Somaliland Democracy: Relentless Perseverance


By: Abdulaziz Al-Mutairi

Somalilandsun – “Democracy is in the blood of Musalmans, who look upon complete equality of manhood [mankind]…[and] believVoters patiently wait to cast their votes in the 2010 presidential elections/filee in fraternity, equality and liberty.” ― Muhammad Ali Jinnah

Democratization process intoday’s Somaliland had many sweet and sour experiences. Through these experiences the modern and unique democracy of Somaliland becomes beautiful. But it does not mean that it is bed of roses. There will be always thorns or ups and downs in the process. However, it rises despite odds.

The application of democracy in Somaliland as new political system was not difficult process as it is in the blood of the people; the culture of the people is based on consultation and negotiation against obstacles without use of force; such culture was practiced in Somaliland much before the arrival of the colonial powers in late 19th Century.The author I. Lewis underscored such culture in his booked ‘A Study of Pastoralism and Politics among the Northern Somali of the Horn of Africa’ and the book ‘The Democracy of Sultan Diriye’.

In 1936, the first democratic political party (Somali National Society – SNS) was announced in Somaliland, followed by multiparty system adopted in Somaliland by creating three more political parties: SNL, USP and NUF. SNS varnished due to emerge of the new three political parties.

After pro-liberation activities started mid-20th Century, Both SNL and USP wanted to unite with Italian Somalia – a territory under UN Trusteeship – while NUF was pro-independence of Somaliland. Somaliland won independence from British on 26th June 1960, and was registered as an independent nation where more than 35 countries recognized. However, Somaliland united with Italian Somalia on 1st July 1960 – exactly four days from its independence.

Somaliland’s pre-independence election oflate 1950’s, the SNL and USP won majority of the seats in the House of the Parliament; they sustained their agenda of uniting with Italian Somalia. Statesman Mohamed Hajji Ibrahim Egal was nominated as first elected Prime Minister of Somaliland. On 1st July 1960 and declaration of new Somali Republic, Egal was the first African elected leader to resign in favor of a cause – Formation of Somali Republic.

Somali Republic was combination of British Somaliland and Italian Somalia. Somaliland’s culture of democracy flourished into Somali Republic until military coup by General\ Mohamed Siyad Barre in 1969. The military regime turned into authoritarian and mass-murderer and was ousted through an armed struggle by Somaliland people (Former citizens of British Somaliland and Somali Republic) in a struggle that lasted for more than a decade. Somalilanders, later, encouraged General\ Mohamed Farah Aideed to start similar struggle in Mogadishu.

18th May 1991, was historic day and the rebirth of Republic of Somaliland (Known British Somaliland 1884 – 1960). The people of Somaliland decided to withdraw from the 1960 unity with Italian Somalia, today’s Somalia.

Emblems of the seven Parties contesting the 2012 local council elections in Somaliland  Again, Somaliland rebuilt democratic institutions, and multiparty system was inaugurated in Somaliland where many political organizations contended for becoming national party. The threeorganizations KULMIYE, UDUB and UCID were recognized as the political parties of the Republic of Somaliland (2002 – 28th Nov 2012).

Somaliland hosted four free and fair elections, including presidential election that brought opposition party KULMIYE to the power in 2010. Today, former President of Somaliland DahirRiyaleKahin is Opposition Leader and Former Opposition Leader Mohamed Ahmed Siilaanyo is the President of Somaliland. Such democratic and peaceful power transfer caught the eyes of the international community, and earned appreciation and respect for Somaliland worldwide.

In every ten years, Municipality elections serves as Primary Elections because only the three winning parties will contest in Parliament and Presidential election. However, Municipality election takes place in Somaliland every five years, and upcoming election scheduled on 28th Nov 2012.

Somaliland constitution permits formation of new political organizations in every 10 years. However the first face of the registering the organization in National Election Commission (NEC) will require the organization to register at least 1000 of its supporters in every district across Somaliland; it must pay $25,000 of party registration fees to the NEC; it must open officesacross the regions. The political organization that fulfills the above criteria will be alloWomen candidates largest this time aroundwed to participate in Municipality Elections.

Any organization that meets the abovementioned conditions will be allowed to participate in the Municipality election.

Hereafter, the three top political organizations, in terms of voters, in the election will be recognized as Somaliland’s Political Parties for the next ten years.

President Siilaanyo vowed to open formation of political parties during 2010 Presidential Election according to the constitution, which brought him to the power. Today, ruling party KULMIYE and opposition party UCID are facing heated campaign from the newly formed political organizations, in order to maintain their status as political party. Five political organizations are contesting for the election except UDUB who stayed away from the elections due to internal party rift.

Such healthy and mature democratic system could be an example to many African states because it will reduce political violence that follows presidential elections like Kenya, Congo, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast…etc.

Somaliland’s homemade election system gives citizens with political ambitions, including young ones, a change to open party or participate in the elections. Majority of the African political parties are one-man-show, where the old politicians don’t allow fresh blood to be injected in the parties. The system will avoid political monopoly, where one man dominates the leadership of a country for many years. The system will lead people totrust the transparency of democracy. Another amazing advantage of the system is that all parties will have supporters across the country, which will lead to fair power distribution.

Recently, the Somaliland President issued decree prohibiting use of the government properties in the election campaign, after members of the ruling party KULMIYE misused the government vehicles and other authorities. This ensures complete transparency and NEC appreciate the move, in addition to the political organizations.

However, Somaliland democracy is facing complication from the newly nominated government of Somalia – Mogadishu regime. The latter is employing the angry leaders of the political organizations who lost in the current nomination process of the political orgaIn Contrastnizations by NEC under the terms of Somaliland constitution like former leader of NDP political organization and current Deputy Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Somalia Fawziya Hajji Adam. She led NDP in current Somaliland Municipality election but failed to get 1000 supporters and open offices from every district and region, as required by the constitution of Somaliland.

The NEC disqualified NDP organization, and she defected to Mogadishu, where the current President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud nominated her as Deputy Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs. There are many other Somaliland politicians who fled to Mogadishu after they failed to make through the challenging politics of Somaliland.

This is a direct threat to Somaliland democracy, and such recruitment of the politicians with Somaliland-origin is clear violations of Somaliland Constitution. This angered the public and current leadership of Somaliland.

Mogadishu regime short-circuited the London Communiqué that prohibits any interference into each other’s politics (Somaliland and Somalia). The International Community requested both Hargiesa and Mogadishu to cooperate positively and talk on their future relationship. However, such move of appointing Somaliland-born politicians undermines possible healthy relations in the future.

‘The Somaliland Constitution ensures equal opportunity to all citizens.’ – Statesman Mohamed Ibrahim Egal.

Abdulaziz Al-Mutairi