Oodweyne News - Latest Somali News Update

Somaliland at Crossroads over the Appointment of one Election Commissioner named Riyo-raac (Goatherd)

Somaliland House of Elders has extended the term of parliament and local governments following the delay in holding parliamentary and municipal elections. In fact, this extension is quite unpopular but has come out of necessity in this fragile democracy. The parliament was elected in 2005 for a term of only 5 years, but has since been extended for six times.

Despite the bitterness of the situation, and unpopularity of the recurring extensions, the Senate has recently overwhelmingly (100%) approved the latest extension in recognition of the fact that Somaliland has no option but to extend the term of parliament.

The Republic of Somaliland which has declared its independence from the rest of the turbulent Somalia in 1991, enjoys relative stability compared to neighbouring which is plagued by almost 30 years of unrest and ongoing civil war. In addition, Somaliland has managed to establish working democratic institutions, and a viable economy.
The two opposition parties have rejected the latest extension made by the Senate but they did not come up with any other viable alternative. The opposition has also rejected the appointment of a new Election Commission whom they contend is a member and activist of the ruling Kulmiye Party. On their part, the ruling party (Kulmiye) admit that the commissioner in dispute, Mr Abdulrashiid Riyo-raa, could be Kulmiye supporter, but they argue that he is not currently holding any position in the party, all levels. It is obvious that the dispute revolves around a gery-area and different interpretation of the Electoral Law, which read as follows: An Appointee of the electoral commission should not be a member of any political party (but the law did not elaborate what does being a member of a political party actually mean).

Ideally, the opposition should refer the matter to Somaliland Supreme Court which would provide the final ruling on the legitimacy of the Commissioner in question. It is ironic that the appointment of this gentleman has developed into the obstacle blocking the election process – at least this time. We are of the opinion the Court will provide equitable interpretation of the Election Law by looking into the Spirit of Law rather than the Letter of the Law. As a result, the Court will question the real purpose of the condition imposed on the appointment commissioners which is to ascertain their independence, impartiality and neutrality – not merely “membership” of a party.

Finally, in order to resolve this dispute, Somaliland has to take one of the following steps:
⦁ The newly appointed Commissioner (Mr Rio Raa or Goatherd) should resign on his own and prevent further polarization of this fragile democracy.
OR
⦁ The opposition parties should refer the dispute to the Supreme Court which would most probably rule in their favour.
OR
⦁ The opposition parties should live with the Status Quo and accept the appointed commissioner who is believed to be a reasonable and trustworthy person.

 

Hassan Abdi Yousuf
Geopolitical Analyst
Hargeisa, Somaliland