Somaliland: Braininess in the Locally Brewed Brand of Democracy

Celebrating 18th May Somaliland -file photo Independence Day in Hargeisa

Most of my penning features the full half of the Somaliland cup or case, while other times stressing what is absent from that cup and how it might have been filled. In Somaliland – a country still in its earliest stages contrasted with the nations on the planet – there are marvels that have been generally welcomed by the international communities, and few gray spots that still need polishing.

“Democracy is the tyranny of the majority” according to Alexis de Tocquevilleas as preached in the Western European and in North American where “a rule by the majority” is considered a Devine Revelation. However, the brand spearheaded in Somaliland Republic approaches that challenge in intelligent manner by which the concept of “a rule by all” is practiced.

With the exception of the Somaliland quest for statehood – which itself attracted many thesis and analysis around the globe – enormous Western scholars have written in-depth studies and scholarships on many aspects of the Somaliland nation’s unprecedented achievements such as reconciliation efforts of Somaliland communities after the civil war, disarming clan militias, rebuilding basic structures of government and free-market based entrepreneurship economy  from ruins, extending authority of government to the remote edges of the country, and maintaining vigilantly peace and stability throughout the nation.

Democracies – the majority rules systems – in the West and North America are seen by greater part of the world as an ideal system of administration, given the tyrant and authoritarian administrations common in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. There is an assumption generally held that Western style of majority rule government is replicable model in any society regardless of prevalent customs, cultures, and commitments for religious faith. However, that didn’t end up being the situation. Ongoing experiences that illustrate this point include Afghanistan, Libya, Tunisia, and Somalia where regime changes – because of either an inner uprising or the use of foreign troops – has occurred, followed by an external imposition of democratization measures that have not taken any roots within these countries so far because of neglecting the real and crucial factors in the society.

In any case, Somaliland mindfully approached that Western idea of democratization process, prioritizing Islamic law and country’s culture.

Clan Democracy – an alternative which can also be often interchangeably called Nomads Democracy – is a modified system of democracy pioneered in Somaliland – that the world is watching with great interest in how it has rescued the nation of Somaliland from rubbles to riches in African standards.

With less foreign aid and intervention, Clan Democracy has enabled Somaliland to hold many fair and free elections as well as to facilitate successive peaceful power transfers in a volatile region.

Despite the fact that an irrelevant bit of society actually abuses tribalism in an impeding manner by causing small hiccups from time to time, generally Somaliland people grasp the clan framework in a positive, productive, and profitable way and it has traditionally assumed a significant part in their lives as an instrument to subdue clashes, act security net for the poor, and prevent foes. It very well may be contended to be more powerful instrument for the great good and less unsafe practice.

Many countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia have clan systems – with strong bond of allegiance – in their societies, which has led to their domination of government and political systems in those countries. Such instances, political leadership deliberately undermines the national interest with clan politics, leading to a dysfunctional and weak governance. Without going far away, the tragedy and disarray that tribal guided politics unleash on a nation can be effectively gotten from the current situation of Somalia.

Democratization in Somaliland was a long and bumpy process that transitioned the nation from an exclusively clan-based system to hybrid one known as clan democracy and is one of the many valuable treasures that the country must promote in the quest for international recognition.

Democratization in Somaliland has been adjusted to conform to the way of life in the nation to have it working and successful, and this is exemplified by the development of the House of Elders and the clans working as electoral districts. The House of Elders – a vital body in Somaliland political foundation with incredible powers in its grasp – served well up until this point and saved Somaliland through enormous troublesome occasions. This institution is one of the Somaliland experiences that Somalia needs, which is presently at a critical crossroads and is on the verge of erupting. The Somaliland House of Elders is comprised of individuals with no personal stake in governmental issues except for with a profound information on customary culture and formal schooling enough to follow legislative cycles from all Somaliland clans. The powers of this body include the final authority that extend terms of office for the government, the House of Representatives, and local municipalities if the atmosphere in the country would  not permit holding elections as well as the resolution of inter-clan disputes.

Utilizing clans as electoral districts availed an opportunity and created a possibility for the smaller tribes to frame an alliance and by pooling their voting power their candidates emerge.

Looking back at the history of present day Somaliland elections, the Head of State is chosen in a national election, the eighty two members for the House of Representatives at a regional level, and 236 Councilor seats for 22 Municipalities throughout the country at local level.  First Local Council elections were held in 2002, and the first parliamentary election took place in 2005. Every ten years, the window for the registration of new political parties re-opens, in which the vote of Somaliland citizens determines both the winning candidates as well as the winning political association that would become a registered national political party. Somaliland conducted its second and , unfortunately, last local municipalities elections little over eight years ago – on 28 November in 2012. The last parliamentary election was held on 29 September in 2005. The upcoming combined Somaliland Parliamentary and Local Municipalities Elections are planned to occur on May 31, 2021.

Details of Electoral Region in Somaliland

Regions & Districts Law (Law No: 23/2002)  has been entirely replaced with Law No23/2019, in which Article 22 of chapter 4 clearly defines the number of councilors in each category of the municipalities eligible holding elections in Somaliland, as follows:

The Local Council of the Capital City Hargeisa: 17 members.

The Local Councils of category A Districts: 13 members.

The Local Councils of category B Districts: 11 members.

The Local Councils of category C Districts: 9 members.

Article 10 of chapter 1 in the  Regions & Districts Law (Law No: 23/2019) set out the six regions of Somaliland Republic and the categories as well as the number of the municipalities in each region:

Somaliland Electoral Regions
Somaliland regions map

Somaliland Electoral Constituencies

When the presidents form their cabinets, after winning elections, it became a norm in Somaliland to have an administration portraying an image that is representative and reflective of the clans living in the country regardless of who received the clan’s votes and their political affiliation.  This attitude made Somaliland to be a nation “rule by all”

The administration at the regional or provincial level – until it is the time for them to be directly elected by the electorate – the electoral law stipulates that a joint leadership made up of elected local governments and members nominated by the central government – especially the president- would govern. Also, the administrations of municipalities categorized as D are now appointed by the central government according to the law

Between the next Municipal and parliamentary elections in Somaliland, 954 aspirant  candidates representing the three national political parties and nominated by their clansmen are vying for 318 seats throughout the nation.

Up until the present time, the brand – with its imperfections and shortcomings –  spared Somaliland   from fragility and conflicts, leading to maintaining peace and development, and eventually the nation would become ripe to further transition where principles and ideology are the driving force for bonding the society

About the author

Ahmed J Yassin (SII Member)


Clinical Laboratory Professional