The people of Somaliland are used to having democratic elections and have been holding elections since they declared their independence from Somalia on the 18th of may 1991. Somaliland’s democratic tradition is very impressive, Starting with the peaceful campaigns where people turned up in the masses, organized so that each party was allocated a specific re-occurring day during the campaign month like clockwork, proved the hard work and planning the National Electoral Commission (NEC) put in to insure that no stone was left unturned also displaying the maturity and readiness of the people for yet another democratic election.
Somaliland also held the first ever presidential debate in the region organised by a group of young people who brought all three parties under one roof to debate policies and answer questions directly from the people that will be voting for them. Clearly showing that they are willing to move on from the clan based democratic rule that they were used to in the past. The Somaliland people understand that they need leadership that benefits all and not just the few.
70% of the country is under 30 and an even higher percentage of the population unemployed. Youth organisations have been at the forefront campaigning for important changes like moving away from Clan politics and ensuring that this election was peaceful, transparent and fair. Inspire group is one of these organisations that took the initiative and organised the first ever presidential debate which was a success.
It was recorded live and made available to every citizen.
Since the first debate, which was on 19th of October 2017, another debate was held by BBC Somalia. These debates gave citizens a chance to hear the candidates discuss policies and issues relevant to their lives for the first time.
Another first in this election was not just for the region but the world. Somaliland was the first country in the world to use iris recognition technology.
Some would argue that just the campaign and election process was not the most impressive thing about this election, it was one of the most competitive elections Somaliland had ever seen and when the ruling party was declared as the winner the other two opposition parties accepted the election results.
Even though there were some disputes from the opposition party Waddani regarding the fairness of the election, they were satisfied after NEC completed recounts in the disputed areas. The NEC did a great job by efficiently taking grievances seriously and proving to the party that the election process was being handled in a fair and transparent manner. Faisal Ali warabe of the Ucid party even promised to collaborate with the new government. We were able to witness the great characters and responsibility of the candidates running for office. The Waddani leader Chairman Abdirahman Cirro said in his concession speech “ The country will not collapse for my political ambitions. The blood of my people will not be shed for it”. This clearly demonstrates the caliber of the candidates running for office in Somaliland. The President-Elect H.E Muse Biixi Cabdi is currently making headlines in Somaliland for his statements in a recent meeting with his campaigners about the changes he intends to bring starting with strong declarations of stamping out corruption in his government.
It is evident why this election and campaign process was very special indeed, it was one in which Somaliland experience many triumphs and in return a small unrecognised country in Africa showed the world a great example of what a free and fair election process looks like.
Although Somaliland has economic and social struggles like many countries in Africa with resources and access to funds being very low, it is showing the world that it is working hard to maintain a peaceful and fair society.
Autocratic men rule majority of Africa, which makes the continent largely undemocratic. A group of authoritarian leaders have maintained an iron grip on power in parts of Africa, either by amending laws to extend their terms in the office, hosting rubber-stamp elections or repressing opposition and civil society. African countries are not alone in this, other countries had their fair share of dictators like Cambodia’s Hun Sen has also been in power for more than three decades; and in Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev has held office since before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the list could go on.
On rare occasions like Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, led for more than three decades. In Singapore’s case I think we all agree that this is one of the rare cases where this type of leader built a strong nation that can be sustained after him. In most cases dictatorships are famous for destroying the mechanisms that had been holding the state.
Africa is about more than just a group of authoritarian leaders. Evident in recent news some African countries are standing up and rejecting authoritarian leaders and the governments that keep them in power.
From the growing number of leaders passing power on peacefully after elections, Somaliland is a shinning star for democracy in Africa, against all odds it succeeded in building a strong democratic functioning government without international recognition since it declared its independence in 1991.
Somaliland has shown the world that a small unrecognized country in the horn of Africa could be model for democracy not only in it’s ever-unsettled neighborhood but Africa in general lets hope this election will leverage Somaliland’s Position as a democratic outpost in Africa.
Written by Khadra Ismail and Fatima Warda Hordiplomat Team
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Horndiplomat editorial policy.
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