II. Somaliland’s current context:
The New Year has ushered in new challenges, as well as, opportunities for Somaliland. Some of the most significant challenges include the preparation and holding of the overdue Local Council elections, the unpredictable outcome of the Taleeh clan conference, renewed concerns about Seemaal and worsening relationship between the independent media and the government.
There are also opportunities for more international business investment, improved relations with the Arab countries, the possibilities of donors accepting a country led development process and the establishment of the Somaliland fund…
However, Somaliland is not insulated from the events in the sub-region (or the wider world for that matter) and its relationship with the neighboring countries can bring both cooperation and hostility which require careful analyses and response. The new scenarios that are emerging out of Somalia continue to pose both diplomatic and security threats to Somaliland. An Al-Shabaab defeat or success can have its risks; the border dispute with Puntland and the separatist movement of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC) are two good examples of both internal and external threats. The Taleeh clan conference, which is an obvious manifestation of the UN condoned trend for the formation of micro-political-entities in Somalia, signifies a clear and present danger for Somaliland.
A. The Taleeh Clan Conference:
From the Somaliland government’s perspective the Taleeh Conference is a traditional ‘non-political’ clan conference just like those regularly held by any clan in their territory. These types of Conferences general sort out internal clan issues address their relationship with neighboring clans and agree on a future ‘socio-political’ strategy for the clan. These types of conferences are also generally led by the traditional leaders and are considered as politically benign.
The Somaliland government has reportedly accepted the holding of the conference in order to maintain and probably improve relationship between the central government and the people and leadership of the Sool region. One of the long term objectives of the various Somaliland governments has always been to extend governance structures and services that are inclusive and satisfactory to the people of Sool and their legitimate leadership, but that effort has not always been successful due to various reasons that include the division among the Sool region politicians and lack of effective strategy by the Somaliland authorities.
In this sense, some of the people of the region felt marginalized and their grievances ignored. This sentiment is regularly exploited by the divided and opportunistic local leaders particularly, clan politicians from the Diaspora.
The Taleeh conference which started on 26 December 2011 appears to have been hijacked by extremist or opportunist politicians from the Diaspora, whose main intention is to organize their own political platforms by taking advantage of the Somalia wide trend of sub-state enclaves in order to gain legitimacy to play a part in the scramble for the plunder of Transitional Federal Government (TFG) positions and the international resources it receives. The year 2012 appears to present gainful prospects for all types of Somali opportunist politicians, these includes the expected reconfiguration of the TGF and the London conference.
The instability that can result from negative outcomes of the Taleeh clan Conference shall primarily affect the security and livelihood of the local people in the area. It shall also escalate the already fragile relationship between Somaliland and Puntland and ultimately destabilize the sub-region.
Most of the estimated 350 conference delegates shall leave for the Diaspora soon after the conclusion of the conference and the local population shall suffer the consequences.
• The Somaliland government should continue the famous path of peaceful conflict resolution, negotiations and consensus building without compromising on the country’s sovereignty. The government should show tolerance, mend fences and open negotiations with any willing and legitimate politicians from Sool region.
• The Somaliland government is responsible for the security and well-being of its people, which includes the people of Sool region. Thus the government should address their grievances and listen to their demands for good governance and the provision of services.
• Somaliland’s steady advancement and achievements in the last twenty years has endowed it with the strength and confidence to try new bold ideas and paths for the future, which the country should not shy from.
A. Local Council Elections:
Somaliland is presently in the process and preparation for holding the much delayed local council elections which is currently scheduled to take place in April, 2012.
In January, 2012, the Committee for registration of new political parties and Licensing granted temporary Certificates to Fifteen newly established political organizations that qualified for contesting the forthcoming Local Council elections. This makes a total of 18 contestants, after adding the existing official three political parties.
The national electoral commission (NEC) has also held a series of consultations with the political associations and parties, government, the Houses of Parliament, traditional elders and civil society organizations on the challenges of holding the election. One of the main issues identified as a significant challenge is “the technical complications of the open list system”. In other words, the open list system of voting, which was included in the recently amended ‘law 14’ (which guides the local council elections), prompts the construction of a ballot paper with the photos, logo and names of each candidate, which can exceed hundreds (in some localities) given the current number of political contestants.
According to NEC, there are questions as to whether the voters can find and select their preferred candidates in the long list of candidates. How long would it take each voter to select his candidate? Is the 12-hour voting day period enough to allow all voters their rights? Would long queues cause conflicts in polling stations? And many related issues.
- The Committee for registration of new political parties needs to understand and assume its mandate and role in order to reduce the number of contestants through the legal requirement process.
- The civil society organizations need to provide support to the Committee for registration of new political parties
- There is also a need to recruit a specialized consultant for the Committee
There appears to be an increased confrontation between the government and the independent media. The media in Somaliland have enjoyed a relatively free space in which to operate. Freedom was the founding pillar on Somaliland was created and this needs to be maintained.
The arrest of 20 journalists some of them girls and the closing of an international renowned television stations on Saturday was a shocking action that sent vibration across Somaliland. In addition this action was done without the issue of a warrant which is unconstitutional and teeters on the illegal.
- Government should respect media freedoms and apply the law when taking action against any wrong doing.
- The government should initiate a policy of dialogue with the media and refrain from such rash actions and to maintain the dignified path of democracy.
- The media should respect the laws of the land.
- The media should be encouraged to come up with their own version of rules of conduct.