| Issue 379
and Regional Affairs
The government says it cannot hold the elections until it has a complete
voters’ register, but opposition parties accuse it of incompetence.
Hargeysa, Somaliland, April 30 2009 – Despite meetings between the
mediation committee set up by the government and opposition parties in
the Republic of Somaliland to look into issues that might threaten the
country’s security, Somaliland’s stability remains rather fragile.
On April 6, hundreds of protestors from the opposition Kulmiye party
gathered at their headquarters in the capital, Hargeysa, ostensibly to
mark Somali National Movement day, which honors the rebel group that
fought the former Somali government in the northern regions of Somalia
in the 1980s. But the meeting, called by the party’s leader, Ahmed
Mohamed Mohamud aka Sillanyo, turned out to be a protest against the
six-month extension of the term President Dahir Riyale Kahin and his
deputy, Ahmed Yusuf Yassin.
Sillanyo, a masterful politician, did not hide his bitterness feeling
when the presidential election was postponed to October by the Upper
House of Parliament (Guurti) on March 28.
“Guurti does not have the constitutional right to grant an extension,”
said a statement by Kulmiye party the same day.
“Only the Somaliland Election Commission has such rights, with the
consent of the three official political parties,” it added.
During the demonstration, protesters chanting resistance slogans rallied
around Sillanyo and moved to a main road leading to his residence.
According to some government officials, the police intervened and fired
into the air to prevent the Kulmiye party supporters from taking to the
streets and instigating civil disobedience under the guise of
celebrating the 28th anniversary of the SNM. A woman was injured during
the incident as confusion reigned in a city that has seen no serious use
of firearms for a decade and a half.
Most people in Somaliland admire the SNM, which has a political and
military wing, for the role it played in “protecting” Somaliland from
annexation by Somalia.
Historically, the former British Somaliland and the Italian colony of
Somalia both gained independence in 1960 and formed the Republic of
Somalia on July 1 the same year.
Those who formed the SNM in London on April 6, 1981, intended to keep
Somaliland away from the rest of Somalia.
However, the movement operated just like other rebel groups that were
opposed to General Mohamed Siyad Barre’s dictatorial regime.
Then, on May 18, 1991, Somaliland declared independence from Somalia
after the SNM defeated Barre’s troops in the northern parts of the
country in January that year, forcing him to flee Mogadishu.
Following the confrontations with police on April 6, the Kulmiye party
leader hastily called a press conference at his house, during which he
termed the police’s intervention an act of provocation. “We have the
right to celebrate SNM Day and also to express our feelings by peaceful
means,” he asserted.
But as the Kulmiye members were being watched by the police, those from
the ruling UDUB, and the other opposition party, the UCID, were
celebrating SNM Day at Ambassador Hotel in Hargeysa.
While Sillanyo, who is believed to be a heartbeat away from the
presidency, argues that there is no excuse for postponing the elections
for the third time, the ruling UDUB says that elections cannot be held
until the Somaliland Election Commission has a complete voter register,
which is crucial for elections, especially the presidential election.
UCID chairman and presidential candidate, Faysal Ali Warabe, has also
expressed concern about the extension of Kahin’s presidential term.
However, he has taken a less confrontational stance.
“We are saying that Kahin’s term ceases on of April 6,” said Warabe.
“The political parties and the houses of parliament should decide on an
interim administration until elections are held.”
Warabe warned against staging protests, saying that the people of
Somaliland were not prepared to handle grievances through
demonstrations, and neither were law enforcers equipped to tackle such
“We cannot afford to waste what we achieved over decades through
concerted efforts,” said Warabe, who went on to hint that Kahin should
simply surrender power.
But it is exactly this approach that President Kahin and his lieutenants
have been resisting. On March 2, when the Election Commission gave the
current administration until May 31, the presidential spokesman, Said
Adani Moghe, rejected the opposition’s demand for an interim leadership.
“An incumbent president can only be replaced by an elected leader,” said
Moghe in a statement from the presidential palace in Hargeysa.
But the Kulmiye leader believes that President Kahin and his cronies use
state facilities to suppress the opposition as well as the few
“The independent media have been under attack, freedom of association
undermined and no progress made in the provision of civil liberties in
Somaliland under Kahin,” said Sillanyo.
The situation is made worse by the view people have of President Kahin
because of his background. Many people consider him a remnant of Barre’s
regime, in which he served as senior security officer in the National
Security Service (NSS).
But some people also question the credentials of the Kulmiyeleader.
Sillanyo served as a senior minister under Siyad Barre in the 1970s.
“Although he later joined and became leader of the SNM, he is widely
seen as having abandoned Siyad Barre’s government and fleeing to exile
in the UK in the early 1980s after failing to maintain the dictator’s
friendship,” said a political insider in Hargeysa.
Political temperatures in the country went a notch higher when the
Somaliland Election Commission extended President Kahin’s tenure for the
second time on March 2. The elections, which were due to be held March
29, were postponed to May 31. The commission’s chairman, Jama Mohamed
Omar, alias Jama Sweden, said the move had been necessitated by the lack
of an officially verified voters’ register.
“This extension to May 31 will coincide with the last day of the last
extension the Guurti offered the current administration,” a statement
from the commission said. At the time, the move was supported by the
The Upper House voted in May last year for a year’s extension when, for
the first time it became clear that incomplete voter registration would
not allow for fair elections. All three parties endorsed the Upper
House’s decision, and started looking forward to Mary 29 as the date for
the presidential election.
But few are willing to accept the latest postponement. Kulmiye’s
national secretary, Kayse Hassan Ege, issued a statement attributing the
problem to government incompetence.
Ege further claimed that donors were withholding funds due to lack of
both progress and accountability by the government, especially with
regard to its contribution to the election funds.
“Despite all the complications, we respect the Election Commission’s
role to fix the timing of the election,” said the statement. Ege,
however, warned the commission that it does not have unlimited powers.
“Any time beyond April 6 the national power structure will change
automatically,” warned the statement. “The current administration will
cease to have ruling powers and it is up to the two houses of the
parliament to establish a caretaker administration until an election is
held,” it added.
“In 2008, we accepted the extension of the current government for a
year, despite irregularities,” the party revealed. “Another extension is
a proof of the government’s unwillingness to hold elections.” Matters
have been further complicated by the Election Commission’s decision to
endorse the latest Guurti extension and to set the new date for the
presidential election as September 2009.
Reacting to the commission’s action, Warabe said he doubted its
neutrality. “The Commission must consult all national political
stakeholders while addressing the issue,” he pointed out. Given the
delicate situation, many people support the UCID party’s conciliatory
Some people have pointed out that, though vocal, Warabe has been placing
emphasis on citizenship, as opposed to tribal politics.
Some politicians accused President Kahin of seeking to reunite
Somaliland with the rest of Somalia. But underneath the veneer of calm,
many people know that burning and explosive issues need tackling. The
tug-of-war between separatists and the unionists is a case in point.
While the vast majority of the people in the enclave are in favor of
Somaliland being independent from the rest of Somalia, a significant
section of the population, especially those from the eastern regions of
Sool and Sanaag, appear unwilling to accept separation from Somalia.
Although the radical Islamists in Somaliland might not be as active as
they are in other parts of Somalia, it is common knowledge that they are
a dormant force, with great potential for causing havoc, as the three
suicide attacks in Hargeysa on October 29 last year showed.
One radio commentator in Mogadishu summed the situation up thus: “The
news that even diaspora Somalilanders are leaving their safe haven in
Minnesota, US, to strap explosives to themselves, pulverize buildings in
Hargeysa and dismember human beings is just a bad dream politicians in
Somaliland need to awake from.”
Source: The Daily Nation