By Ali E. Duale
The Kenya elections’ results and the violence that befell the country in the aftermath should serve as a practical warning to the Somaliland people in the oncoming elections. Although the international observers declared Uhuru Kenyatta and his Jubilee Party the winner, the other major contestant, the National Super Alliance(Nasa) led by Raila Odinga having appealed to the Supreme Court for a review for the improprieties that the Opposition leader alleges to have taken place. The High Court ruling came out unequivocally in the opposition’s favor declaring the Presidential’elections ‘null and void’. The court permitted Raila’s party to have access to the tabulation forms’ data bases and what they found was beyond any shadow of a doubt that tampering with the data did indeed take place.
The opposition concerns and worries began upon the torture and murder of a key election officer, Chris Msando, who was in charge of the information and telecommunication technology, at the election commission, just days before the vote. The government, and particularly the incumbent president, is believed to have been behind the murder of Mr. Msando. Mr. Msando’s murder and torture have not been investigated and support from the American and British agencies to help in the investigation was rejected by the Kenyan authorities. The opposition alleged that the 12 % winning margin of Kenyatta had been incorporated into the data tally in advance to ascertain an inevitable win. They claim, in their appeal to the Supreme Court, that ‘Kenyattas Jibilee Party hacked the transmission’ system and an audit was necessary. They claimed that “Kenyattas win was based on a mathematical formula and a fixed algorithm factor input into the system.’ In the case of Somaliland, therefore, the computer tally, if liable to manipulations, cannot be the reliable course to bring about an honest and accurate election outcome.
Similarly, with the abundance of hacking and hackers in the world today, where the present US incumbent is also alleged to have utilized such in his ascent to power, reliance on electronic and computer data transfer is utterly unreliable.
In Somaliland where the population base is small and where the polling stations are equally manageable, there will certainly be temptations to steal the votes. The Commission, we have in Somaliland, have mostly been hand-picked by the former Minister of the Presidency and some of them, particularly remnants of the former Commission, tend to be notorious fraudsters. The present Commission has failed to carry out a decent voter registration devoid of loop holes and had already Squandered most of the money availed to them by the government and the international community.
Egal opted for the 7 member Commission and made the Election’s Law so that the three parties nominate a member each as representative, that means eventually each member demonstrating bias and an entrenched party outlook at all times; it was meant solely to placate the opposition concerns about the President dominating the Commission through his purposeful nominations effecting desirable rulings of the outcome. For the sake of the national interests, somaliland needed a non-partisan neutral body selected from honorable, reputable characters identifiable by their sincerity and good character. One might argue that it would be difficult to find neutral persons in this day and age where clan-ism and clan outlook has spoiled the minds of even the most educated. I argue that the effort has not been made. There was also the opposition fear of a lopsided clan composition favoring one clan against the other. But Egal also incorporated the option of the president and the Guurti nominating a member each to the commission to balance out any discrepancies that might occur regarding clan balance. Despite the careful arrangement and good intentions, the Commission is invariably weak because of the inherent make-up of opposing elements in its composition. The Issa clan is not represented and so are the Dhulbahante. The Dhulbahante position of director general cannot be regarded as part of the equation. The leader of UCID has unabashedly and persistently nominated a member of his personal clan denomination in the past two Commission selections. This has made the Isaq clan oddly predominant in terms of numbers in the seven member commission make-up. Even Isaq balance among its sub-clan lineages is glaringly nonproportional : Habar-jeclo and Habar Awal representation of one member each equaling that of Arab, much smaller proportionally. The dilemma also lies with the mindset that these decisions that formed the representation ratio in the past cannot be altered as if curved in stone. Needless to say, the decisions that these odd representatives make, juxtaposed against clan interests on the one hand and personal interests in the other, cannot be for the good fortuity of the nation in the coming elections. Similar actions similar to the one that beset the Kenya elections can be expected.
Somaliland’s Electoral Commission is inherently corrupt. They have misappropriated the funds allocated for the elections for personal use. The Commission has been receiving funds from the government budget for the last three years and such funds have ended in their private accounts and the acquisition of land and purchase of private vehicles. Regional and district commissioner financial entitlements according to the Law have also been wrongfully misappropriated. They got away with this blatant robbery because of the lack of sanctioning bodies such as credible audit and the absence of the ministry of finance pursuance of restraining measures and accountability.
Somaliland’s NEC has already cut corners during the voter registration drive. The use of the iris parameter had been a good choice but the commission omitted the use of the iris identification in the second round when the distribution of the cards came around. Some regions or particular areas of the territory, where Internet Antennas were absent, have been deliberately not screened to ascertain authenticity. This is the reason why Awdal received over 140,000 registered voters. Such an exponential number was obtained by the commission’s omission of the screening process for certain areas such as removing the duplicate entries that were entered at ‘offline’ locations. This was done because there is a hidden agenda to steal votes for one candidate or the other. This insidious behavior is a prelude to more sinister things to be expected from this commission.
Another criminal act carried out by Somaliland NEC is the absence of full registration for almost half of the population of Hargeisa city. This was done by placing the registration locations at areas far removed from a large section of Hargeisa inhabitants. By inconveniencing this large population sector, almost half of Hargeisa population would not be able to vote. This was also done deliberately by the commission members responsible for the city. The polling stations seem to have been cordoned off to specific areas only and not in accordance with the population density of the city.
Now that the Kenya elections have brought to the lime light that electronic transfer of data to the centre is vulnerable to hacking, this commission cannot be relied on for honesty and decency. The parties should make preparations to forestall any corrupt actions that the commission might perpetrate. The transfer of data should not be electronic. The tally sheets with the specific identification markers, like that done in Kenya, such as dry stamps, party representative signatures and serial numbers of tally sheets should be brought in to district, then to region and then to Headquarters. Physical ascertainment of each tally sheet should be presented for verification. This would mean that each party, despite the cost, should have physical presence at each polling station. Then! And only then, would we be able to carry out a credible election exercise in Somaliland.
It is incumbent on all parties to agree on the following points in advance to avoid any temptations of fraud:
1.Every party should be given a copy summary of the polling station final tally and each representative should keep the signed.
Ali E. Duale, Sept. 2,2017- Toronto, Canada .
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Horndiplomat editorial policy.