Somalilandsun: The very essence of democracy is the authority given to the voice of the people and more the majority in any set governance.
And if thus be so in the democratic Somaliland then the ouster of Abdirashid Mohamud Ali ‘Riyo-raac’ as chairman of the National Elections Commission-NEC and subsequent replacement with Ms Kaltun Sh Hasan is legally binding
This is according to Lawyer Guleid Ahmed Jama during a briefing with us in Hargeisa where he also urged the embattled Riyo-raac to accept his removal as a ‘fait accompli’
Riyo-raac who remains unwilling to vacate office was removed from his perch as top Somaliland elections manager through a vote by five of the seven NEC commissioners on the 27th April this year.
“ The vote to replace Riyo-raac with Ms Kaltun Sh Hasan as chairperson came via a majority vote from the commissioners, similar to the one that made him chairman” the lawyer was emphatic.
During the vote that made commissioner Kaltun the first woman to become manager of elections and referendums in Somaliland only two commissioners were absent.
One being the embattled and disposed chair with the other being commissioner Abdifatah who has resigned and his replacement is yet to be approved by the House of Representatives.
Stressing that that rules and regulations governing the Somaliland national elections Commission, a statutory body, give commissioners the power to elect one of their own as chair , the lawyer added that “The law giving authority to hire also gives authority to fire”
In this regard the disposal of Riyo-raac is a legally foregone conclusion just as the elevation via a majority vote of commissioner Kaltun Sh Hasan Abdi as chairperson is a legal fait accompli,
On his take on the Impact to planned presidential elections slated for later in the year, Guleid Ahmed Jama who is also a renowned rights defender in the country, was equivocal that only politically oriented orchestrations might impinge on the democratisation process negatively.
Said he “No change in the composition of NEC commissioners has been done, only the replacement of the sitting chairperson with a sitting commissioner.”
The composition of the Somaliland electoral body is made up of seven commissioners appointed by three organs
Accordingly the 2022 plans and timelines set by NEC as relates to new nationwide Voter Registration, recruitment and training of election officials as well actual conduct of presidential polls remain as was during the tenure of Riyo-raac.
None of the main stakeholders namely, the executive, political parties of Kulmiye, UCID and Wadani as well as both Chambers of Parliament (Guurti & House of Representatives) have opened up on the reasons behind the controversy at NEC,
The only official acknowledgement of the power struggle at the electoral body has come from President Muse Bihi, who upon revealing mediation efforts also urged a legal and internal resolution.
On the other hand the opposition Wadani chipped in stating that “ NEC leadership is an Internal matter and that the party shall cooperate closely and as usual with whichever of the seven commissioners is chairperson.
While no member of the international group that supports the Somaliland democratization process has commented thus assumption of their agreement with the election of Ms Abdi , some locals have raised eyebrows.
This is in relation to the unwritten local law, Xeer, in which the last two presidents namely Dahir Rayale Kahin and Ahmed Mahmud Silanyo were added two extra years upon expiry of their five year term.
“If his two predecessors were accorded two extra years in office why shouldn’t President Muse Bihi Abdi benefit too” some locals argue
In the contrary is those who are firm that President Bihi has around 160 days in office and any extension is unacceptable.
While President Bihi is yet to declare whether he shall seek a second term , the only known presidential contestant is Wadani party’s Abdirahman Abdilahi Irro
The other eyebrows raising issue is the registration of new political groups of which several have already mushroomed.
Constitutional dictates legalize only three national political parties every ten years, the three are registered after local councils elections that are contested by political groups.
The three political groups that are top in the local governments polls are registered as national parties and legalized to contest parliamentary and presidential elections.
The last civic level elections were for the first time held jointly with parliamentary ones a year ago thus four more years to tenure expiration
And though the life of the current political parties expires at the end of the year, only the three, ruling Kulmiye , opposition UCID and Wadani can participate in presidential elections.
So the quagmire here is that ‘legally political groups can only participate in local council elections that are to be held in 2026’ while Presidential elections are for this year.
Therefore is the power struggle that culminated with change of leadership at NEC and the legalisation of political groups a ploy to scuttle Somaliland presidential elections 2022.
Similarly is the legalized opening of political group in the same vein , thus a term extension for president Bihi?
Answers will surely come within the coming quarter of the year .
Guleid Ahmed Jama is a Somaliland lawyer, PhD Candidate @lawinmaastricht, Human rights defender, Ex-chair @hrcsomaliland and Alumni @WashFellowship @RutgersU.