Thursday, April 28, 2011

Somaliland is the best democratic country in the Horn of Africa( an article)

 Somaliland is the best democratic country in the Horn of Africa:


Reported: Abdi Abdillahi Hassan, Chairman of Horn of Africa (HODO Life Line)
Somaliland's second presidential election was held on 26th June 2010, which

International observers confirmed it was fair and free election, complying international standards. Somaliland adopted multi-party systems on 31st May 2001 when Somaliland citizens voted and approved the new constitution of the country. Somaliland previously held t local government and Parliamentary elections on December 2002 and September 2005 respectively.

Somaliland is moderate Muslim country that made significant progress to their democratisation process. Although there were many challenges, the transitional period to transform to pluralism political system went through with a very smooth and peaceful process.  Before that time Somaliland political arena was dominated by clan-based system. It was a huge achievement that Somaliland adopted democracy without or little assistance from the international community. The three candidates of political parties UDUB (The previous ruling party, and two major opposition parties UCID, and KULMIYE (the current ruling parties) took part in this election. 

After one month of busy elections campaign launched by the three main parties, the outcome of the election result indicated that The Opposition party KULMIYE won the election and fortunately UDUB ruling party accepted the outcome after National elections commissions announced it. 

How democratic are Somaliland's neighbours?


South and Central Somalia:

In so called the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is the current Internationally recognised government of Somalia. The transitional federal charter was adopted in November 2004 by so called Transitional Federal Parliament.  The central government promised to restore law and order in the Central and South Somalia.  The transitional Charter outlines a five-year mandate leading toward the establishment of a new constitution and a transition to a representative government after national elections. It seemed that TFG is not ready to hold national election based on International standards due to unsafe and unstable

 The TFG recently attempt to restore central government to Somalia after the 1991 collapse of the formed president Siad Barre. After fall of Siad Barre Somalia was devastated by civil war, lawlessnessand chaos.  Except Somaliland republic which announced to separate the rest of Somalia and gained its independence in 1991 after collapsed of the Somali central government.  The Autonomous Punland also managed relative peace and they have their own government and parliament elected by clan based political system.



 The TFG faced challenges from Islamic radical groups for Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam (two main rebels fighting against the transitional government.  Although the current TFG is backed by international community and African forced stationed in Mogadishu to support weak TFG government. The government is only controlled a village from North Mogadishu where they controlled the airport and sea port. About 7,500 Ugandan and Burundi soldiers make up the African Union peacekeeping force supporting the Somali transitional government.
 The current government was elected as clan related political culture. The TFG is criticised that it operated undemocratic, being ineffective and corrupt regime.   


The Ethiopian Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia adopted the constitution in December 1994 which allows the multiparty system. The first elections for Ethiopia's first popularly chosen national parliament and regional legislatures were held in May 1995.


The previous election was held in May 2005. This election was caused demonstrations and political unrest which led to the deaths of 200 protesters and injury of 763 others, mostly in the capital Addis ababa and more than 10,000 people were detained by security forces following the election, most released in 2006. This election was condemned by opposition groups and International observers; it was declared that it was lower than national election standers.


The last presidential election in Ethiopia held in May 2010, the ruling party won the election the country's electoral board said the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and allied parties had won 534 seats out of 536 declared, the poll fell short of some international standards and the general election drew condemnation from national and international observers. 




Eritrea is an authoritarian state, run by the People's Front Democracy and justice. Other political groups are not allowed to organise, although the non-implemented Constitution of 1997 provides for the existence of multi-party politics. The National Assembly has 150 seats, of which 75 are occupied by the PFDJ. National elections have been periodically scheduled and cancelled; none have ever been held in the country. Independent local sources of political information on Eritrean domestic politics are scarce; in September 2001 the government closed down all of the nation's privately owned print  media and outspoken critics of the government have been arrested and held without trial, according to various international observers, including Human rights Watch and Amnesty International. 


We are also aware the Kenyan elections which ended Riots erupted in Kenya after Kibaki
was declared re-elected as President. Certain opposition supporters, angered by alleged electoral manipulation by President Kibaki, allegedly incited civil unrest. The unrest involved ethnic violence between members of different tribes, particularly between the Kikuyu and the Luo. Eventually, a power-sharing agreement, according to which Kibaki would remain President and Odinga would gain the new post of Prime Minister, was reached in late February 2008, and a coalition government, with an equal number of ministers for the PNU and the ODM, was named in April.

The democratisation process in Djibouti is very poor and is one of the worst in Horn of Africa, although Djibouti government is allied with Western governments and regarded itself as democratic nation adopted multi-party systems in early 1992, it dominated 
 a single political party system which is president's party (People's Rally for Progress),
 the current system is unfair and unbalance and even Djibouti has no national election
 commission which monitoring the election. The opposition party has no members in the parliament, the opposition groups are very weak and most of them live in abroad because they are not feeling safe to remain in the country, they are not even criticised publicly in the government. 


In Sudan the presidential election was held in April 2010, the current president Omar 
Al bashir declared himself to win 68% the first multi-party system in 24 years ruling 
one single party ( Mr Bashir and his National Congress Party). The EU and the Carter
 Centre said the polls were below international standards. The five key democracy indicators of elected process are pluralism, functioning of
Government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties. 


According to Somaliland's recent democratisation performance, comparing to the rest of Africa, particularly in Somaliland neighbours, it is doing very well. According to economist intelligent unit 2009, the index assesses the democratic status of 167 countries in world. The index pointed out that the most democratic country in the world is Sweden. The most democratic country in Africa is Mauritius. While there are no single full democratic or flawed or imperfect democratic countries in the horn of Africa. Unfortunately Somaliland is facto stated and does not gained international recognition was not included in the index. 

According to the index the most Horn of African countries including Ethiopia and Kenya scored hybrid regimes and totalitarian regimes which scored below the standard 4-5. Both Ethiopia and Kenya appeared to establish better elections process and pluralism because they allow some form of political pluralism and conduct elections, however the elections are often neither free nor fair. The Horn of Africa regimes are not only authoritarian and undemocratic nations but they are the poorest in this planet. It also appeared that their political culture has had impact on their economic and social development.

It seemed that the most democratic countries are most developed countries in the universal, while the most authoritarian regimes are poorest and less developed nations. 
 America and other western countries forced Iraq ,Afghanistan and Libia to adopt the multi-party system and cost them billions of dollars to help their democracy. They sent thousands of soldiers to maintain peace and stability which cost them human casualties while they also support the current Somali transitional government which is fighting against religious extremist Alshabab and Hizbol Islam. These armed groups deny rights of Somaliland citizens which adopted in their home-made democratic system which accomplishes international standards. The Horn of African citizens should come up with new vision and being assertive and have their say and demand their political leaders to adopt democratic political culture to achieve democratic transformation in the horn of African countries as there are a lot of obstacles and concerns as we mentioned above. 


I suggest the other Horn of Africa leaders should follow Somaliland's positive examples on how they adopted the democratic system and how they become self-sufficient and self-reliant, as well as how they manage to resolve their problems with peaceful and civilised manner. Finally I would like to call here the international community to review their policy and try to reward the Somaliland achievement s which they established a peaceful environment, respected human rights, adopted multi party system and create responsible and accountable government. 

I have to also acknowledge that there are still room for improvements, despite all the achievements. Somaliland's peace and democracy can be harmed with apparent lack of international diplomatic recognition, which will block Somaliland to access the international institutions like UN, AU, EU, USA, World Bank, IMF and to establish bilateral agreements. 
Above all, Somaliland is situated in very sensitive region, dominated by famine, political unrest, civil wars, pirates and religious extremism, but appears to be beacon of Horn of African and new model of African model which adopted pluralism political culture and example for self-help and self-reliance. Somaliland continue to face challenges from pirates, sectarian war and regional unrest, and is difficulties to cope with the current pressure and they are in need of economic assistance from international community. 

 Historical background:   

 Somaliland was a British Protectorate for 86 years and got its independence in 26th June 1960. Known as British Somaliland It was an internationally recognised sovereign state until 1st July 1960. Shortly after receiving independence from Britain, it united with the South of Somalia, known as Italian Somaliland and colonised by Italy until its merger with Somaliland to form the Somali Democratic Republic. The drive behind the Republic was based on vision of united greater Somalia.


When its second president Abdulrashid Ali Sharmarke (1967-1969) was assassinated by his own bodyguards in Laas Aanod City, the vision of unity started to fall apart. A bloodless coup-de-tat on 21st of October 1969 ensued resulting in army General Mohamed Siyaad Barre becoming president. Barre wasted no time in establishing an authoritarian regime, starting off his first year by giving unlimited powers to the military. The population of Northern Somalia (Somaliland) were denied the same provisions in welfare and aid.


 Barre, who describes himself as a Socialist, created uneven distribution of resources across Somalia, leading to vast inequalities apparent between North-South with regards to education, health and development. This, together with a number of other factors resulted in the birth of the Somali National Movement (SNM) a political military liberation movement (April 1981). In 1988 Bare awarded the Houd region to Ethiopia in-exchange for the Ethiopian government to expel the Somali National Movement (SNM) from the Houd and reserve the area.  In 1988 there occurred a clash between the government forces and SNM soldiers. The SNM fighters captured most of the northern regions of Somalia (now known as Somaliland).

 The government took revenge by indiscriminately killing civilians. They killed thousands of innocent people. They destroyed homes, livelihoods and took claim of the properties. More than half a million people fled Somalia, and crossed the border to  neighbouring countries, with those unable to flee displaced and helpless, becoming  refugees in their now completely destroyed regions.


 The Somaliland people continued to suffer as victims of brutality, as crimes against humanity were being perpetrated by Somalia's military regime under the authority of the Somali Government. Internationally condemned, many Human Rights' organizations, and western states documented the war crimes and genocide acts committed against the people of Somaliland. 

There are internationally documented mass graves across Somaliland, particularly in the big cities, such as Hargeisa, Berbera, Erigavo and other Somaliland towns and villages. Unfortunately, the International community failed so far to bring those war criminals to justice. Mona Rishmawi, a Palestinian lawyer who also works for the Independent International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), was speaking to reporters after returning from a visit to the Horn of Africa. 


 "The story of the massacres has to be told because it is a horrible story", she said. Adding "People have to understand that systematic killing of civilians, even in a situation of chaos and civil war, when hundreds of people are rounded up and massacred, is just not acceptable" .Rishmawi recommended an effort to set-up an international criminal court in Somalia stating: "It is very important for the integrity of the U.N. human rights system that we deal with such events".Still in efforts to establish an enquiry,  Rishmawi commented on progress, noting that discussions would start soon on setting up an international criminal court.  


Abdi Abdillahi Hassan,

Chairman of Horn Of Africa Development Organisation (HODO Life Line)


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