Political Brinkmanship: A Close Call for Somaliland

01 October 2009 | Op-Ed
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On 26th of September 2009, the ISG members met to discuss the implications of recent Agreement sponsored by the international community between the Somaliland parties and the subsequent historic  unanimous vote of the House of Elders on the 25th of Sept, 2009, to endorse it.

Political Brinkmanship: A Close Call for Somaliland

(29 September, 2009. Hargeisa Somaliland)
I. Introduction

On 26th of September 2009, the ISG members met to discuss the implications of recent Agreement sponsored by the international community between the Somaliland parties and the subsequent historic  unanimous vote of the House of Elders on the 25th of Sept, 2009, to endorse it.

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The meeting was sponsored by the Social Research and Development Institute (SORADI). It was moderated by its Director, Dr. Mohamed Fadal. The Somaliland Independent Scholar’s Group (ISG) members are all long-term participants of Somaliland rebuilding and democratization process, who are considered to be highly competent to provide an objective analysis and strategy to address the issues at hand. The ISG members are: Abdi-shakur Sh Ali-Jowhar (Psychiatrist and political analyst: warkamaanta.com), Amina Mohamoud Warsame (Executive Director of NAGAAD); Abdilkadir H Ismail Jirde (Ex-Deputy Speaker and Member of Parliament- now travelling), Shukri H. Ismail (Former National Electoral Commissioner and Member of African Democracy Forum and Chair of Candle Light); Ibrahim Jama Ali -Raite (Member of Parliament and Lawyer), Fawsi Sh. Yonis (Somaliland Lawyer’s Association); Abdi Ahmed Nour (Forum for Peace and Governance-FOBAG), Bobe Y. Duale (Research Coordinator, APD), Haroon H Ahmed Qulumbe (ActionAid), Jafar Mohamed Gadaweyne (SONSAF); Mohamed Hassan Ibrahim (Researcher-APD), Suad Ibrahim Abdi (Researcher-APD); Wais Muse (Executive Director of Samatalis Coalition of Human Rights)), Dr. Mohamed Fadal, Director of (SORADI);Muse Abdi Elmi (U. of Hargeisa; Dean Academic Affairs) Dr. Yusuf Kariye (Researcher in  Anthropology; Hinda Mohamed Jama (an Associate of Burao University).

Implementing the Agreement

II. Tension Diffused

The people of Somaliland won in this critical moment of the development of their nation. Through their steadfast stand to support reform peace and reconciliation they have brought about the victory we see today.

The Somaliland Independent Scholar’s Group commends the Guurti for choosing the path of dialogue and consensus building against a unilateral imposition. We thank Ethiopia, Britain and the supporting donor community to bring the political party leaders to a consensus agreement. We also thank the Somali well-wishers, who expressed their support to Somaliland from all over the world.

The tension has been diffused and the expression “win-win” situation is already in the media. However, the hard work is still to be done. The greatest achievement so far is that goodwill and cooperation between the opposition and the ruling party has been restored. A window of opportunity is opened; however, it may close sooner than we realize if not utilized. The ISG urges the Guurti to continue leading the process to put the implementation of the agreement on track. The ISG believes that the key to successful implementation of the international agreement is to disband the present NEC and to constitute a new National Electoral Commission (NEC) within the next two weeks.

III. Gateway to Implementation: Constituting a New NEC

After the necessary signature ceremony takes place, the Guurti needs to bring together the key stakeholders (the three political parties and the House of Representatives) in consultation with the civil society to work out a mechanism to disband the sitting NEC and to constitute a fresh new NEC. Institutions mandated to select the NEC members, ie the Presidency, the Guurti and the two opposition parties should not take more than seven days each to appoint their allocation of the members.  Our target date for the NEW NEC to be in place is on the 15th of October, 2009.

Why a new NEC?

The New NEC should be able to fulfil the duties it is appointed for effectively and diligently on behalf of the Somaliland people. During the tenure of the present NEC, the whole nation was trying to do its job and to cover its shortcomings: They were expected to organize and manage free and fair elections held on time in every five years; create a neutral ground for all stakeholders in the election, especially among the three competing candidates and their supporters; interact with the Executive Branch as an independent entity and provide it with objective and truthful information and assessments of election process; engage the media and other stakeholders to abide by their code of conducts; work with our international friends and donors and to make elections something the Somaliland people can be proud of to exercise their right to vote and not to view it as a source of conflict and uncertainty. The sitting NEC has failed in fulfilling the above responsibilities.

What kind of NEC?

A NEC, whose members have integrity, proven work track record, across-party trust and a good national standing. The new NEC should also be gender balanced.  The above criteria need to be observed by the institutions mandated to select the members and the House of Representatives, which has the final approval of individual membership.

Possible Scenarios Arising from the Implementation Process

1. Win-Win Situation: The New NEC is Constituted on Time

All parties cooperate to use this window of opportunity to bring the Somaliland Presidential election process on track. The New NEC, with the requisite qualities to manage and to lead us to a successful free and fair election is constituted within the next two weeks. It approves the Terms of Reference of the Team of Experts and the international community recruits them. They deliver their assessment of the election preparation time before the end of October, 2009. The New NEC sets a date for the Presidential election on the basis of the assessment provided by the Team of Experts. The President and VP terms are formally extended as in the agreement. The technical support needed for the election (both technical and financial) is made available by the donor community. The political parties’ candidates exercise their right to campaign and to bring their message across to the Somaliland people. The people exercise their right to vote and choose a President and a VP. The elected President is inaugurated by February 2010. Somalilanders prove their resilience to maintain the path of peace and democracy and to pursue their aspiration to achieve their rightful place in the world community.

2. Our Worse Nightmare Situation: NEC Reform is Squandered

We do not learn from our past experience. We do not use the window of opportunity we have.  Personal and group interests overshadow cross-party cooperation and due diligence to reform NEC. Our worst nightmare is realized when forming the new NEC drags. Lack of cooperation and mistrust among the key stakeholders overshadows reason and progress.  The Team of Experts has no counterpart to work with and hence, their recruitment and engagement is delayed. No election schedule assessment and election date are in sight within the next two months. The bad guys regain the upper hand in the Somaliland election process.

3. A Catalyst Situation: Conflicting Expectations from the Server

Unrealistic expectations from the team of experts to work out miracles to come up with everybody’s wish list will definitely spoil the cooperation and goodwill we need in abundance to bring the election process on track. On the other hand acting maturely and accepting whatever the outcome of this last trial to clean up the mess we made, will pave the way for the election and will boost the moral of the Somaliland people and their confidence on their system of government. The team of experts may not change much in terms of numbers, but they are independent from and neutral to our fears and internal contradictions. We have no other option but to trust the process. Their first final verdict should be accepted as is, if we want to move forward. We expect the team to be cognisant of the baggage that comes with their assignment and hence should keep it strictly technical and deliver their result transparently and in the presence of the all stakeholders and the international community. We advise against any interim reports and we urge the key stakeholders to let them deliver a Final Voter Registration List.

4. An Unfortunate Situation: Engaging Team of Experts or Delivery of their Assessment and Final Voter List Takes Longer than Expected

Such a situation will have a similar impact as the worse nightmare scenario. The window of goodwill opportunity will be closed. Personal and group interest will derail the election process. Worse still no National institution will be accountable for the Somaliland people. Fears of some sectors that the international community have no good intentions for the Somaliland state will get credence. The international initiators of this agreement need to do everything possible to avoid such a situation to arise and to be transparent about any difficulties encountered.

Summary Recommendations and Action Sequence Chart

1. Recommendation

1. The House of Elders continues to lead the process to ensure signing ceremony takes place as soon as possible and that political parties and the House of Representatives are clearly on board to keep the Agreement on track.

2. All stakeholders act proactively to move the election process forward and to avoid any action which contradicts the cooperation and goodwill attained and expected by the Somaliland people.

3. The key stakeholders expedite the process of constituting a new NEC and hence facilitate the Team of Experts to start its work.

4. The international community need to stand behind this agreement and monitor all stakeholders to fulfil their roles. The international community is also is expected to make the Team of Experts available in time to work with the new NEC.

5. The International community is requested to make available the financial and technical support needed for the forthcoming Somaliland Presidential election.

6. The people need to be informed to ensure peace and have confidence that the election is going to be   free and fair.

2. Sequencing of Implementation Activities: See attached chart.

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