Somaliland: The Guurti’s Decision Is a Red Line That Cannot Be Crossed


Leaders of Guurti chairing a session of the Elders chambers/file

Somalilandsun – The leaders of the opposition parties and members of the self-styled National Consultative Forum may be fuming with anger over the House of Elder’s controversial decision to extend President Silanyo’s term of office by almost two years (one year and ten months precisely) but seeking help and advice from outside is not particularly a palatable option either.

Needless to say, the House of Elders’ decision runs directly counter to the proposed election timetable of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), which calls for the presidential and parliamentary elections to take place in the country on 1st June 2016.

For months, the NEC has been under intense pressure to come up with a timeline as to when the parliamentary and presidential elections could realistically be held in the country.

After taking into careful consideration of the operational challenges, logistical issues and financial problems confronted with the NEC, the newly-appointed commissioners had finally penciled in for the elections on 1st June, 2016, only to be swiftly brushed aside by the House of Elders.

In an apparent attempt to de-escalate the situation, the leaders of the opposition parties had gone the extra mile to delay the elections by fifteen months- five months beyond the election date set by the NEC- but this proposal, too, had been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Even the government has caved in to demands of the US and EU partners and reluctantly reached an agreement with the opposition parties in a bid to reduce the president’s term of extension by four months but the hard-to-please chairman of the House of Elders, Saleban Mohamoud Aden, swiftly and robustly rejected the tripartite agreement, and rightly so, at a hastily arranged press conference soon afterwards.

Constitutionally speaking, the ultimate decision to extend the president’s term of office is vested solely in the House of Elders irrespective of the recommendations of the NEC and opposition parties.

According to senior members of the House of Elders, the controversial decision was apparently triggered by a leaked letter from James McAnuity, the US special representative for Somalia based at the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, which was published in the most widely-circulated Somali language daily, Geeska Afrika, criticizing members of Somaliland’s hereditary Upper House.

According to the letter in question which was addressed to president Silanyo and dated 22nd April, 2015, James McAnuity speculated that “some officials within your cabinet and in the Upper House will seek to delay the elections by two years instead of the one year proposed by the Somaliland National Electoral Commission (NEC)”.

Mr. McAnuity further stated in his letter that “consideration of a potential two-year delay would not be acceptable, and many international partners would likely perceive such action as a political tactic on behalf of certain elements, particularly within the unelected, hereditary Upper House, to remain in power well beyond the point of legitimacy”.

Mr. McAnuity has expressed profound concern at such potential action which he said they would regard as a grave setback to the progress of democracy in Somaliland, which has enjoyed considerable success in recent years.

Unfortunately, the people of Somaliland do not share these concerns with Mr. McAnuity and overwhelmingly support the House of Elder’s decision despite the howls from the splintered opposition camp and the international pressure being brought to bear against the government.

Even members of the House of Elders who voted against this controversial decision came out to say publicly that the idea of reconsidering the Guurti’s [House of Elders] decision at this point in time is ludicrous.

The US and EU partners must realise that the House of Elders is Somaliland’s last line of defense and, when the going gets rough, it is the only institution that keeps the country afloat. Its decision, therefore, is a red line that cannot be crossed, no matter how unpalatable that decision is.

The leaders of the opposition parties will be well advised to fall in line with the rest of the Somaliland people.

Revisiting the House of Elders’s decision will not only set a dangerous precedent for the future but will also seriously erode the credibility of the House and can have a dangerously destabilizing effect on Somaliland.

Jamal Madar
London, UK
originally posted by  under the title The House of Elders’ Decision  Is a Red Line That Cannot Be Crossed