Somaliland at the Crossroads: Can NEC Save the Nation from Collapse?

A woman casts her vote in the presidential election in Hargeisa, Somaliland, Nov. 13, 2017.
A woman casts her vote in the presidential election in Hargeisa, Somaliland, Nov. 13, 2017.

By: Mukhtar Muhumed Hassan

Somaliland’s journey has been one of resilience and determination. Yet today, that hard-won stability hangs by a thread. Somaliland, once a beacon of democratic hope in the Horn of Africa, now stands at a critical juncture. Somaliland faces a critical moment. Scheduled presidential elections on November 13, 2024, offer a chance for stability, but delays could trigger a devastating collapse. The question on everyone’s lips: Can the National Electoral Commission (NEC) steer

this ship away from the rocks of instability?

A History of Delays and Tensions

Somaliland stands at a critical juncture in its political journey, with the upcoming elections poised to shape the nation’s future. As we approach this pivotal moment, it’s crucial to examine the tumultuous events that have led us here and understand the stakes at hand.

At the heart of our current political impasse lies the two-year extension granted by the Upper House (Guurti) to avoid a leadership vacuum when the current president’s term expired in December 2022. While intended as a stopgap measure, this decision has only prolonged the uncertainty and heightened tensions.

The path to the upcoming elections has been fraught with obstacles and marked by confusion and political turmoil. A deadlock centered on whether presidential or local party elections should be held first, which coincided with the expiration of 10-year political party licenses continued for months before a final decision was taken to compile the two at once. In August 2022, public demonstrations erupted into violence, leading to tragic deaths of opposition supporters and targeted arrests.

As the statement continued, an armed rebellion occurred in Ga’an Libaax in 2023. This unrest resulted in significant casualties and property damage, leaving deep scars on our national spirit.

These events were a direct consequence of the political deadlock surrounding the sequencing of presidential and local party elections. The confusion and turmoil of the past years have eroded public trust in the democratic process and tested the resilience of our institutions

The current administration’s handling of the Lasanod situation in 2022/2023 serves as a stark reminder of the leadership failures plaguing our nation. After eight grueling months of conflict and heavy losses, government forces were forced to withdraw nearly 100 kilometers. This military setback not only redefined territorial control but also inflicted a severe blow on national cohesion.

This defeat underscores the urgent need for competent leadership and strategic decision-making. The Lasanod conflict has exposed critical weaknesses in our governance and military structures, highlighting the pressing need for reform and accountability.

The upcoming elections represent more than just a democratic exercise; they are a lifeline for Somaliland’s stability and progress. Further delays pose a significant threat to our social cohesion, economic stability, international credibility, and public trust in democracy. The potential consequences are dire. Frustrated citizens, already disillusioned by political maneuvering, may resort to civil unrest which can easily ignite armed confrontation. Investor confidence, already shaky, could evaporate entirely, leading to a serious economic freefall. Most importantly, Somaliland’s hard-earned reputation for democratic progress could vanish overnight, causing a significant loss of international credibility. Each delay chips away at our democratic process, risking a regression.

While past interventions by elders have proven successful, they highlight the need for robust democratic structures to prevent future stalemates. Now all parties are committed to the November date and further postponement is unacceptable.

By working together and prioritizing the democratic process, Somaliland can ensure a peaceful and successful election, solidifying its path toward a stable and prosperous future.

Biometric Verification: A Potential Hurdle

The debate surrounding biometric voter identification encapsulates the broader tensions gripping the country. While the technology promises enhanced security and accuracy, its hasty implementation could jeopardize the entire electoral process. The government’s recent proposal for biometric voter verification has emerged as a new obstacle. The opposition’s stand is clear: they support biometric verification if it can be implemented effectively within the remaining timeframe. Implementing such a complex system within a limited timeframe is a significant challenge. The opposition parties advocate for a focus on ensuring timely elections with a transparent process. Memories of the failed 2021 biometric pilot project loom large, fueling skepticism.

Delayed elections risk plunging Somaliland into chaos and could have disastrous consequences. Somaliland has already paid a heavy price for past electoral uncertainties, including deaths and armed rebellion. The current president’s extended term already exceeds the standard five-year mandate. The fixed election date, secured at a significant cost, cannot be compromised. Extending the president’s term further is illogical and undermines democratic principles.

At the center of this political maelstrom stands the National Electoral Commission (NEC). The future of Somaliland rests on the shoulders of the seven NEC members, who carry the hopes of a nation. The NEC shoulders the immense responsibility of conducting a free and fair election. The NEC must resist pressure from all sides – government, opposition, and international actors and must rise above partisan interests and prioritize the national good. Their decisions in the coming months will shape Somaliland’s trajectory for years to come. Their competence in managing the elections will also determine the country’s stability. Though the NEC Chairman’s commitment to conducting elections within the timeframe, without biometric verification if necessary, is a positive step, recent presidential pronouncements on election procedures overstep the NEC’s authority.

The eyes of Somaliland – and indeed, the world – are upon the NEC. All stakeholders must demonstrate leadership and unity to ensure peaceful and timely elections, safeguarding Somaliland’s fragile stability.

Somaliland’s Reputation at Stake

Somaliland’s hard-won progress is at stake. Somaliland’s history of conducting elections and upholding freedom of expression has earned it a reputation for relative stability in the volatile Horn of Africa region. Delays could lead to chaos, jeopardizing stability in an already volatile Horn of Africa region. Further delays risk jeopardizing this hard-won reputation and plunging the country into chaos.

Somaliland has historically resolved internal conflicts through consensus, earning a reputation for conducting elections and upholding freedom of expression. Somaliland has long prided itself on its democratic achievements. The American Freedom House’s Global Freedom Status report for 2024 placed Somaliland at 43/100 – “partly free” but notably higher than many of its neighbors. However, this score has been slipping, down from 49/100 in 2022 and 44/100 in 2023.

The current crisis in the Horn of Africa, with instability fueled by the Houthis in Yemen and internal conflicts in other countries, underscores the urgency for Somaliland to avoid similar turmoil.

Somaliland’s future rests on the successful conduct of the upcoming presidential election. The NEC’s ability to deliver a credible and timely process will determine whether the nation emerges from this period of political turmoil or descends into crisis and instability.

Mukhtar Muhumed Hassan

Foreign Affairs Secretary

Kaah Political Party,


Hargeisa, Somaliland

The article’s author is currently serving as the Foreign Docket Secretary for the Kaah Political party and an advisor to the party Chairman on political and Economic Affairs.

He has over 20 years of experience working with international NGOs and the UN in different capacities including heading Country Programs. He is among Somaliland intellectuals with a wealth of knowledge who have opted to join politics when political parties long to have experienced and talented individuals.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the Horndiplomat editorial policy.
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