“Somaliland should be commended for holding elections on a regular basis but with as much experience as it has had with elections since 1991, I would have thought it could do better by this time” Amb David Shinn
By: Yusuf M Hasan
HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – The United States normally attaches considerable importance to the views of neutral international election observers.
The US government is awaiting the final report of the International Election Observer-IOE Mission which observes the local council elections held in 28th November before it makes comments.
This was revealed by Ambassador David Shinn during an interview with the Horn newspaper in which he also opinioned that the national police force needs international training
Below are the verbatim excerpts of the interview
How do you see the local elections held in Somaliland on 28 November and the report by the international observers?
Somaliland should be commended for holding elections on a regular basis. As you know, some countries in Africa and elsewhere around the world do not have scheduled elections or any elections. There were, however, some reports of violence and apparently no voting took place in some districts in eastern Somaliland. Voter turnout in the rest of Somaliland was reportedly high. Representatives of The Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU) organized a 51-member team of international observers to observe the elections. This is a relatively small number of observers for an area as large as Somaliland. They only observed about 20 percent of the polling stations. That means they were unable to observe the situation in most of Somaliland.
The DPU observers reported that the voting process was mainly free, relatively peaceful and marked by great public enthusiasm. On the other hand, they witnessed widespread evidence of attempts at multiple voting exacerbated by the lack of a voter registration system. With as much experience as Somaliland has had with elections since 1991, I would have thought it could do better by this time.
What impact will the final report on local council elections by international observers have on the government of the United States?
The United States normally attaches considerable importance to the views of neutral international election observers. As the DPU was the only international group to observe the elections, I assume that the United States will pay close attention to its final report. The United States will also look into allegations by groups such as XAQSOOR that have strongly criticized the election process.
Do you think the international community is ready to pay for the expenses of voter registration prior to future elections in Somaliland?
If the government of Somaliland can present a credible voter representation plan that is not excessively expensive, I believe elements of the international community could be persuaded to provide the funding. It is clear that voter registration is needed to improve the process.
How do you interpret the use of live bullets by Somaliland police against protesters armed with stones?
Since I was not present in Somaliland during the election, I am not in a position to judge if live bullets were used against stone-throwing protestors. If that happened, it was a mistake and the government needs to be sure it does not happen again. Personally, I favor international training for Somaliland police. Realistically, it probably will not happen. Because of bad experiences in other countries in the past with the training of police personnel, there is a reluctance to provide police training by many nations. A few countries, such as Turkey, do provide police training. Unquote
Amb David Shinn who is a renowned pundit on Horn Africa issues, who is currently an adjunct professor of international affairs at The George Washington University.
David Shinn, who received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from GW, is a former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia (1996-99) and to Burkina Faso (1987-90).