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Five things you need to know about Somaliland’s vote

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Hargeisa, Somaliland – After a seven-year wait, Somaliland will go to the polls to elect a new leader. Here are five things you need to know:

Why is this election important?
Somalilanders will finally be choosing their new president on November 13 after inadequate funding, political disagreements and drought caused the polls to be delayed for several years.

The presidential election – the third since Somalia’s northern region decided to separate from from the rest of the country in 1991 – was originally scheduled at the same time as that for the lower house of parliament, but the two have now, controversially, been separated, with the latter planned for April 2019.

While past efforts to register its electorate were riddled with inconsistencies, this latest attempt – a first in Africa with its use of iris scan biometric technology – has gone smoothly, and all parties have expressed confidence in the process.

“The change in leadership after a divisive administration increases the stakes, especially given the delay for those waiting for their chance to take power”

MOHAMED FARAH, DIRECTOR OF THE ACADEMY FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT IN SOMALILAND

President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud “Silanyo”, whose government has been accused of corruption and nepotism, is stepping down – so the stakes in this election are high.

“The change in leadership after a divisive administration increases the stakes, especially given the delay for those waiting for their chance to take power” Mohamed Farah, director of the Academy for Peace and Development in Somaliland, told Al Jazeera.

What will a new administration have to deal with?
There is the issue of two recent deals with the UAE, which would see it take over and develop the Berbera port, as well as building a military base in Somaliland. Both developments have significant financial and geopolitical implications for Somaliland, and have the potential to shape its future.

“Somaliland will have to play a critical role in the economic development and political stability of the region, … and there is a feeling that such large developments [could] be an issue for a new administration,” Farah explains.

Somaliland’s political system incorporates both traditional elements and modern political structures, but despite instituting a three party political system to avoid clan based politics, clan still remains a central factor in Somaliland’s politics.

All three candidates are from the same the clan, but shifting allegiances between sub-clans have been an important aspect in the run up to the elections.

Who is standing?

Three candidates are vying to replace Silanyo, the current head of state.

Muse Bihi Abdi, who is standing with Kulmiye, the ruling party, was a commanding officer for the Somali National Movement (SNM) rebel group during the struggle to overthrow President Siad Barre in the 1980s. He also served as interior minister in the 1990s, and worked on reintegrating and rehabilitating ex-combatants during the crucial post war years.

Despite some achievements, such as taking steps to improve stability in the unrecognised country’s eastern regions, the Kulmiye party has been accused of widespread corruption and clanism, and of conducting state business without adequate transparency. For example, Silanyo’s government presided over the controversial deals with the UAE, all the details of which have not been disclosed.

Bihi’s main challenger, Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi “Irro”, served as speaker of the lower house of parliament for 12 years until he resigned to take part in the presidential campaign.

Irro’s party, Waddani, has been the most vocal in its criticism of the port and military base deal, and has vowed to review the deals – and possibly withdraw from them – if elected.

Projected to finish third in the polls is long-time leader of the Justice and Welfare Party (UCID), Faysal Ali Warabe, who has been opposition leader since the early 2000s. Unlike the other candidates, Warabe is running on an anti-clan agenda, and advocates for a welfare state in Somaliland.

What does the international community think?

An International Election Observation Mission (EOM), funded by the British Government, has been invited to oversee the elections by Somaliland’s own National Electoral Commission (NEC). The EOM includes a team of 60 observers from 27 countries.

“[We’re] particularly hopeful that the implementation of the voter registration system will address issues that have marred previous elections,” the EOM said in a statement.

“It also is a milestone in the sense that, if it goes well, it will mark a maturing of Somaliland’s electoral democracy”

MICHAEL WALLS, OBSERVER AND RESEARCHER

According to Michael Walls, chief observer with the EOM and an academic who has researched Somaliland’s development, “this election is significant because it’s the first time an incumbent is not standing, and because there is a real choice between candidates”.

“It also is a milestone in the sense that, if it goes well, it will mark a maturing of Somaliland’s electoral democracy,” Walls told Al Jazeera. “It shows that Somaliland is capable of keeping the electoral process going, and that’s significant. There are many people, including from the international community, paying attention.”

When are results expected?

The vote will take place on November 13, but results are not expected until November 17th.

All parties have claimed confidence in the NEC, and the transition is expected to be peaceful.

Humanitarian Watch

Nomadic communities suffer most as drought stalks Somaliland

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By Corrie Butler, IFRC — Driving through the rural landscapes of Somaliland, the views are breathtaking – towering blue mountains cutting the glaring sky over dry, thorn-bushed desert. Small dome-like temporary houses, known as ‘aqals’, dot the arid terrain.

These belong to nomads who have survived in these harsh conditions for generations, but for the first time, they are facing an uncertain future.

Years of consecutive drought have spiralled Somaliland’s nomadic communities into a devastating food crisis. Their ability to pack up and move livestock to better grazing pastures would normally give them a major advantage over other farmers. But the unprecedented drought has caused most – if not all – of their camels, sheep and goats to die and, with them, their livelihoods.

The Somali Red Crescent Society, in partnership with the IFRC, is present throughout Somaliland and Puntland, helping communities to respond to the growing challenges that vulnerable groups, including nomadic communities, face.

Dorothy Francis, Operations Manager of IFRC’s Somalia Complex Emergency Appeal, explained: “The nomads are the ones that are suffering the most because their livelihoods have always been based on livestock and that’s based on access to water.

“Because the crisis has deepened, there hasn’t been the rain we expected, so we see coping strategies becoming more negative. They are selling everything. They are leaving home to go further and further away to work so families are being broken up.”

Signs of malnutrition

Hinda Adan, a nomad and mother of four, visited a Red Crescent mobile health clinic in Lamadhadher village, south of Burao, Somaliland, to have her children screened to determine signs of malnutrition. Before the drought, her and her husband were successful livestock herders, owning 120 sheep, goats and camels. They had everything they needed. But the drought has killed almost all their livestock – only ten goats remain.

“Our life depends now on these ten goats,” said Hinda. “We have one to two meals a day. We prioritize our children – to feed them first.”

However, Hinda still feels luckier than others, including her neighbours: “The family had to split up three of their children among relatives. It affected their entire home. It is affecting our entire community,” she says.

Bringing humanitarian assistance to nomadic communities is one of the biggest challenges the Red Crescent faces, as their regular movement means it is often difficult to reach them reliably.

“Often, we arrive in a community to find that [the nomads] have gone to the next area,” explained Hussein Mohamed Osman, Berbera branch secretary for the Red Crescent in the Sahil region. “It also proves to be very costly to travel long distances to reach them.”

One of Somali Red Crescent’s flagship services is its mobile clinics, which are able to travel off-road to remote villages to provide health care services, particularly to nomadic communities who need it most. Built to adapt to the needs on the ground, the mobile clinics can spend half a day or multiple days in one village.

As drought conditions have worsened, the Red Crescent has increased the number of skilled health care workers in each team to prioritize the rising cases of malnutrition among children and expectant mothers.

Understanding local needs

IFRC is supporting the Somali Red Crescent in supplementing their urgent needs over the next three months, including emergency cash for food and other items. All humanitarian assistance is carefully considered to meet the teams’ needs and allow them to remain mobile: jerry cans and aqua tabs to ensure water is clear, and shelter products to keep them warm in the cool desert evenings, including blankets, sleeping mats and tarpaulins.

Although IFRC and the Red Crescent are helping to ensure short-term emergency needs are being met, efforts to implement longer-term interventions have started, which helps communities become more resilient to future emergencies. This includes rehabilitating 95 berkeds – or small dams – in the densely populated areas that have no access to water; rehabilitating wells and other water points; and, where some rain has come, providing villagers with the means to plough their farmland.

“What we are trying to do is cover an entire community with everything so we’ll have a cleaner, safer, healthier community – providing them with food, providing them with water, providing them with shelter,” explained Dorothy.

“It is a huge task but IFRC is working with a very strong Red Crescent society. We are managing to reach the most vulnerable people. We are doing the best we can.”

Fatima Mohamed Yusuf, a nomad in Togdheer region, is one of the community members who received much-needed health care in a Somali Red Crescent mobile clinic close to her temporary settlement. The drought came at a devastating cost to her and her family, who lost 270 sheep and goats.

“If there is no rain, I worry for my remaining livestock and I worry for myself and family. Allah only knows when the rains will come,” said Fatima.

Vital partnerships to tackle drought

IFRC is working closely with the Somali Red Crescent and global partners to continue supporting the needs of the most vulnerable people, but the fight to prevent famine is not over. Somaliland is currently categorized as a stage four emergency (crisis) and could easily descend into famine. It was only six years ago that Somalia experienced a famine that killed a quarter of a million people. IFRC will help to ensure Somalia never has to experience famine again.

Thanks to the generous support of the global community through the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, seven million Swiss francs has been donated to the IFRC Emergency Food Crisis Appeal in Somalia, which will help to bring life-saving support to 353,000 people in some of the most isolated, vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities.

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Ethiopia

Ethiopian PM says they will continue to develop Berbera Port so Ethiopia and Somaliland can benefit

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Somaliland

Rapists in Somaliland will no longer be allowed to marry victims under new law

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By Lizzie Dearden

The self-declared state of Somaliland has introduced a bill to outlaw rape and other violent sexual crimes for the first time in its history, which would see rapists imprisoned for up to 30 years.

Under the new law, all forms of sexual offences would be criminalised, including rape, gang rape, sexual assault, child marriage and trafficking.

And Africa News reports that rapists who infect their victims with HIV would be handed life sentences.
In the past, a rape victim’s family could force them to marry their rapist to avoid being shamed.

The bill has already been agreed in the lower house of Somaliland’s parliament but still needs approval from the upper house.

It is hoped the bill will be signed into law by President Musa Bihi Adbi on 1 March.

“The bill had been languishing for some years and the newly elected government, which is very serious about tackling violence against women, saw it as a priority to bring it before parliament,” Ayan Mahamoud, Somaliland’s representative in Britain, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“It is however possible that it will face resistance when it comes before the House of Elders in the coming weeks, as members in the upper house tend to be more traditional.”
Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 after a civil war.

It has a population of around four million but is not recognised internationally as a country.

Currently, Somalia does not have any laws or legislation against violent sexual crimes.

President Abdi’s government was said to be shocked by the number of reported gang rapes after he came to power in November and pledged to take action.

Although the bill is an important milestone, the United Nations said that more still needed to be done.

“Once it is signed into law, there is need to develop the capacities of the national justice and security actors, non-state actors and service providers to create awareness among the public,” said Fadumo Dayib, head of UN Women in Somalia.

“Every woman and girl has the right to live her life without the threat and fear of violence.
“This law will make a substantial contribution in curtailing sexual violence against women and girls.”

However the law does not specifically cover domestic violence or female genital mutilation, and it would require victims to prove the use of “force, intimidation or threat”.

Countries such as Greece, Iraq, Libya, Kuwait, Thailand and Russia have certain laws in place which mean a rapist can escape prosecution if he or she marries their victim, or in some cases if the victim forgives the rapist.

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