Somaliland Votes For A New President


Somaliland Votes For A New President

People in Somaliland have been voting for a new president in an election that the authorities hope will also help to boost their case for international recognition.

Plus Kenyan Defence Force officers strenuously deny UN allegations of colluding with Al Shabab militants in an illegal charcoal trade.

And in alphabetical order, we profile the first of the five shortlisted players for this year’s African Footballer of the Year – Borussia Dortmund and Gabon star, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

(Image: A voter in Somaliland shows her inked finger, which indicates that she has voted. Credit: BBC)

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Source: BBC Focus Africa
13 nov 2017

Deg-deg Doorashadii Somaliland oo lasoo Gabagabeeyay Iyo Natiijada oo la sugayo wax yar 13 nov 2017 maalin isniinah


The man who buried Somaliland’s dead (Al Jazeera)

The man who buried Somaliland’s dead


The man who buried Somaliland's dead
Ibrahim Abdullahi said government soldiers were rounding up men of fighting age in Hargeisa to prevent them from joining the SNM rebel group [Matthew Vickery/Al Jazeera]

It was June 2, 1988, and Hargeisa was under attack. The rat-a-tat-tat of nearby artillery rose above the city and filled Ibrahim Abdullahi’s ears, but the battle was in the north and hadn’t reached his government-controlled southern district – at least not yet.

As he nervously ventured outside, Abdullahi’s mind raced. He had already sent his wife and eight children to safety in Ethiopia, but he felt a longing to stay in Hargeisa, a need to protect his modest mud-brick home and keep it occupied to deter looters and to defend the product of years of his hard work.

Everything had happened so quickly.

Just days before, Somali National Movement (SNM) rebels had captured nearby Burao city from Somalia’s national army, and Hargeisa was now in their sights. But it seemed that government soldiers were determined to stop that at any cost.

Within the past two days, Abdullahi had heard that killings had begun.

“I’ll take it day by day,” Abdullahi thought to himself. “If the situation gets worse and there’s an opportunity to run – then I’ll go.”

Government soldiers were rounding up men of fighting age in Hargeisa to prevent them from joining the SNM.

Crouched down outside his home, Abdullahi’s mind wandered to thoughts of fleeing again.

Rumours were circulating that women and children were also being targeted, but he had no way to know for sure. Some people had even said government bombers were pursuing fleeing families as they tried to escape.

He thought of his wife and kids and prayed the rumours were untrue.

Then, out of nowhere, he heard his name.

“Ibrahim Abdullahi?!”

The noise of gunfire hung in the air, but it remained at least a couple of kilometres away. But here, as he looked up, tens of metres from him, was a small group of government soldiers.

Abdullahi’s mind raced again. Civilian or not, he was of fighting age.

“Yes, that’s me,” he murmured, trying not to let the fear in his head spill into his words.

“Come!” the commander barked, several soldiers standing menacingly beside him, guns cocked and ready. “We need you.”

Walking towards what he assumed was certain death, Abdullahi took one deep breath and ventured forward.

Using an intricately carved wooden cane to help his ageing legs, 75-year-old Abdullahi stands tall and proud, albeit a little unsteady before lowering himself into a black leather swivel chair in the unassuming office building in Hargeisa.

It’s 2017, and the walls of the office are dotted with photos of men in masks working meticulously, digging at the dusty ground and carefully brushing away dirt from skeletons that haven’t seen the light of day in decades.

“I remember burying bodies in that grave,” Abdullahi says gesturing towards one of the photos on the wall in front of him, “and that one”, he adds, his eyes slowly tracing the room.

“Some days I must have buried hundreds, some days just dozens,” he continues. “People were being killed everywhere in the town. They didn’t see a difference between men, women, or children – everybody was to be killed.”

Abdullahi’s story precedes the man in Hargeisa, the capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland that announced its separation from Somalia after the government of Siad Barre collapsed in 1991.

His weathered face – one that seems to have as many wrinkles as years he’s had in his life – may not be well-known in the city, but in every corner of the capital his story is legendary, some regarding it as truth, others as myth.

But in the office of the War Crimes Commissioner, Abdullahi’s story has been confirmed again and again – over the years, he’s been the key to reuniting distraught families with the remains of their loved ones.

“Those were black days, black black days,” Abdullahi repeats as he recalls memories that have stayed fresh in his mind three decades later.

Resting his cane on the table in front of him, Abdullahi begins to tell his story, his eyes darting from side to side as his mind rewinds through the years to 1988 and the 28 days of his life that have defined him ever since.

‘I’m only alive to do this job’

The city was a ghost town. Buildings lay abandoned, dead bodies were scattered in the streets, and the smell of death lingered in the air.

As Abdullahi walked, everything started to become familiar. He wasn’t walking to a military barracks like he first thought; he was on his way to the Ministry of Public Services where he was employed handling heavy machinery like tractors and diggers.

“Go and get one of the machines that can dig,” the commander said abruptly when they arrived outside the complex. “Be quick, we have to go – there are bodies waiting.”

Abdullahi did as he was told.

Within an hour he was at Malko Durduro, a valley area in western Hargeisa, digging into the soft soil. Several government soldiers stood around his digger with 10  bodies tied together lying beside them, blood still seeping through clothes and staining the sandy earth below them.

As he listened to the soldiers speaking among themselves it became apparent to Abdullahi that the army didn’t want the bodies buried in an effort to cover their crimes – they were fed up with the smell. His job, as their new prisoner, was to get rid of it.

The corpses were unrecognisable. Pieces of flesh ripped off their bodies from head to toe, shot to pieces by an anti-aircraft gun that sat nearby.

“If I didn’t know how to operate this equipment they would kill me, I would be lying there as well,” Abdullahi realised as he dug. “There’s no one else in the town; I’m only alive because they need me to do this job.”

To survive, he would have to dig.

Guarded day and night, Abdullahi dug to save his life. Barely allowed time to rest, he buried hundreds of bodies a day in that first week.

At first, the dead were men, mostly in fatigues – rebels. After a few days, the fatigues disappeared, and women started appearing, then children. All killed in the same way – tied together in groups of 10, shot, their faces sometimes slashed with knifes and mutilated.

The soldiers may maim and deface them; they may chuck the bodies on the ground like pieces of rotten meat as though they were never humans with emotions, dreams, wants and desires – but he knew otherwise. They were fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and even in death, they deserved respect.

In those first few days, Abdullahi swore to himself that he would at least give them that.

The most important thing to him was to get everyone buried before nightfall, before wild animals would come out of the bush and claw away at the bodies. If he could just do that, he thought, it would be some way at least to give the dead some dignity after such a violent and unjust end. It was how he could show respect, his silent rebellion against his captors.

For days on end, he worked from dawn till dusk, burying the war crimes of a regime that wanted him and his people dead. He did what he could to keep his mind blank. He thought of his family and daydreamed about where they could be, safe and away from the living hell that their hometown had become.

He trained himself to concentrate on digging, to distance himself from what was happening. That’s the only way he would survive.

Then, after two weeks, one of the bodies spoke.

Ibrahim Abdullahi returns to Malko Durduro and the mass graves he dug three decades ago. [Matthew Vickery/Al Jazeera]

‘I still can’t sleep at night’

The ground slips a little below Abdullahi’s feet after a night of heavy rain turned the bone-dry dirt in Malko Durduro to mud.

“It’s important we teach what happened in the past so it never happens again,” Abdullahi says using his cane to steady himself as Al Jazeera takes the 75-year-old back to the mass graves he dug three decades ago at the notorious execution site of Malko Durduro.

“My biggest fear is that what happened here will be forgotten.”

Plagued by a deadly and devastating drought all year, the night’s rain was the proverbial drop in the ocean, bringing more joy to the residents of the Somali city than water. But it was still something to a region that has been battling extreme weather conditions throughout 2017.

“Every year when there’s heavy rain more skeletons appear,” Abdullahi says, scanning every inch of the area as he meanders from side to side. “It brings all the memories flooding back.”

To Abdullahi’s left, imposing cliffs of dirt stretch several metres up, small trees and cacti clinging onto the edge – just another rainy night away from succumbing to erosion and joining Abdullahi on the valley floor.

Returning to Malko Durduro three decades after he was forced to bury thousands of bodies here, it doesn’t take long before Abdullahi’s mind takes him back to those dark days.

“I still can’t sleep at night remembering him,” Abdullahi says, recalling the one body – the only body – which looked up to him from among the dead and spoke.

It was two weeks into his captivity when Abdullahi came across a miracle.

A man who had somehow survived the firing squad and then played dead as soldiers piled the executed into a grave.

The miracle was short lived.

Facing being buried alive, there was only one thing the survivor could do. He spoke.

“He was supposed to be dead,” Abdullahi says pausing. “He talked to me, pleaded with me, ‘please untie me’, but the soldiers heard him speaking. They untied him from the corpses, forced him to stand up, and they shot everywhere at him, all around him, even at the trees.”

“I had to do this job to survive,” he adds, looking for understanding.

Digging his cane into the soft ground, Abdullahi walks the valley floor for several minutes, his eyes wandering the surroundings as his memories take him back to that time. He can’t prevent them, even if he wanted to.

Stopping in his tracks and using the cane as an extension of himself, Abdullahi motions towards the cliff side. Within seconds, and without words, it’s clear what he’s trying to draw attention to. Exposed by the rain and protruding from the wet cliffside is the unmistakable bone-white colour of a skull, almost waiting for the right moment to drop to the ground and join its burier on the floor below.

To the right of the skull, the tips of ribs stick out at differing angles sandwiched between greenish brown fabrics – fatigues.

“He was a rebel,” Abdullahi says, filling the silence. “I remember burying there.”

The skeleton of a rebel lies in a shallow grave at Malko Durduro, exposed after a night of heavy rain [Matthew Vickery/Al Jazeera]

Panning the area, just tens of metres away from the newly exposed skeleton more bones stick out – this time there are no fatigues. The bones of a civilian killed by the army, and then buried by Abdullahi.

“I remember being taken to this valley and a military vehicle pulled up with an official inside it,” he recalls.

“They pushed 12 bodies out of it, bodies of school children – they were still in their shirts and dresses. They had no noticeable gunshot wounds. A soldier told me all of their blood had been drained from them so it could be used for the national army. That soldier cried as he told me, he cried for almost five minutes.”

“Those were the worst days of my life.”

As he speaks, the faint sound of playing children carries through the air from a school less than 100 meters away. Throughout the land surrounding the school, more bodies are scattered, waiting to be exposed, identified by forensics, and eventually returned to their waiting families decades later.

For Abdullahi, the memories of the people he buried will never leave him. But he counts himself lucky he survived.

As the bodies reduced from hundreds a day at the beginning of Abdullahi’s captivity, to just a few per day after three weeks, he knew his time was running out. Soon he would be surplus to requirements, and if he didn’t find a way to escape, he would be killed too.

But on the 28th day – for the very first time – he found himself alone.

Abdullahi didn’t need a second opportunity.

“The guards were getting more relaxed with me as I hadn’t tried to escape, but on the 28th day I was out in the valley and realised there was no one watching me – I ran,” he says, describing his bid for freedom.

Hiding until nightfall, Abdullahi smuggled himself out of Hargeisa. Within days, he had gathered information about the whereabouts of his wife and kids – they had survived the bombers and were still alive.

After two days and three nights of walking, he made it to their refugee camp in Ethiopia.

Walking into the camp on the morning of the third day, Abdullahi saw his family in the distance, and for the briefest of moments, the memories of the dead left him.

“At that moment, when I saw them again – I felt reborn.”

The 75-year-old says he’s lived a good life as a husband and a father to twelve children – he had four more after returning to Hargeisa after the war.

He’s come to terms with what he witnessed and became a part all those years ago, and has found some comfort in helping the Somaliland authorities to recover the dead – 2,000 of whom remain buried.

“My children, to this day, call me ‘the walking dead’ when they see me,” he says, laughing a little to himself. “They couldn’t believe I survived. They still can’t.”


SOURCE: Al Jazeera News

Somaliland polls close in election of new president



Somaliland polls close in election of new president

A woman casts her vote in the presidential election in Hargeisa, in the semi-autonomous region of Somaliland, in Somalia Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. More than 700,000 registered voters across Somaliland are expected to cast their votes Monday to elect their fifth president, as the ruling party faces a strong challenge from opposition candidates. (Barkhad Kaariye/Associated Press)
November 13 at 12:28 PM
MOGADISHU, Somalia — Polls have closed and the counting of votes has begun in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Somaliland which is electing their fifth president Monday as the ruling party faces a strong challenge from opposition candidates.

Results are expected by Friday. The Somaliland government will block access to social media during the vote-counting period to try to prevent the spread of rumors about election results.

More than 700,000 voters registered to cast their votes at more than 1,600 polling stations across Somaliland amid tight security in the peaceful enclave.

This election was be the first in Africa one to use iris-scan biometric technology to prevent anyone from voting more than once, said Somaliland’s electoral officials.

Three candidates are running for president following weeks of election campaigns. The current president is stepping down after his five-year term was controversially extended for two-and-a-half years because of a shortage of funds and a drought. Muse Bihi Abdi, the candidate for the ruling Kulmiye party and his main challenger Abdirahman Irro from the opposition Wadani party are slight favorites over Feisal Ali Warabe, a veteran politician from the opposition party UCID.

The new president will serve a five-year term that can be renewed once. The vote was be monitored by a British-funded team of 60 international observers from 27 countries.

Somaliland, a haven of relative peace in northwestern Somalia declared its unilateral independence from Somalia in 1991. However, no country has so far recognized it as an independent state. Some voters said they hope Monday’s election will help Somaliland’s push for international recognition.

“We hope it’ll be a peaceful election that will prove to the world that Somaliland deserves an international recognition,” said Barkhad Jama, a resident in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Source: Washington Post

Somaliland votes next week. Its biggest challenges come after the election.

November 10

Livestock traders chat in front of a row of camels in the livestock market of Hargeisa, the capital of the Somaliland autonomous region. (Paul Schemm for The Washington Post)

On Nov. 13, Somalilanders will vote for a new president. The campaign kicked off in dramatic fashion in October with Somaliland’s first-ever presidential debate shown live on national television, and large campaign rallies.

Here’s what you need to know:

Somaliland has a long history of elections and executive turnover

A former British protectorate, Somaliland enjoyed five days of sovereign independence before uniting with Somalia in 1960. Following a brutal civil war, Somaliland dissolved its union with Somalia in 1991 and continues to exist as an unrecognized de facto state.

With 4 million people and a territory of 68,000 square miles, Somaliland impresses outside observers with its sustained process of electoral democracy and a hybrid blend of traditional and modern state institutions. Somaliland’s stability stands in contrast to the insecurity and poor governance in neighboring Somalia.

And unlike Somalia’s uneven transition record, Somaliland has seen peaceful leadership transitions for decades. The first president, Abdirahman Ahmed Ali Tuur (1991-1993), accepted defeat in an indirect election in 1993. President Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal (1993-2002) then led Somaliland for nearly a decade. Vice President Dahir Riyale Kahin (2002-2010) ascended to the presidency after Egal’s death and remained in office after winning an election in 2003.

Riyale accepted defeat and peacefully transferred power in 2010 to Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud “Silanyo” in accordance with Somaliland’s constitution. Silanyo opted not to seek reelection in 2017, and there are three contenders in the current election.

To be sure, democracy depends on more than regular executive turnover. Recent presidential elections have seen extensive delays. There have been no parliamentary elections since 2005, and journalists and independent media experience arrest and harassment. International election observers found widespread multiple voting during 2012 local council elections but accepted those elections as “largely free and credible” — though they were not fully free and fair.

There have been a series of electoral delays

Somaliland was supposed to hold joint presidential and parliamentary elections in 2015. Severe drought and several political controversies led to multiple postponements. Droughts then forced pastoralists in the country to migrate, which meant that the March 2017 target election date would not be possible after delays in voter registration.

Ultimately, complicated negotiations between the political parties and the National Electoral Commission and an intervention by the upper house of parliament led to the decision to hold the presidential ballot Nov. 13,  and then hold a separate parliamentary poll in April 2019 in combination with local government elections.

The decision to delay both elections, then separate them and further delay the parliamentary elections, greatly angered Somaliland’s Western supporters. One of the opposition candidates has repeatedly expressed concerns over the fairness of the electoral process, yet there is every reason to hope that Somaliland’s presidential elections will be peaceful and ultimately widely accepted. One concern, of course, is the possibility of disruption from the al-Shabab terrorist group.

Somaliland’s system of limiting each political party to campaigning only on certain days of the week has calmed nerves and minimized pre-election violence in past elections. The iris-based biometric voter registration process was largely successful and generally accepted by the electorate. This should obviate many of the problems noted in the 2012 local council elections.

Who is running for president?

Three parties are fielding presidential candidates. Musa Bihi Abdi is the presidential candidate of the ruling Kulmiye Party. Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi “Irro” represents the Waddani Party. Faysal Ali “Warabe” represents the UCID Party. Both UCID and Kulmiye competed in the 2003 and 2010 presidential elections, but this is the first election for the Waddani Party, which earned the right to field a candidate based on its performance in the 2012 local elections.

During the October presidential debate, all three candidates agreed on the need to improve education, combat unemployment and pursue international recognition — no countries have officially recognized Somaliland. Abdi pledged to increase the representation of women in politics and to introduce compulsory national service for high school and university graduates. Irro was emphatic that he would not allow term extensions or delayed elections — and he promised to strengthen the powers of the Central Bank to combat inflation. Warabe promised more government intervention in the economy and to devote 15 percent of the government’s budget to health care.

Somaliland’s most pressing challenges come after the election

Whoever wins the presidential election will inherit a fragile political economy — one that is highly dependent on diaspora remittances and livestock exports in a drought-prone region. The new president will also take over what political scientist Kenneth Menkhaus has termed a “functional failed state” with a few “clusters of competence.” In other words, the state functions, and maintains public order and a degree of economic growth, but has limited government capacity, low levels of institutionalization, and modest budgets.

An overriding concern is that Somaliland has limited state capacity — though the National Election Commission seems to be one area that works. Somaliland’s 2017 budget of $362 million represents about $100 per person of government spending, which is significantly lower than the sub-Saharan Africa average and also that of other conflict states. More than half the budget typically goes to security, leaving little room for education, health, infrastructure or development spending.

To date, this has been accepted practice because Somalilanders are “hostages to peace” who value the maintenance of peace and stability above all else. The human development costs, however, are vast, and popular demands on the government to address these needs are growing.

Members of Somaliland’s Guurti, or upper house, have not been elected or selected since 1997. They have extended their own terms in office, with some members being replaced by immediate offspring.


Source: Washington Post

Somaliland’s voting technology shows how Africa can lead the world (theconversation)

Somaliland’s voting technology shows how Africa can lead the world

Somaliland’s shift to use iris recognition in a presidential election stems from distrust in the voting system. Shutterstock

Africa has become a testing ground for technological leapfrogging. This is a process that involves skipping stages and moving rapidly to the frontiers of innovation.

Technological leapfrogging in Africa has, so far, focused on economic transformation and the improvement of basic services. Drones are a good example: they’re used in the continent’s health services and in agriculture. In South Africa, robots play a crucial role in mining.

Now, in a remarkable extension of technological leapfrogging, Somaliland has become the first country in the world to use iris recognition in a presidential election. This means that a breakaway republic seeking international recognition will have the world’s most sophisticated voting register.

Democracy and tech in Africa

Somaliland’s shift to such advanced voting technology emerged from a lack of trust because of problems with the 2008 elections. For instance, names were duplicated in the voter register because of pressure from local elders. These fraudulent activities and other logistical issues threatened to undermine Somaliland’s good standing in the international community.
Of course, Somaliland is not the only country in Africa to experience problems with its election processes. Others, like Kenya, have also turned to technology to try and deal with their challenges. This is important. Being able to hold free, fair and credible elections is critical in democratic transitions. The lack of trust in the electoral process remains a key source of political tension and violence.

Technology can help – and Somaliland is set to become a regional powerhouse in the production and deployment of the technological know-how that underpins electronic voting.

So how did Somaliland reach this point? And what lessons do its experiences hold for other countries?

Important lessons

The first lesson, then, relates to political will. Since 1991, Somaliland has operated as an autonomous state trying to build new institutions. One of its central goals is to gain international recognition as a sovereign state. Being able to conduct free, fair, credible and just elections is central to this goal and its international image. Somaliland wants to rank highly in the indices of democratic performance – and that’s a strong driver to develop and embrace electoral practices that are in line with international standards.

The second involves problem-solving and incremental technological learning. Somaliland wanted to reduce voter duplication. It compared the efficacy of different face, finger and iris recognition technologies, and this assessment showed that iris recognition was superior.

Pilot efforts then allowed for lessons in the design of the system, which helped to reduce anxiety over the consequences of possible failure during elections. It also made the process transparent; interested users could access the available datasets. This enhanced public trust.

Somaliland has also wisely used international experts in biometrics. Much of the debate about the use of electronic voting systems centres on how the technology is procured. The country sought the support of Notre Dame University in the US in 2014. Their world class work on biometrics is led by Professor Kevin Bowyer. Such partnerships ensure technical expertise. This, in turn, helps boost ordinary people’s trust in their country’s electoral system.

The shift to electronic voting has also influenced the conduct of some observation missions. In Somaliland, electoral observation will in future include examinations of the iris recognition technology. This changes the expertise needed to observe elections.

This approach is in sharp contrast with the 2017 Kenya elections. There, international observers used traditional monitoring methods – and validated an election that was later annulled by the country’s Supreme Court. It was a case where electoral institutions had not caught up with technology.

Wider issues

This raises some wider issues that need to be addressed so that they don’t get in the way of this progression.

The first is to emphasise that the technology, in most cases, will enhance and upgrade political infrastructure – even if they appear to bypass or replace it. For example, there are concerns that drones, used to transport medical supplies in places like Rwanda and Tanzania, divert financial resources from multi-purpose infrastructure like roads. In fact, the use of drones in medical supplies expands infrastructure options. They allow countries to align delivery means with specific needs, in a timely and efficient manner.

Secondly, technological and service leapfrogging usually go together. This has been demonstrated in Africa’s mobile revolution. The widespread adoption of the Mpesa money transfer system best illustrates this point, as it is about changes in consumer behaviour and local manufacturing.

Finally, there are ample opportunities for international joint ventures in technological leapfrogging across Africa. Many of them however are being smothered by taxation and regulations. This is partly because of the pressure to generate state revenue and partially due to a lack of understanding.

With more products and processes to trade with, the world stands to benefit from Africa’s increased participation in the global technology market. And it is encouraging to see that this is a movement which has the political support of African presidents; a support reflected in the adoption of the Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa Strategy (STISA-2024) by the African Union.

For now, Africa’s technological futures are not only open but expanding in all directions. Somaliland’s application in improving governance is the tip of the iceberg. It creates exciting possibilities for the continent to provide leadership in other areas of technological advancement.



Somaliland1991 News Center