The Annual Conference brought together experts ( both international and local) and provided a forum for development practitioners, government officers, researchers and donors to discuss, debate and exchange on Lessons from Two Decades of Sustained State Building, Local Institutional Development and Democratization and the Way Forward.
SORADI’s prime objective for this conference was to contribute to Somaliland’s development process, through active participation of the domestic and oversea experts, which it believes will definitely made enormous contribution to the future development of Somaliland.
Official opening remarks of the conference was made by the Managing Director of SORADI Dr. Mohamed Fadal, thanking to guests who attended the conference. He praised Somaliland’s development in democratic elections and how the people have understood the importance of voting freely. On the other hand Dr. Fadal strongly condemned the conflict in Sanaag region and urged the concerned parties to resolve the issue in a peaceful manner.
He also congratulated to the people of Somaliland for defeating the constitutional ties in order to the open Political organizations. “This gives an outlet to the ambitious men and women and forces the existing political parties to change or to fall. We are all obliged to take part in this process to get rid of the party monopoly we have experience over the period” Said Dr. Fadal.
He mentioned that the main objectives of this conference was to bring experts from both local and overseas to assess Somaliland’s development in Elections and the challenges, local democracy, the role of women in the development process, the relation between better care of the environment to good governance, democracy and peace. And most importantly the Guurti issue.
The key note address of the conference was made by the Somaliland’s minister of planning H.E Dr. Sa’ad Ali Shire. The minister congratulated SORADI for organizing such an important conference, he mentioned that as a ministry, they have a lot to learn from this conference, and the outcomes will contribute to their national development plan.
- “I believe Somaliland has fulfilled almost all the conditions of statehood, we have our own borders, permanent inhabitants, function, elected and democratic government which can enforce the law. The only thing we lack is international recognition, and the ability to enter negotiations with other nations. However, It is something worth praising, how Somaliland has developed for the last two decades” Said the Minister. “It is crucial to look back, what we have achieved so far, and think of the way forward.” The minister concluded his speech.
The first session was co-presented by Hodan Elmi, Governance Program Coordinator, CARE International and Michael Walls, Chairman of Somaliland Focus. The session focused on Aid and Other External Intervention in Somaliland: Successes, failures and some of the foundations for each.
The paper examined some of the bases for intervention and reviews, some of the more (and less) successful efforts in that regard. As Michel explained their argument he said “It is not sufficient to conclude that ‘Somalis will succeed if only they are left to themselves’. Reality is far more complex and nuanced than formalistic readings allow. In reality external intervention has, on occasion, achieved significant success in breaking through roadblocks where local negotiations have stalled.”
The first session ended with questions and comments from the conference participants, who actively commented and questioned about the arguments in the paper. Subsequently, Michael and Hodan gave their responses to the participants.
The second presentation of the first day was again co-presented by Steve Kibble, progressio Policy and advocacy coordinator Africa, Middle East and Asia (AMEA) region and Michael Walls. The paper focused on Somaliland lessons from the elections: what democratic spaces, what opportunities Somaliland faces.
In their presentation, Steve and Michael examined the progress towards and obstacles on the road to democracy in Somaliland. Progressio’s Policy and advocacy coordinator, Steve Kibble argued that there are many arenas in which the fight for democracy occurs – between state and civil society, within each, between patriarchy and equality, within religion, between the latter and secularism, in the security and judicial domains etc. He continued his argument to focus on largely to examine political progress in the formal political institutions, although obviously this cannot be divorced from some of the above-mentioned arenas.
- “We draw on the lessons of domestic and international election observation, the successes of that largely peaceful process and look to chart a possible way forward in deepening and widening democratic space and institutions.” Said Steve
The first day of the conference ended with Group works and report on the lessons learned, challenges and the way forward for local democracy.
The second day of the conference started with another in-depth research presentation on Local democracy experience, challenges and lessons and the way forward by Haroon Yusuf, deputy director of SORADI and Mark Bradbury. Haroon presented the findings of his research on the Public perception of local councils in Somaliland.
In his presentation Haroon outlined how the Somaliland Constitution provides a framework for a decentralized system of government, and how the districts are given the primary responsibility for service delivery at the local level. “In the 2002 elections, the local councilors and mayors were not directly elected, but through party lists. The mayor is the highest official holding municipal office. Women’s representation is extremely low, with only two female councilors (Berbera and Gabiley districts) in 2009.” Haroon said.
The paper further explained how the daily lives of the majority of the people of Somaliland remain relatively untouched by the agents and institutions of the central government. Explaining the reasons why he carried out the assessment, Haroon said ”Ordinary people are more likely to experience day-to-day interactions with local government entities or with informal, traditional or religious leaders in the community. This assessment focuses on the emerging, formal political relationships between citizens and local government.
The purpose of the assessment was to solicit the opinions of ordinary Somaliland citizens regarding the performance of their Local councils over the last ten years.” It therefore examines local government performance as seen from the perspective of the voters, with special attention to questions of responsiveness, service delivery, representation and accountability. Data on citizen perceptions of local councils was gathered at five districts of different sizes and legal status. The assessment found that, although Somaliland has experienced comparative stability and has succeeded in the establishment of nascent authorities, their institutional capacity remains limited.
This was followed by a very interesting debate session between the conference participants and the Mayors of Hargeisa and Borama, Eng. Hussein Mohamud Ji’ir and Abdirahman Shire Bille. The Mayors presented their achievements, challenges they faced over the period and answered to participant’s questions and concerns. Most of the questions raised during the debate concerned the election of local councilors, their inefficiency to provide social services to the people and most importantly the lack of legal framework between the local government and the central government. “
The local government lacks independence, it’s the central government that collects all the taxes, we do not even have our own police to enforce law, 70% of the people do not pay taxes, yet people are expecting a lot from us” Mayor Jiciir of Hargeisa, argued.
The next session started with a presentation on women’s political participation by Nagaad women’s network program coordinator, Ahmed Abdi Jama. In his paper, Ahmed argued, although women were dominated and denied in the first nation-wide reconciliation of Somaliland, they have showed maximum predilection in active participation of the decision-making of the country.
As a result of this, women coalitions and associations were introduced by women elites who were involved in the process in early 1990s. He pointed out that Gender equality and women empowerment is one of the pressing issues in which the society reiterated as a necessary priority.
“At first, there was no government support and yet women became majority of the Somaliland population. Women were used as voters with no representation at all for the first subsequent governments although they have participated in the private sector mainly of SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) and NGOs.” Ahmed remarked on his arguments
The Executive Director of Candlelight for health and Education, Ahmed Awale took the conference to a different scene, setting up his arguments on why it is important to relate better care of the environment to good governance, democracy and peace. I his paper Ahmed discussed some of the major environmental issues in the country which pose significant challenges to the realization of sustainable development. He also outlined some recommendations for mitigating those challenges.
Finally the conference was closed by the Director of SORADI, Dr. Fadal thanking to the participants for their commitment and time to endure to attend fully the two full days of the conference.
SORADI Media team