Somaliland: The end of the democratisation process and the Return of One Party Rule By Dahir Jama

No one could have predicted that the 15th of May 2008 was the start of the end of Somaliland’s short-but lively experimentation with Democracry.  Indeed it was.   But before we go any further on this, lets take a look at a more recent incident.

Approximately two weeks ago, the Chairman of UDUB, Mr Dahir Rayale, whose term of office has run out yesterday, 06.04.09, received a one year extension to his term of office from the house of Somaliland elders called Guurti, two weeks ago.  But this was not the only extension Rayale received.  Back in May 2008, there was an outcry and public anger to the illegal extension of term for the corrupt and unpopular administration.  However, at the time, the administration at least pretended to be taking note of the public anger and concern and started a c consultation process with the opposition parties.  A mutual agreement was reached between the Somaliland Election Commission (SEC) the opposition parties and the ruling party and government and a new election date was set for March 2009.  The opposition parties agreed to the extension of the government’s term and the government agreed to specific points of concern for the opposition i.e. the use or rather misuse of public funds and institutions (Media).

One year passed and UDUB and Messrs Rayale did not honour the agreement they signed with the opposition.  In fact the entire agreement was not worth the paper it was written on As Rayale claimed midway his extension term that he was not bound by the terms of the agreement as it was his Party’s Secretary-General, the late Bullaale, who has signed it with the opposition and not himself.

As was expected and as afore-mentioned, the one year passed without Rayale fulfilling his national duties and preparing the country for elections.  In fact, during that year Rayale succeeded in electing one of his stooges, Mr Jama, to the Chairmanship of the Somaliland Election Commission; thus ensuring complete domination over the democratisation process.

The SEC, then, with the stewardship of Mr Jama declared that elections cannot take place on the 29th of March 2009, as planned.  Without consultation and agreement of the main opposition party, the SEC went ahead and set another date for Presidential elections, namely 31st May 2009.

For his part, Messrsrs Rayale, as though there were no previous agreements or extensions, ordered the Guurti to give him another extension, which they kindly obliged.  In fact, the Guurti did not only oblige and give Rayale another six month extension, the third extension, but they also set a new date for the election, 29th September 2009.  Of course, they do not and did not have the legal authority and mandate to set election dates.  That’s the job of the election commission. But, set it, they did, never the less.

Under normal circumstance, one would have expected the Election commission to be up in arms and angry and upset about the interference of the guurti in their job.  Not so.  They appeared happy with it and in line with the orders from Messrs Rayale announced yet another, new date for Presidential election; namely 27th September 2009, just as the Guurti and Messrs Rayale requested.

The problem with the constant extensions and change of election dates is not the delay it self, per say.  It is the manner in which it was done and the symbolism it involves.  Messrs Rayale has demonstrated his ruthlessness and ability to do as he pleases.   This, of course, is to the detriment of Somaliland and its system of government.  The end result of which is that no one today believes that Rayale will ever hold or allow elections to take place, as he has lost faith in the public and his ability to be re-elected.

The Role Of The World Community

The international community, as unfortunate as this might be, is an important player which has contributed significantly to the present quagmire Somaliland finds itself in, at present, and the collapse of Somaliland’s democratisation process.  The European union is a major funder for Somaliland elections and yet does not appear to have any leverage on Rayale.  Is that credible?  On the other hand, the regional countries, specially Ethiopia, has important and significant influence on Rayale, therefore, is able to direct and get him to do  anything and every thing they ask of him.  Hence the question presents; are they pushing and encouraging him to destroy Somaliland’s young democracy and if so why?  These are all questions, as important as they may be, that will need answering and point the finger of blame not only at Rayale but outside players.

The people of Somaliland are sensitive to outside interneference.  Besides, the logic, if any, behind such moves and actions of outside powers is not understandable. The situation in the horn of Africa, in particular, the Somali peninsula, is bad enough as it is, at present.  It does not make sense to destabilise Somaliland as well, which will contribute to the fire that’s burning in Mogadishu and the Jubba regions.  Therefore, anyone in their minds cannot imagine how a civil war in Somaliland which will most likely involve other Somali elements can benefit anyone.

The Response of KULMIYE and the Opposition

Be it as it may, KULMIYE, the main opposition party has to make a decision.  Announce and declare that it has lost faith in the election commission and Messrs Rayale’s ability to hold elections, as they already did.  But what else are they g oing to do besides talk?  Is it simply going to be mere words of: We Do Not Recognize You and No Collaboration?  We know that Rayale has proven to have the qualitites of a hardened dictator and is not responding to their demands and pleas, therefore, it may be wise for KULMIYE to think of a plan B or what they intend to do.  Do t hey give up altogether on Somaliland elections and refuse to take part in the elections and become ordinary citizens or do they have other tricks up their sleaves?

Sadly, the experience in Africa tells us that reasonable demands and expectations must be backed up by GUNS and GANGS.  In other words, if we take the experience of Kenya, Madagascar and many other places, its only when the uprising and t he threat of war and guns became eminent that the dictators backed down.  Does this seem like a viable option for the opposition in Somaliland?  Surely the people of Somaliland are wary of wars and do not want another lengthy civil war.  Therefore, its tempting to say that war or the threat of a war should not be an option.  Unfortunately, however, this is exactly what Rayale is banking on, in doing all he is doing.  Therefore, it may not be a bad idea after all for the opposition to demonstrate to Rayale that  they can indeed stand up to him and back up their empty threats!. Admittedly, its sad it had to come to this and of course hostilities are to be avoided, at any cost.   But without Rayale coming to his senses, I do not see how that could be avoided.

Dahir Jama

Chair: International Somaliland Congress

London, UK