Monday, September 28, 2009




By voting to endorse the 6-point agreement between the three political parties rather than extend the president’s term without the opposition parties’ agreement, Somaliland’s Upper House did the right thing for itself and for the country. It did the right thing for itself because doing otherwise would have ruined its reputation, and it did the right thing for the country because doing otherwise would have worsened the country’s political situation.

In addition to endorsing the 6 point agreement, the Upper House’s vote stipulated that the president has to transfer power one month after the election, if he loses the election that is. The president’s supporters may argue that, in effect, this amounts to an extension of the president’s term, and they would be right, but that is beside the point, because the opposition had already accepted in principle that the president’s term be extended but what they were insisting on was that the extension should be something that was agreed upon by the three political parties, and not one in which the Upper House was blindly executing the wishes of the president.

The 6 points plus the stipulation that the president hand over power a month after the election gave each side what it wanted. The opposition can now say that the Upper House ratified the agreement between the three political parties and the government can say it got extension.

Looked at dispassionately, what happened looks like a package deal. The opposition accepted an extension of the president’s term that is tied to the time it would take to fix the server problem. It also agreed to drop its support for the parliamentary majority’s impeachment drive. The government accepted that the voter-registration list be the basis for the election after it is corrected.

The government also agreed to changes in the electoral commission. Since the elements of this deal were quite apparent for some time, the question then arises why were Somaliland’s political leaders were unable to reach it themselves and without the involvement of the international community (or rather those members of the international community who care about Somaliland)?

There are several reasons for this, but the most important one is that although there were several areas of disagreement between the government and the opposition parties, the core of the problem was the issue of the server, an issue that Somalilanders neither had the technological know-how nor the financial wherewithal to fix.

It may be too early to extrapolate from this that Somaliland has entered a new phase in which it has become dependent upon the international community for solving fundamental problems, but at least in the case of the election, there is little doubt that the international community will have to play a positive role for a fair and free election to take place.

So far, the international community’s role has been mixed. On the one hand, the server and voter-registration provided by the international community had some flaws which exacerbated the political problems in the country, but on the other hand, the international community’s judicious and patient nudging helped in finding a formula out of a dangerous situation.

Now the international community has to quickly fulfill its promises. The first step in this direction is for the international community to bring to Somaliland technical experts who can fix the server and sort out the voter-registration problem. The second step is to help with establishing an effective electoral commission. With those two problems under control, the election date could then be set up.