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Somaliland after the elections: old traps, new challenges

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Somaliland after the elections: old traps, new challenges

File 20171124 21853 1bv76d3.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Somaliland’s ruling party candidate and newly elected president Musa Bihi Abdi.
Stringer/Reuters

Claire Elder, University of Oxford

The Republic of Somaliland is recognised as an autonomous region in Somalia’s northwestern region. Since it broke away from Somalia in 1991, it has held five successful elections.

Such an electoral record, despite extensions and delays in almost every case, is enviable by regional standards. And as a result, Somaliland has garnered significant donor support.

The November 13 polls followed the same script. Although they were twice delayed, only minor irregularities were reported by the international observer mission. These included vote buying and lack of secrecy during voting.

Unlike previous elections, however, the 2017 presidential contest marked the highest stakes yet, that revealed deep cracks in the country’s revered consensus politics.

Election day itself proceeded peacefully. 78.85% of the 704,089 registered voters who had collected their cards participated in the election. And for the first time elections were held in parts of Sool and Togdheer. These are the insecure border regions that are disputed between Somaliland and Puntland (now a member state of the Federal Government of Somalia).

Yet, the process was marred by incendiary party rhetoric and violent protests before and after the elections. The protests were largely youth-led, with a number of casualties reported.

Both parties seemed unable to contain their supporters, or instil popular confidence in the process. Voters were deeply divided along clan and party lines.

The electoral commission’s four-day social media ban and delay in releasing provisional results (nearly a week after the polls) provided ample room for rumour mongering and confusion.

By election night both the main opposition party – Waddani – and the ruling Kulmiye party were celebrating a win. False results circulated on Whatsapp the next day suggesting a win for Kulmiye. Waddani reacted quickly by challenging the impartiality of the process.

Seemingly emboldened by the Kenya example, the opposition party claimed that Kulmiye had circulated fake ballot papers. It threatened to suspend cooperation with the election commission. No formal complaint was filed at the Supreme Court but Waddani had succeeded in bringing opposition supporters to the streets in unprecedented numbers.

The final announcement of results on November 21 confirmed that Kulmiye’s Muse Bihi Abdi had won by a margin of nearly 80,000 votes. Back in 2003, the incumbent Ahmed ‘Silanyo’ Mohamoud had conceded defeat to a much smaller margin of 83 votes. As such, it looked like Waddani’s hands were tied.

Behind-the-scenes, former statesmen and other impartial stakeholders stepped in to calm the storm and convince Waddani to concede defeat quietly.

The concession speech came on November 22, a day after the announcement of results. Opposition candidate Abdirahman Cirro called for national unity, but Somaliland’s fragile political fabric had already been put through the wringer.

Election tension

Heightened election tensions were made worse by the political inexperience of the two presidential candidates who both employed deeply polarising rhetoric. This was an unprecedented and risky combination for the country’s conservative political system.

The personal attacks between Kulmiye’s Muse Bihi Abdi and Waddani’s Abdirahman Cirro hinged both campaigns on their personalities, Somaliland’s civil war grievances, and clan divisions.

Muse Bihi harped on his war record, at one time saying

We won’t accept a candidate who has never fired a gun, and is afraid to hold one.

This suggested that the political transition could turn violent. Widespread concerns were vocalised by locals and Somalilanders in the diaspora alike.

Fierce competition was also fuelled by large amounts of money. Both parties pushed ahead with early campaigns despite the threat of hefty fines from the election commission. Payouts to constituencies, including money for drought relief, contributed to what many estimate may be the costliest election since the local council elections in 2012.

Geo-strategic weight

Somaliland’s enhanced regional standing certainly heightened the ambitions of both presidential candidates, and contributed to the high costs of the elections. Its strategic positioning in the Gulf of Aden, where Saudi Arabia is leading an offensive against Yemen, secured Somaliland massive port investment.

The USD$442 million deal signed with UAE company, DP World, in September 2017 came with additional commitments to development in Somaliland, as well as plans for a military base at Somaliland’s Berbera port.

The deal, however, is also highly politicised and dogged by corruption allegations. It closely aligns Somaliland with the UAE in the unfolding Gulf crisis and disrupts other regional alliances with Djibouti and Ethiopia. It also places Somaliland at odds with Somalia which is maintaining a neutral stance in the conflict.

Challenges that lie ahead

Musa Bihi may be the leader best-placed to steer the country away from further fragmentation and political instability. But his ability to do so will depend, in part, on his regional tenacity and commitment to conciliatory politics at home.

During the electoral process, and laudably so, the opposition galvanised momentum around righting Somaliland’s political imbalances. These include widespread corruption and nepotism that is aided by weak institutions and a political environment that stifles criticism.

Tackling these issues head on will require appointing a new cabinet void of corrupt state officials, but also a strong commitment to reforming Somaliland’s outdated political system. This means prepping legislation for holding parliamentary elections in 2019, but also opening up the political space and pursuing genuine power-sharing.

The ConversationCementing regional trade links and pursuing talks with Somalia will no doubt keep the new president busy. But these elections have revealed the desperate need to look inward, heal the nation and foster national cohesion.

Claire Elder, Doctoral candidate in politics, University of Oxford

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Somaliland Youth: Between the Maqas and Magafe

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Many would shrug and say the Arab is criticizing the blessed land again. They will defend their foolishness by arguing that Somaliland is a poor and young country that has a long way to go before it reaches maturity. They will make excuses for the police, the government and the wadaad mafia. They’ll boast of the recent democratic elections.

But what’s the point of democracy if it’s not applied. What’s democratic about being humiliated in the street by your own police? Where are all those women (and they’re mostly women) who arranged the casho sharafs, organised parties and collected hundreds of thousands for the ruling party only to see their sons, brothers or cousins forcibly having their hair cut in the street?

The minister of religious affairs supports and encourages such things. This is a man who is supposedly knowledgeable about the history of his faith. Does he then not know that most descriptions of the companions of the prophet portray them as men with long flowing hair? In fact, I challenge him to go back over the history and mention five with short hair (natural baldness not withstanding). He mentions a hadeeth about following a lizard into its hole, as an analogy of Muslims copying non Muslims when he’s already comfortably ensconced in the hole. Why give TV interviews, sit in an office and face cameras when you could have easily kept your “dhaqan” by doing all of this under a tree? Why accept that the Georgian calendar was forced on you for practical reasons but not extend the benefit of the doubt to the young kids and accept that, in same cases, the long hair is forced on them due to poverty. The man is FAT and well fed. He’s well paid and I doubt he actually does any work. This leaves him with the only thing left to his type of mafia Salafis, grandstanding and pointless virtue.

It’s not as if the country is not suffering from poverty and droughts. It’s not as if the young are not jobless and hopeless. It’s not as if thousands of them (men, and that most precious of creatures to the heart of a Mullah, women) have not taken their lives in their hands and thrown it in the sea. It’s not as if their parents and relatives in the diaspora have not been complaining about it. It’s not as if the vast majority of the population are made of young people. What exactly does this crazy wadaad and his ilk want? What do they think the consequences of their actions will be?

Fadhomooy, you sold your gold in support of Kulmiye. To what end? Caashaay, you set up a WhatsApp group to help Wadani. To what purpose? Suubanaay what does your UCID FB group discuss? What did your efforts give you? Mujaahid Maqas is what you got. Picking on kids and humiliating them in the streets. Talking about a great future for Somaliland when it’s that future that’s getting assaulted and having its rights abused.

It’s all good and well to arrest people but you then have to put them in front of a judge who must rule on their guilt. This attack by Mujaahid Maqas and his Mullah Mafia must by condemned in the strongest terms.

 

Written by: Ahmed H. M – London, UK

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World Bank Funded Somali Business Catalytic Fund Cancels Second Round Applications

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The World Bank funded Somali Business Catalytic Fund program implemented by DAI Inc. placed an advert on local Somaliland newspapers on the 29th of October 2017 to announce the second round of grant funds available to the business community thereby inviting would be applicants to submit concept notes for evaluation.

Funding was made available for two sectors:

1. Women’s Only Businesses – Small Grants ($10,000-$50,000)

2. Supporting the Private Sector to Create Greater Resilience in Response to Climate Change – Large Grants ($50,001-$150,000)

Regrettably, the World Bank has now taken the decision to CANCEL this round for technical reasons, and will not be making funds available for the program. This means applications for grants will no longer be accepted, and if you have recently already submitted an application it will NOT be reviewed or evaluated.

The The Somali Business Catalytic Fund Management said they apologize for any inconvenience caused.

 

 

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Somaliland: Empowering Women through ICT

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Women’s underrepresentation and lack of access in the ICT Sector is a global issue and it is no different in Somaliland, a conference on this issue has been organized in Hargeisa by Hayaan Haween, a platform designed to address issues that directly and indirectly affect women’s lives.

Attended by a number of intellectuals, women’s organizations, independent local researchers and others, the event focused on challenges facing women in the new technologies and the potential to improve women’s livelihood through ICT and how that impacts the economy in Somaliland.

Khadra Mohamed, host and graduate from Malaysia mentioned the state of technology in Somalilland and explained about the freedom to use the internet with regards to some restrictions on the Social Media platforms. She highlighted how those platforms are blocked or made inaccessible in many countries in Africa and the third world in general.

“I remember in the late 90s seeing broken computers being sent from Jigjiga or Mogadishu to be fixed in Hargeisa” Says Abdirashid I Ibrahim, Founder of Somali Jobs and Co-Founder of Maroodijeeh International University. “In 2000 there was a boom in the establishment of institutions offering technology courses with the first IT degree initiated in 2007” he added.

Abdirashid explained about the rapid development of technology related services in Somaliland potential to improve women’s livelihood through ICT which will have a huge positive impact in the economy. He spoke about the story of Njeri Rionge, a co-founder of the Multi-million Dollar Wananchi Online and her first business where she was selling yoghurt from a car trunk to high school students.

“This is a good example of the power of technology to help shift women from working in the informal sector to formal sectors” said Abdirashid, “You are all here because of technology, a Facebook post or a WhatsApp message is how you learned about this session tonight, right?” he concluded.

Abdulaziz Jama Oumer, a Master of Science in IT (Msc.IT) holder and a PhD candidate cited global statistics from International Telecommunication Union (ITU) depicting unequal access to technology between men and women. “There are no statistics for Somaliland or Somalia” He said highlighting that lack of information exacerbates this problem.

“Not everyone in Hargeisa owns a smartphone, not everyone uses The Internet” said Abdulaziz highlighting the Digital Divide and its limitations. Speaking about the limitless opportunities for women in the digital world, he said people can work from home, create new connections and can also enter the field of technology as professionals. “Sky is the limit” he said.

As for increasing technical knowledge and experience among professional women, he insisted that the only way to tackle the language barrier – perceived as one of the main barriers for young women to enter the ICT sector – is to start with improving the English Language first.

During the event, the panelists agreed that in order to move forward, a National ICT Policy must be developed, a policy that familiarizes girls with ICT.

At the end of the event, networking and mentorship connections were created, also job offers were made by some of the attendees who were previously lacking information about women in ICT. A number of women got an employment opportunity during the session.

From the huge turnout to the event and the comments from the Q&A session, it was evident that this was a topic of great interest for all.

Hayaan Haween “Journey of Women” is a platform founded in Hargeisa, Somaliland to highlight topics that affect women’s lives through raising awareness on critical issues. Previous topics featured on Hayaan Haween include Maternity Health, Literature of Somali Women, Breast Cancer and Mental Health Awareness and The Legend of Queen Arraweelo.  At these monthly events, a panel of experts discuss the topic followed by a Q&A session.

“Founded in May, 2017 this platform has proven to be popular with a growing following of young men and women” said Khadija Abdillahi Sheikh, a Banker, Social Entrepreneur and Co-founder of Hayaan Haween

 

You can follow Hayaan Haween on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube for videos of this session and previous ones @HayaanHaween

 

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