By:Abdirahman Warsame Nour
18th May 1991 was a game-changer for Somaliland. This was the date when Somaliland gained its independence from Somalia. The location of this grand conference was Burao, a town in the Togdheer region of Somaliland. Since then, the Somalilanders have exercised democracy and enjoyed peacefully, despite lack of international recognition. Somaliland is one of the few countries, not only in the horn of Africa but Africa in general that enjoys a sense of democracy and a sweet taste of peaceful existence. Somaliland has since then used this democracy to keep its citizens in peaceful co-existence. Somaliland’s democratic performance and progress could be an example for the rest of Africa to learn from. It is in Somaliland where we have a great history of the war-torn country turned into a democratic and peaceful state with beautiful developing cities within a period of 30 years of non-recognition. Somaliland clearly highlights that you don’t have to be rich to be democratic. Somaliland has a small national budget and a population of 3.5 million. Somaliland has a rough topography and harsh climate with recurring droughts.
Somaliland’s development from a war-torn state to a peaceful state since the 1990s shows great progress within the country. The former UK protectorate has developed a stable, democratic system of politics, merging modern and traditional elements. In 2002, Somaliland made a transition from a clan-based system to a multi-party democracy after a referendum in 2001, formalizing the Guurti as an Upper House of Elders, which secures the support of traditional clan-based power structures.
There have since been regular elections and a frequent transfer of power between the main political parties. The current President of Somaliland H. E. Musa Bihi is the 5th President of Somaliland since its independence in 1991. In November 2017, Muse Bihi Abdi, a former SNM fighter, was elected president. He received 55% of the vote, becoming the country’s fifth president. The 2003 presidential election was won by Dahir Riyale Kahin by just 80 votes in nearly half a million against Ahmed Mahamoud Silanyo. The tables were later turned in 2010, with Silanyo winning 49% of the vote against his opponent’s 33%.
Somaliland could be a great case study and success story for her immediate neighbours. Uganda’s current government which has ruled for 3 decades could learn from Somaliland’s co-existence, democracy and transfer of power. The same goes for Eritrea and Djibouti where there has been the same government for over 2 decades.
On 31 May 2021, on the 20th anniversary of its multi-party democracy, the parliamentary and local district elections went on smoothly with 1.1 million voters registered by the National Electoral Commission (NEC), and the establishment of 2,709 polling stations countrywide. 30,000+ employees worked on Election Day, 798 candidates, 28 female candidates and 5 Gabooye (minority clan) candidates.
The election was a peaceful process where nearly one thousand candidates from three political parties competed in the two elections for more than 23 elections districts and running for 82 seats for the House of Representatives. The elections process was concluded in a peaceful manner where no security threats were reported in all the six regions of Somaliland. These elections were observed but over 60 international observers flew into Somaliland prior to the election. The observers were from UK, US, Kenya, Ethiopia, Finland and many others. The observers reported the election to be fair, democratic and decent. Somaliland which is looking upon the International Community to get independence fulfilled all criteria required of a democratic state. The international observers praised President Bihi for his role in leadership for facilitating and conducting the elections. The ruling party got 30 seats out of 82 seats of House Representatives.
Somalia could take this lesson and accept the fact that Somaliland is a state of its own and deserves its independence. After Somalia accepting Somaliland to be an independent state of its own, then Somalia can concentrate on its stability as a peaceful state and co-exist with Somaliland as peaceful neighbors. The International community plays a major role in restoring peace and stability between the 2 states by recognizing Somaliland as an independent state.
Somaliland’s progress to improved democratic rules and standards, and its regular change of leaders at polls, have made it a regional democratic example for the rest of Africa to look upon. Undoubtedly, the world should recognize Somaliland a peaceful state in the Horn of Africa.
Abdirahman Warsame Nour: Has a different Master’s degree including Master of Arts in Development Studies, Master of Arts in Peace and Conflict Studies and currently studying for Master of Arts in International Law and Diplomacy at FFU University.