ‘open list’ system.

Despite highlighting these concerns, the report makes recommendations and suggestions for improvements by a number of key players, including the government of Somaliland, the National Electoral Commission (NEC), political parties and associations, civil society organisations, and the international community including donors.

Michael Walls says: “Our hope is that this report will help encourage all concerned to pull together and ensure that these elections become another significant milestone in Somaliland’s progress towards democratic accountability.”

Here is the Somaliland Press this week on the court ruling on the political association registration:

A High court in Hargeisa has dismissed a civil case filed by a group of political parties to contest the decision by the political associations and parties Registration & Approval Committee (PPR&VC).

The case which had been filed by a cluster of parties namely UDHIS, NDB, HORYAAL and jamuuhiriga were part of the nine out of fifteen political organizations which failed to qualify verification and approval process hence their disqualification from the process.

The chairman of the High Court Prof. Yusuf Ismael Ali while reading the court’s ruling said that with all due respect, we hereby find no evidence of the irregularities in the qualification process contrary to what was alleged by the disqualified political parties.

Progressio notes the complementary British-funded work of the International Republican Insitute (IRI) in the Somaliland election preparation, along with Interpeace and others.

U.S./Somaliland relationship continues to mature as U.S. leads donor delegation on preparation for municipal elections

The key focus in current Somaliland politics is the municipal elections set to be held soon.  The National Election Commission reports being close to readiness, having (with some significant dispute) determined six additional parties to compete with the established three national parties, Kulmiye, UDUB and UCID.  Somaliland’s first local elections since modern independence was declared in 1991 were held in December 2002.  The next election was originally scheduled for December 2007, when I was there, to be followed by the April 2008 presidential election coinciding with the scheduled end of President Riyale’s term.  The Presidential election was delayed until ultimately held successfully on June 28, 2010–and now the local elections are to follow.

The top deputy for Somalia/Somaliland at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi has led a six-member donor group to Somaliland to assess preparations for the elections and opportunities for donor support.

President Silanyo told the visiting delegation his government has already allocated funds for the upcoming electoral process and all preparations have been finalized, he reminded them the need for the international community to support this country in pertinent issues as security and bilateral ones.

Mr. Douglas Meurs said, the United States continues to engage with the administration in Somaliland on a range of issues, most directly Somaliland’s continued progress towards democratization and economic development.

In Feb 2007, the United States provided a total of $1 million through the International Republican Institute to support training for parliamentarians and other key programs in preparations for the upcoming municipal and presidential elections in Somaliland.

The United States will continue to engage with Somaliland, in order to support the return of lasting peace and stability in the Horn of Africa.

by Goth Mohamed Goth
somalilandpress.com

This is encouraging progress in several respects. For my first months as IRI East Africa director, we had to keep our contact with Somaliland on life support as best we could at “no cost”, hoping for renewed funding to come through from the U.S.  When funds were available, we were able to re-start programming supported by travel from Nairobi, then open an office in Hargeisa.  At that time, U.S. Government employees and direct contractors were generally not allowed to travel to Somaliland–even prominent U.S. professors who were contracted to assess our programming in the spring of 2008 were left to work from Nairobi without being allowed to go to Hargeisa. We participated in donor meetings which happened only in Nairobi.  Having senior U.S. officials lead donor groups and interact with the Somaliland stakeholders directly in the county is one more sign of de facto “normalcy” in the interactions.

IMG_1312
With now-President Silanyo (at right) and Kulmiye Party group at party headquarters (I’m second from the right.)

Catching up on Somalia and Somaliland

Kenya’s military objectives in Somalia remain unclear, with the idea now floated that Kenya is satisfied with whatever has been done to date and has no need to seek to capture Kismayu after all.  As far as Kenya itself is concerned, Somalia just isn’t legitimately the most important priority, and I agree with the perspective offered by Wycliffe Muga in Nairobi’s Star in his column a month ago:  “Kismayu is the Least of our Problems”.

Here is a new article by Nairobi-based Muhyadin Amed Roble from the Jamestown Foundation’s “Terrorism Monitor”: “Will the Return of Ethiopia’s Military to Somalia Destroy al-Shabaab or Revive It?”

Just 40 days after Kenya’s military intervention against the militant al-Shabaab group began in Somalia there are indications that the Kenyan effort may become part of a joint operation with African Union and Ethiopian military forces to eradicate terrorist elements in the Horn of Africa. The African Union has backed the Kenyan invasion of southern Somalia and has also invited the Ethiopian army to join the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), currently consisting of military contingents from Uganda and Burundi.

.  .  .  .

Knowing the results of Ethiopia’s bloody invasion of Somalia in 2006, the AU’s invitation to dispatch Ethiopia troops to Somalia will be another counterproductive and undiplomatic move according to Abdihakim Aynte, a Somali political analyst in Nairobi. “The African Union seems to ignore the last experience of Ethiopian’s business with Somalia,” Aynte told the Jamestown Foundation. [1] The U.S.  State Department also seems wary of the outcome of another Ethiopian invasion. Johnnie Carson, the State Department’s top Africa policymaker, said: “Ethiopia went into Somalia some four and a half years ago and stayed for approximately two and a half to three years. That effort was not universally successful and led in fact to the rise of Shabaab after they pulled out” (McClatchy Newspapers, November 22; The Standard [Nairobi], November 22).

Ethiopia’s military intervention in Somalia will not please the current Transitional Federal Government (TFG) president Shaykh Sharif Shaykh Ahmad, a former leader of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), ousted by the Ethiopians in 2006.  Abdihakim Aynte says President Shaykh Sharif Shaykh Ahmad and the TFG do not have a choice in the matter. Somali Defense Minister Hussein Arab Isse welcomed the entrance of Ethiopian forces to eradicate al-Shabaab but warned Ethiopia against having any other objectives that damage the reputation of the country: “We welcome Ethiopian troops…and any other country that contributes forces to fight against the Shabaab militants, as long as they do not violate our sovereignty” (AFP, November 21).

.  .  .  .

With troops from four African nations now operating on Somali soil backed by the military power of the United States, al-Shabaab is certain to try to capitalize on traditional Somali xenophobia and nationalism to preserve and even expand the radical Islamist movement.

In the meantime, it is reported that up to 6,000 Somalis have recrossed the Red Sea into Somaliland  since the beginning of October, leaving Yemen due to conditions there. Somaliland’s exports of livestock to Yeman have dropped dramatically.  In Somaliland, IRIN reports that the newly formed National Development Program has determined that “the weighted average national employment rate is 52.6 percent” and unemployment is higher among youth, encouraging risky attempts to migrate to Europe via Ethiopia and Sudan.  The article also quotes a youth organization leader that there are approximately 104 NGOs and UN agencies working in Somaliland, but complaining of low local versus expat hiring.

Somaliland has certainly become one of best known ” little known” places in the last couple of years.  At this point I do have concern that with movement toward international recognition still seeming to be stalemated by the instability and uncertainty about the nature of government in the rest of Somalia, Somaliland could deteriorate if economic progress is too slow.  We shouldn’t take the status quo for granted.

Congratulations to the International Republican Institute for publishing a first-of-its-kind public opinion survey covering Hargeisa.  On balance the results suggest a generalized optimism about the state of the country in Hargeisa.  An interesting discussion of how to understand the results is here from the blog of Watershed Legal Services.

Chatham House has issued a report by Sally Healy entitled “Hostage to Conflict:  Prospects for Building Regional Economic Cooperation in the Horn of Africa” (h/t to Ambassador David Shinn’s blog).  She sees significant potential for the “close but distrustful neighbors” of the IGAD to cooperate in areas such as “transport corridors to sea ports, the management of shared water resources, common management of pastoral rangelands and improved energy security.”

On Tuesday, December the 6 the Institute for Security Studies will conduct a Pretoria seminar on “Kenya’s Military Incursion into Somalia and its Implications”.

“The Queen of Khat”, Somaliland, and the Future of Agricultural Trade?

A “must read” this morning on culture, trade and agriculture in the Horn of Africa, from Phillip Hedemann in Die Welt translated at Worldcrunch–read the whole thing, but here are some excerpts:

For many Africans khat is a stimulant drug that also stills hunger pangs. But the world’s biggest seller of khat doesn’t fit the typical profile of a drug dealer.

In Somaliland, not a lot works. Somaliland is a republic in the north of Somalia, which, although it declared itself a sovereign state, is not internationally recognized as such. But one thing you can count on here: Suhura Ismail’s trucks, driven at breakneck speed, arriving as regular as clockwork every night on the unpaved roads. The trucks are delivering khat, a drug that is mostly forbidden in Europe.

In Somaliland, on the other hand, the business is legal – and booming. Up to 80% of all men in the tiny country in the Horn of Africa are addicted to khat. Suhura Ismail says she herself has never tried chewing the bitter leaves. But it has made her rich, and in her homeland, Ethiopia, she is a highly respected entrepreneur.

“I was just voted Businesswoman of the Year,” she says. “And then I got a bill for back taxes amounting to 48 million Birr (1.9 million euros.) But we’ll figure something out. I have good connections with the Prime Minister.”

The 49-year-old mother of ten is the biggest khat dealer in the world. And although she does have a flashy gold tooth, there is none of the usual baggage about her that usually attends international dealers: no body guards, no fake names, no fear of other drug cartels or the police — though the tax man is a bit of a bother.

Then again, this Ethiopian woman would not describe herself as a drug dealer. The devout Muslim sees herself simply as an entrepreneur. Her family business sells between 30,000 and 40,000 kilos of khat each day.

In the 1990s, when coffee prices fell, many farmers in Ethiopia switched to growing khat. Since then, the drug has become one of the country’s major export goods – and the government of the world’s 12th poorest country wants its share. Ismail brings in foreign currency, or at least she does when she pays what she owes the state, which is 30% of her profits.

.  .  .  .

The girl who used to hawk khat from a roadside stand is now an entrepreneur with more than 1,000 employees, as well as her own airline, Suhura Airways. “In the world khat trade, Suhura is uncontestably numero uno,” says Ephrem Tesema, who wrote a thesis at Basel University on the production, distribution and use of khat. “And in Ethiopia she is thought to control over 50% of the market.”

Ultimately, Ismail’s great breakthrough was in removing the stigma associated with the drug. “She did a lot of PR, so in Ethiopia now the leaves are just another commercial product,” says Tesema.

Suhura Ismail says she would like to expand into Europe, and is hoping that the continent’s biggest market, Germany, will legalize the drug. It’s a country she’s familiar with. When her husband started having trouble with his teeth she flew with him to Frankfurt for dental work. Now, back home, his teeth are again in good shape, and he can return to chewing his daily consumption of the green leaves.

Enough: Menkhaus on Somali Famine–Somaliland, al-Shabaab and TFG

Here are excerpts from  “Q&A:  Somalia Expert Ken Menkhaus on the Famine”, at the “Enough Said” blog (h/t to AidNews)

How are independently governed areas like Somaliland and Puntland faring? I understand the crisis hasn’t been as severe in those areas, but it’s interesting to consider how governance factors in to either prevention or response to the famine.

MENKHAUS: Actually, the drought has been quite severe in the north of Somalia as well, but what is interesting is that the north is generally much more arid than the south. The south has rivers and generally has better rainfall. But the north, despite being more arid and being affected by the drought, has not seen famine. The reason for that is pretty straightforward: There is a social peace, [managed by clan elders]. There is governance. The Somaliland government has been able to maintain a reasonable level of security and stability that has allows for the flow of commercial food, and as the drought hit, for the flow of international assistance. As a result, they have been hosting more and more displaced people from the south.

There have been conflicting reports on whether the militant group al-Shabaab would let aid groups into the most gravely affected parts of Somalia or not. But you’re in touch with people in the region all the time – local sources, aid groups, governmental entities. How has the group’s presence impacted the response?

MENKHAUS: We’re pretty sure that Shabaab is splintering now. The famine has been a source of tension within the organization, and the hope is that we’ll see some breakaway wings again that would say, ‘our people are starving, and we welcome aid.’ It would be very risky for those splinter groups, but desperate times call for desperate measures. That could open some space for aid groups to come in. That’s the last best-case scenario we’ve got left, because right now we have people flooding the Kenyan border, and that creates a massive, long-term refugee crisis that will haunt us.

It’s important to flag the breaking news that Shabaab has pulled out of Mogadishu. We’re still trying to make sense of that – Is it a tactical measure? Do they want to launch more hit-and-run attacks instead? There are a lot of possible explanations, but it could be that the social pressure now is so great that clans are rebelling, that the group is fragmenting and actually being pushed out by local Somali communities. That would be a major break for the famine response. Regardless, Shabaab’s in trouble. [The famine] is just disastrous for this group – by blocking food aid, blocking people from getting out, they have just shredded what little credibility they had left with Somalis and jihadist around the world.

What lessons should the international community take away from this present humanitarian crisis? How should the U.S. government revamp its approach to Somalia or to the Horn more broadly to help prevent crises from continuing to occur in regular intervals?

MENKHAUS: This crisis is a potential opening, both for humanitarian response and for new policy directions on Somalia. The scale of this crisis has forced people to do a fundamental rethink of all of our policies and assumptions.  .  .  .But the broader question is what do we do about governance in this country. Shabaab may be crumbling, but the TFG remains irrelevant and is just a source of massive corruption. I think what we’re going to see over the next year is a rethink about continuing to support the TFG versus finding alternatives. But it’s difficult to get people to think about alternatives when we’ve got such immediate problems.

Somaliland’s President Silanyo Official Guest for Saturday’s South Sudan Independence Ceremony

HARGEISA (SomalilandPress)—President Ahmed Siilaanyo received an official invitation from the president of South Sudan Salva Kiir to attend the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of South Sudan on the 9th of July, 2011. South Sudan is set to become the 54th nation in the African continent after long fought civil against Northern Sudan’s rule that saw thousands of lives lost and millions displaced.

The invitation of Somaliland’s president Ahmed Siilanyo to South Sudan’s historic day has been welcomed with delight in Somaliland by both the government of Somaliland and its citizens. Somaliland believes it could use the south’s independence as a precedent as it seeks more support for its case for international recognition and become the 55th nation in the continent after South Sudan. Some foreign observers and politicians believe the Juba government will recognize Somaliland which will pave the way for other regional powers to follow.

Ethiopian Mediation for Somaliland-Puntland Border Dispute

Hiiraan Online reports:

Regional authorities of Somaliland and Puntland are meeting in Ethiopia amid a longstanding
dispute that worsened the security situation of the two breakaway regions over the past few
years.

An Ethiopian embassy official in Somaliland Mr. Berhia Tesfie, said that leaders of the two
regions have reached a preliminary agreement to discuss the border problem in order to forge
peace between the authorities which were at loggerheads following disagreement over Sool,
Sanaag and Ceyn regions.

“The Ethiopian government is working to mediate the difference between Somaliland and
Puntland . We have advised leaders of the two authorities to embrace peace between their
people”.

.  .  .  .

The center of the conflict is the Sool region in the central north of Somalia. On Monday, 1
October 2007, Puntland and Somaliland armed forces fought near Laasaanood, the capital of
Sool region. Fighting worsened again two weeks later, on 15 October. Since then, Laasaanood
has remained in the hands of the Somaliland forces.

The heightened border security divided a community already fractured by a number of internal
conflicts, clan rivalries.

Somaliland Turns 20 Today–Legal Next Year?

More and more, Somaliland is being “discovered” in the media, and is attracting more interest and attention from international investors and businesses, and international organizations. As progress has been made in the south militarily against Al-Shabaab, but the TFG continues to face extensive institutional uncertainty, the time is surely approaching for other nations to start moving toward formalizing Somaliland’s status.

Good coverage this week in three stories and a multimedia presentation in the Financial Times.

Western Union adds Somaliland service, reports the UNPO:

The Western Union Company (NYSE: WU), a leader in global payment services, has extended its rapidly growing agent network to Somaliland, taking the total number of African markets it serves up to fifty.

The strategic agreement between Western Union and Global Exchange and Money Transfer, a subsidiary of Global Export and Import Agency Ltd, will see it offer the Western Union® Money TransferSM service for the first time in the area, initially at a location in Hargesia with additional locations to be rolled out across Somaliland in the course of 2011.

This follows a string of recent agent network expansions by Western Union, which last year celebrated 15 years in Africa and has grown its agent network on the continent to reach more than 22,000 Agent locations.

Somaliland has been receiving an estimated $1B per year in transfers from it’s diaspora, but inclusion in the Western Union network should make a variety of inflows easier and more “regular” for institutions.