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Somaliland

Why Somaliland is East Africa’s strongest democracy

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DROP a pin on a map of eastern Africa and chances are it will not land on a healthy democracy. Somalia and South Sudan are failed states. Sudan is a dictatorship, as are the police states of Eritrea, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has ruled uninterrupted since 1986, and plans to remove a constitutional age limit so he can cling on longer.

Elections in Tanzania have never ousted the Party of the Revolution (and its predecessor), which has governed since independence in 1961. Even Kenya, once the region’s most vibrant and competitive democracy, is struggling. Last month Uhuru Kenyatta was re-elected president with 98% of a preposterously flawed vote. In this context tiny Somaliland stands out.

On November 13th citizens of this internationally unrecognised state will elect a president in what is expected to be its sixth peaceful, competitive and relatively clean vote since 2001. This unparalleled record makes it the strongest democracy in the region. How has this happened?

A peculiar history helps. Somaliland was a British protectorate, before it merged with Italian Somalia in 1960 to form a unified Somalia. It broke away in 1991, and now has a strong sense of national identity.
It was one of the few entities carved up by European colonists that actually made some sense. Somaliland is more socially homogeneous than Somalia or indeed most other African states (and greater homogeneity tends to mean higher levels of trust between citizens).

A decade of war against the regime of Siad Barre in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, reduced Somaliland’s two largest cities to rubble, yet produced a flinty patriotic spirit. And the Somali National Movement (SNM), which led the fighting, cultivated an internal culture of democracy. Its leadership changed five times in nine years, and transferred power to a civilian administration within two years of victory.

But it is the absence of international recognition that may matter most. Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal, the president of Somaliland from 1993 to 2002, argued in 1999 that recognition would be dependent on the country’s pursuit of democracy. He proceeded to devise a constitution that was put to a popular referendum in 2001.

For fear of encouraging other separatist movements in the region, the international community, following the African Union, has never obliged. But rather than stunting democracy in Somaliland, this response ensured that democratisation moved from the bottom up.

Donors often impose democratic reforms on African countries as a condition of financial aid. Since unrecognised Somaliland is cut off from most external assistance, the social contract between government and citizens has become unusually strong.

Democracy evolved out of a series of mass public consultations—clan conferences—which endowed it with an unusual degree of legitimacy. The system’s most striking feature is the upper house of clan elders, known as the “Guurti”, which ensures broadly representative government and underpins much of the country’s consensual political culture.

Somaliland’s democracy is by no means spotless. Corruption is endemic, and the media are seldom critical. The influence of the clans has been muted but not eradicated. And elections are repeatedly delayed. The vote on November 13th was overdue by more than two years, and all branches of government have now outlived their mandates.

The lower house has sat for 12 years and counting; the Guurti has sat unelected since it was formed in 1993. And there may be even bigger challenges in the future. In the past year Somaliland has signed agreements with the United Arab Emirates to build a new port and a military base at the coastal town of Berbera.

The former, valued at over $400m, is the country’s largest-ever investment deal. Nation-building on a shoestring helped keep Somaliland’s politicians relatively accountable, and helped to keep the delicate balance between clans. But this may not be the case for much longer.

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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