As deputy British envoy to Somalia Andrew Allen states that Further Polls Delays shall Undermine Democratization Achievements by Somaliland adding that such contemplation shall for the Presidential elections would put a huge question mark about whether that momentum has been lost.
By: Abdikadir Askar, Communications Lead
Somaliland sun- The world would be surprised and disappointed if Somalia held its elections on time this year and Somaliland failed to meet its own March 2017 timetable for Presidential polls.
This was stated by the U.K. Deputy Ambassador to Somalia Andrew Allen during a candid meeting with a number of local journalists at the Ambassador hotel in Hargeisa which is the first stop of his maiden visit to Somaliland since assuming his duties in December 2015.
While expressing Britain’s disappointment with postponement of parliamentary elections that were due next year the diplomat was hopeful that the government would stick to its timetable for Presidential elections in March 2017.
He pointed out that parliamentary elections have been repeatedly postponed, prolonging the body’s live from five to 12 years, while Presidential elections are two years overdue amid speculation that they might slip from the target date of March 2017.
Somalia, he said, was on track to hold key elections by the end of the year, dispute the difficulties caused by war and conflict since 1992.
“Somaliland’s democratization process has been a light in the region,” he told the group of journalists. “There is a sense in which a delay (in the Presidential elections) would put a huge question mark about whether that momentum has been lost.
“If Mogadishu does hold a successful election, and Somaliland slows down its democratization, I think some people might make a comparison,” he said.
The Deputy Ambassador said Prime Minister Theresa May’s new government would make no change to UK policy of support for both Somalia and Somaliland and looked forward to an international donors’ conference to continue funding in the coming year.
Allen answered multiple questions on Somaliland failure to get the international recognition it seeks since breaking away from Somalia in 1991 by saying it was a matter for the international community, not one for Britain alone.
“That decision will be made by the community of nations,” he said.
He pointed out that when Czechoslovakia split into two nations – Slovakia and the Czech republic – it was with the agreement of the peoples of both nations.
“That was a ‘velvet divorce” because the two countries were speaking to each other,’” he said, in reference to Somalia’s continuing claim to hold sovereignty over Somaliland in a federal Somali republic.
The British official played down any significance to the fact that UK diplomats based in Mogadishu are also responsible for Somaliland. “We have people in Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Mogadishu and London following Somaliland so we can continue to support it. There is no change to our policy,” he said.
Allen said he was “depressed” to hear about the detention and harassment of Somaliland journalists by the authorities and its impact on the freedom of press.
But he welcomed the assertion of one journalist that the Somaliland media sometimes makes mistakes.
“I will take with me (back to Mogadishu) the fact that journalists are sometimes wrong as well (as the government). It is important that journalists report in a balanced way.”
He welcomed discussion of a Code of Conduct for government and media in forthcoming elections and regretted that the current Media Law “does not satisfy the requirements of a fair and responsible media.”
He said journalists had a special responsibility to report responsibly in difficult circumstances both in Somalia and Somaliland.
“We see the benefits of sensible journalism and the damage of irresponsible journalism,” he said.
In a norm initiated in August by UK envoy to Somalia Ambassador Harriet Mathews, this is the second time for British diplomats based in Mogadishu holding candid discussions with local journalist during a visit to Somaliland,