Somalilandsun: A local organization, DPA, has accused the Somaliland National Electoral Commission (NEC) of not paying attention to people with disabilities who they say do not allow them to participate in elections expected to take place in Somaliland on 31 May 2021.
In a statement issued today, the DPA spoke about the failure of the Somaliland National Electoral Commission to include disabled members in the electoral process, and described the NEC’s practice as discriminating against people with disabilities in Somaliland.
The DPA statement reads:
“We, the leaders of the Development and Protection Association (#DPA) based and operating in Somaliland to protect the rights of people with disabilities, are badly criticizing the current commissions of Somaliland national election commission for turning deaf ears to our special needs in the upcoming elections of Somaliland.
The current commissioners led by Ina-Riyaraac do not deserve to be the right commissioners who can represent all categories of voters in Somaliland. We realized that they need themselves to be trained and aware of disability inclusion in all election processes of Somaliland.
In evaluation of the NEC office, it does not look like NEC office but it looks like army base. Due to this reason, we faced difficulties to meet the commissioners in many times when we tried to see them and discuss with them on our concerns. We are just stopped outside the gate and pushed back by the security guard surrounding the gate.
We assume that both security guard and the commissioners are deliberately discriminating and discouraging us from being part and parcel of other parties of the society. This is resulted that people with disabilities have never participated in elections either as candidates or voters due to prevailing cultural stigmatization against PWDs, the absence of political will to recognize PWDs’ participation in the political process, and a lack of awareness on their rights to participate in the electoral process. Somaliland’s constitution recognizes citizens’ right to participate in free and fair elections. With all means and measures possible, Somaliland Government including NEC requires to guarantee persons with disabilities’ political rights and the opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others.
One of the ways that people with disabilities take part in politics is guaranteeing the free expression of the will of persons with disabilities as electors and to this end, where necessary, allowing assistance in bringing them into the voting process by a person of their own choice. Recognizing the barriers for PWD’s right to participate in the political process such as lack of political will by the Somaliland leadership and stigma and negative social attitudes, the government and other actors involved in the electoral process can help people with disabilities to take part in politics through various means: provision of training about politics to people with disabilities and disability organizations, encourage the governments and people working in elections process to develop roadmaps, policies and partnerships with Somaliland stakeholders during election planning and preparations that will help more people with disabilities take part in politics, involve disability organizations for people with disabilities in developing education campaigns about their rights to vote by a person of their own choice.
Voting gives people with disabilities a stronger political voice. People with disabilities who vote in elections show the public that they are equal citizens. In the upcoming parliamentary, presidential and local council elections, the Somaliland Government needs to recognize mutual respect of all citizens and equal representation of all communities in Somaliland. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities underscores the equal right of persons with disabilities to participate in political life. It is unfortunate for the people of Somaliland, in particular for persons with disabilities who represent 15% of the population lack their political representation in the government and law-making bodies.
Development and Protection Association (#DPA) is deeply saddened about the unconstitutional political exclusion of persons with disabilities from the upcoming parliamentary and local council elections. DPA, as a representative organization of the people living with disabilities (#PWDs) in Somaliland, are appealing to the Somaliland Government, International Partners, and all Somaliland stakeholders to recognize that persons with disabilities have equal rights with other citizens and realize their participation to the parliamentary and local council election process. We are very concerned about excluding us from all voter education provided by the NEC.
We are very sorry that Somaliland plans all polling stations to be inaccessible to the disabled voters. This is why they miss their rights to vote during elections. We are very sorry that deaf people are not getting voter education from the many media institutions working with NEC.
We are sorry that NEC urns deaf ears to working with our disability organization specialized in education and awareness of people with special needs like deaf and blind voters.
However, the case might be, we are calling the international communities, UN and INGOs working with Somaliland on democracy and election concerns to make immediate intervention to the discriminatory practices of NEC and enforce them to consider our special needs in the election process.
We declare that if the upcoming election takes place as it is now without us, all eligible candidates are not representing us in the future. Nothing about us, without us. Again, we are kindly appealing UN and international donors to empower us to break barriers discouraging us from being participated in the democracy and election of Somaliland from now onward.
By: Jama Ibrahim Awed Disability inclusion technical advisor