*In the words of one of the participants;“Somaliland has achieved the equivalent of a hundred years of democratic development in only a decade.”
12 December 2012 - Interpeace and the Academy for Peace and Development (APD – Interpeace’s local partner in Somaliland) are supporting the Somaliland National Youth Organization (SONYO) in the establishment of a National Youth Voters League (NYVL). It aims to enhance the role of Somaliland youth in the state- and peacebuilding processes.
Despite making up approximately 70% of the Somaliland population, youth under the age of 35 years are vastly underrepresented in local councils and national political institutions. SONYO has already set up Regional Youth Voters Leagues (RYVL) with the support of the United Nations Democracy Fund. RYVLs promote civic and political dialogues at the grassroots level with local authorities on policies affecting youth. The National YVL works as a platform to enhance coordination between these Regional leagues, to strengthen their capacity for advocacy and provide training for their members.
Democracy and the peacebuilding process
The National YVL was formed in November during a workshop in Hargeisa which also served to discuss key issues such as democracy, civil and political rights, youth in politics, and peacebuilding. The workshop was attended by 65 participants – of which 22 were women – including members of the Regional YVLs, youth minority groups, and young candidates for the local council elections.The participants responded very positively to this opportunity and were eager to exchange ideas and to gain knowledge about electoral processes.
“I hope that we will see a capable Somaliland youth contributing to democratic governance for peace, stability and development,” Hamse Mohamed Ibrahim, SONYO programme officer, told the participants. With the 28 November local council elections just two weeks away, the main focus of the discussions was on the standards for free and fair elections, as well as the role of the National Electoral Commission. Another major topic of discussion was peace and conflict management.
Engaging youth in politics
During the run-up to the local council elections, the National YVL engaged young voters in the six regions of Somaliland, encouraging them to participate and to vote for candidates who are capable of addressing young people’s needs. The NYVL members were actively engaged in continuous civic education on an individual level, targeting young people in their neighborhoods.
The 28 November local council elections were a watershed moment for Somaliland youth, as the minimum age limit for candidates was brought down from 35 to 25 years. In the words of one of the participants, “Somaliland has achieved the equivalent of a hundred years of democratic development in only a decade.” Hon. Ali Sa’eed Raygal, Minister of Youth, Sports and Tourism, explained in his concluding speech;
“If we bring responsible youth into the local councils, it will be very positive for the future of the country. As Minister of Youth, I will be very happy if the youth participating in these elections become role models for their followers, as active citizens.”
There will soon be more opportunities for the NYVL to pursue its advocacy for active youth engagement in the political process, starting with the 2013 parliamentary elections. The NYVL will also play an important role in educating youth on the structures and decision-making mechanisms of the local councils.