On the 13th of November the republic of Somaliland described as East Africa’s strongest democracy, an oasis of peace and democracy and an example to the other country in the region has gone to the polls to elect its 5th president in the sixth one person one vote election.
This day and election marked yet another democratic milestone and a symbol of the progress made since its inception; from an armed struggle against a cruel regime to the declaration of independence; from a civil war and destruction to rebuilding and development; from a consensus democracy to one person one vote.
This election was the best demonstration of the statement ‘Power of the People’.
Before the election
The weeks leading up to the election were both tensed and stimulating as the political parties engaged in a tough contest by campaigning very hard in all the regions of Somaliland. In the campaign, youth and women played greatest as the majority of the campaigners, and in fact voters, were from them. And thus, it was no surprise that the campaign was not secluded to the physical world but found its way into the online virtual world.
On the night before a campaign, the city of Hargeisa was indifferently very empty as thousands deployed from it to other towns where they were to vote on the next morning. Parts of town, like downtown, which would have been buzzing with people and traffic, were very quiet; it was almost unbelievable.
In contrast, Social Media platforms looked busier than before as the parties’ supporters were sending their last-minute campaign messages, friends asking each other of their locations, the electoral commission workers writing statuses that they arrived the areas where they will be working at in the following morning and that they have been well received by the residents of their respective locations. A hot topic of discussion was also the Social Media which was to shut down on the evening after the polls are to get closed. As one could guess a connected generation could not take the shut down easily.
I, like many, was also online till very late, despite the fact that long day was ahead and it would be very wise to take enough rest and sleep, as the interesting discussions on Facebook and Twitter, the fact that I would be offline for a while after the following voting day, and the gripping energy of the thought of the big day were all keeping and held me a captive.
The big day was finally here
In the morning of the voting day, I got out my house about 7:40 AM to walk, as all traffic was stopped the night before the election, to the polling station I was to vote in which was about 3KM away. On the way I could feel that not many people were walking in the streets as if the people were still asleep, but I was proven wrong when I walked past the closest polling station to my house in which the people were in lines that extended more than 100 meters.
I kept on walking towards my polling station and I could sense that I was going too late despite the fact that the voting has started only 40 minutes earlier but the people stood up in the lines very early, some even the night before!
At the Polling Station
When I finally reached my destination the lines were long and I stood at the back of the line. The line was moving rather slowly and the morning sun started to shine really hot but no was getting out of the line or leaving; people really meant to vote and they did
In the line waiting for their chance to vote people were not silent they were chatting with the other strangers but fellow Somalilanders in the line. The conversations were usually starting with the slowness of the process only to drift away shorty to more political. Business as usual for Somaliland’s oral society, the people started to ask each other ‘Yaad u codaynaysaa?’ which means ‘Who are you going to vote for?’ and the asked would openly say ‘I am voting for Party X’, and others will tell they were ‘undecided’ on who they will vote for yet. Although the campaign has officially stopped, some people were still doing their last bit of campaign for their party urging the others in line to vote for their party.
When arrived at the polling station I was intrigued by the striking equality of voting citizens. The election brought together people of all backgrounds and from all walks of life. The men, women, old, young, rich, poor, educated, and the illiterate were all to vote and their votes weighted the same; one person one vote.
Meanwhile in the voting process, the best thing I have seen was the kindness of the people to the old, disabled and the sick. When they come to the polling station people would tell them to pass and get right in. It indeed was graceful.
The process was going on very orderly thanks to the cooperation of the police and the civilians.
When people get out of polling station voted for their preferred candidate you could see their happiness and satisfaction in their faces and they will often be chanting and telling the others in the line ‘Hebel ku hubso’ which means ‘Make sure you vote for candidate X’.
The big time has finally come
It was in this atmosphere that I finally voted, and when I finally got to mark the ballot paper, I was hit by a sudden realization that I am to vote for who is going to lead the nation in the next five years, I consciously took the decision and made the mark with a bit of heaviness and unrest but when I did it was the rewardingly the proudest moment. This is my tale of #SomalilandVotes.
Written by Khadar Mariano, Deputy Editor of Horndiplomat
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Horndiplomat editorial policy.
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