Somaliland Election trapped between new technology and enemies of democracy.
Abdulazez Al-MotairiDecember 10, 2009


For the second time, Republic of Somaliland defused another election dispute in limited time, which could have harmed the democratic process. The ruling and opposition parties signed six terms agreement that replaced old members of National Election Commission.

The new commission has difficult job ahead including clearing the mistakes in voter registration system. A high-tech biometric technology is been used in the registration; however, the use of such technology was too early for Somaliland due to lack of public awareness and infrastructure in the country. Somaliland is one of the first African countries to use such sophisticated technology to empower democracy.

Moreover, the registration process challenged tribal demography that is sensitive in Somaliland and the region in general, because all tribes wanted to score high in the census. This led many tribesmen to enroll two or three times, which tripled the expected number. The capacity of the server could not process the high number. At this point we can say, modern technology undermined the growing democracy of Somaliland.

In Ireland, political parties and communities rejected introduction of new biometric registration system, urging that public are not ready to adopt it.

In Kuwait, the parliament rejected the proposed introduction of biometric and DNA identification systems in the country, because they believed that no electronic voting system can be trustworthy and it is a genuine threat to the democracy. They forced the governments to halt proposal until enough public awareness achieved. Saudi Arabia faced similar faith in the voter registration.

Somaliland, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait has tribal and cultural similarities, and they could have fail if tried, and face similar problems with Somaliland. However, I believe that Somaliland people and government were braver than their counterparts in the Arabian Peninsula for accepting the electronic voting.

Today, the electronic voter registration is witnessing obstacles and became threat to democracy process in Somaliland. Analyzers advised Somaliland to carry out awareness programs before the election, in order to familiarize the system to win the trust of the public.

Somaliland authority must demand better server or ask the supplier to upgrade it. This will accelerate the process of removing the duplications. The current server is not capable of handling the database of 3.5 million, and should be upgraded.

Somaliland held three consecutive elections including municipal council, parliamentary and presidential. The winning margin in the latest presidential election was very close (80 votes). The opposition accepted the election results peacefully unlike regional countries where thousands lost their lives in election disputes. At this point, Somaliland earned respect from world community in its campaign to promote democracy and without international support. The most remarkable is that neither election experts nor crisis diffusers helped Somaliland to solve its election disputes
In addition, the peaceful power transfer to the Vice President Dahir Riyale Kahin after sudden death to founder and father of modern Somaliland Mohamed Ibrahim Egal was another golden achievement in the history of Somaliland. Egal was savior and rescuer of Somaliland.

During the power transfer, BBC Somali Service posted report saying that Isaac tribe, who make majority in Somaliland, will not allow minority tribes to lead the country. According to BBC, this means that Dahir Riyale Kahin, who is from minority tribe, won´t take over as new president. BCC analysis failed and Riyale sworn in as third president of Somaliland in less than 15 years and again he was reelected for second term in office.

After voter registration installed, the Somaliland elders – Upper House of the  Parlia ment (Guurti) – took backseats to give the technology and democracy enough space to practice, but closely monitored the development from distance. Voter registration server output was not accurate due to the weak hardware specifications.

However, after technology failed and created political chaos in the country due above mentioned reasons, the elders stepped in again to defuse the tension between the politicians. At the beginning the elders had communication gap with sponsor of voter registration system – Interpeace.

Enemy attacks:

The enemies of Somaliland are trying to fail the upcoming presidential election includi ng Al-Shabab terrorist organization along with other groups stationed in Nairobi, Kenya who receive support from Transitional Government of Somalia led by Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

This group headed by close associates of Somali Foreign Minister Jangali and wants to disturb Somaliland election and stability.

Al-Shabab is planning to carry out Taliban-style suicide bombing during the Election Day, but the Somaliland forces are better equipped and trained, and will not allow them.

In other hand, the international community including AU, UN, EU and USA are upporting the elections in Somaliland, and vowed to send election observers. The world started to feel the democracy development in Somaliland.

Somaliland needs diplomatic recognition, not a financial aid because they reached self-satisfactory and established necessary public services alone. The Nairobi administration should not allow armed groups to plan terror against Somaliland on Kenyan soil.

By Abdulaziz Al-Mutairi