Friday, October 2, 2009
Somaliland has been a beacon of democracy in East Africa and the Horn since 1991. Recent developments, however, are beginning to raise serious questions about its future among persons such as myself who have admired its success in building democracy. The constitutionally-mandated term for the current president and vice president ended in May 2008. Because Somaliland was not ready to hold elections at that time, the upper house of Parliament voted to extend the presidential term to May 2009. A number of developments conspired to delay the elections even further. The future is cloudy. Michael Walls (LinkedIn), co-coordinator of the international election observation for the Somaliland presidential election and lecturer at University College London, published a thoughtful analysis titled "Somaliland: Democracy Treatened" in September 2009. The piece (link to PDF) is about the increasingly serious situation in Somaliland. Walls notes that while the constitutional dilemma is a fundamental component of the impasse, widespread doubt over the technical ability of the National Electoral Commission to organize a free and fair election is also a key problem. Walls concludes that if the government and opposition parties do not compromise and reach agreement soon, Somaliland faces a real possibility of "instability and a more authoritarian governance system." This would be a serious setback to both the residents of Somaliland and to the region generally.