Somaliland: Are elections possible in 2024?


Hargeisa- The year 2023 was a turmoil in Somaliland. An election dispute shocked the stability, and the economy and war in the east defeated the army. Will 2024 be a better year?

At the end of 2021, a legal and political dispute erupted between the ruling and opposition parties. President Muse Bihi Abdi announced in October 2021 that new political associations would be registered and would compete for elections before the presidential elections take place. The presidential elections were already scheduled for November 2022. The opposition insisted that the presidential election should take place first and accused the President of orchestrating an extension of his term.

In June and August 2022, the opposition parties protested against election delays. The security forces killed five peaceful protestors on 11 August 2022, and over one hundred were wounded, according to the Human Rights Centre Somaliland report. The human rights advocacy group also stated that over one hundred protestors were detained without trial.

A bipartisan Parliamentary report findings detailed violations committed by the security forces, including plain-clothed intelligence officers.

The dispute continued, and the Guurti gave the President two years of extension. The opposition called the extension unconstitutional. The Guurti is the upper house of Somaliland’s bicameral legislature. Selected in clan conference in 1997, the Guurti has never been changed, a practice called by democracy activists as unconstitutional and undemocratic.

However, point six of the agreement between Somaliland and Somalia concluded in Djibouti this week may be a sign of peace.

Somaliland and Somalia agreed “to restore peace and stability at the hostile locations and regions [in Somaliland] and to stop [the wars] through the Somali culture,” the agreement between Somaliland and Somalia says in point six. This is an important development, taking into account that the government has been mobilising clan militias, it called civil defence, which were organised to fight against the Dhulbahante militias alongside the military. The government said the “civil defence” is there to protect the civilians.

The “civil defence” consists of members of Habar Jelo. A prominent Habar Jelo sultan, Mohamoud Guleid, accused the government of using his clan to delay elections and secure extension.

The Habar Jelo-secured-deal watered down the political tension and should not be violated. Somaliland will enter into unprecedented territory marked by deep distrust if this deal breaks.

The year 2024 will start in Somaliland with the formation of an opposition alliance consisting of Waddani opposition party and the newly formed political association, Kaah, which has the third largest members in the House of Representatives. Led by Mohamoud Hashi Abdi, the former minister of the presidency under President Siilaanyo, Kaah’s alliance with Waddani will be announced officially on 1 January 2024, and the members of the House of Representatives from the two camps will work together.

The new alliance will pose a political challenge to President Muse Bihi Abdi, who is seeking re-election. Mohamed Hashi Abdi supported President Bihi in the 2017 elections.

Are elections possible in 2024? Technically, holding the elections in 2024 is possible and doable. Politically, however, it needs commitment and willingness. The amended electoral laws need to be approved no later than the first week of January, and the issue of the dismissed member of NEC should be resolved without delay. Elections are possible if these two issues happen in the first two weeks of January. If not, Somaliland may slip back into the quandary.

This is an editorial of Somaliland Daily aimed to analyse the event of 2023 and envisage 2024.