Hope as Somaliland opts for dialogue.

Political compromise in Somaliland brokered by international donors has helped avert violence but information on the ground point to a shaky truce that can break any time.

A political stalemate between President Dahir Rayale Kahin and the opposition following the postponement of presidential elections scheduled for September 27, had threatened to plunge the self-declared state into turmoil.

Recently, the three political parties agreed on a six-point programme to help save the country from strife, given that the opposition had threatened to boycott the elections and seek other means of removing the president from power, while the incumbent had earlier vowed to push on with elections even without a voter-register.

The six areas of agreement include changes in the National Electoral Commission; solving technical problems that had impeded voter-registration; the date of elections to be set by a reconstituted electoral commission and technical experts rather than politicians; the three political parties to work together to avoid divisive politics; the pending elections and future elections to be based on voter-registration; and the three political parties to issue a joint statement calling for unity and patriotism.

Subsequently, on September 22, the House of Elders commonly known as Guurti voted to extend the life of the current government for the sake of the country.

Somaliland, which unilaterally declared its independence in 1991 following the collapse of Siad Bare’s government, held successful multi-party presidential elections in 2003 and parliamentary elections in 2005.

But subsequently, the country — that is yet to receive international recognition — has been unable to hold elections.

By law, only three parties are registered: the incumbent’s United Democratic Peoples’ Party, the main opposition party Kulmiye, led by veteran politician, Ahmed Mahamoud Silanyo, and the Party for Justice and Welfare.

Analysts were hoping that orderly and democratic presidential elections would strengthen its quest for global recognition, given the escalating chaos in the southern region.

Yet, the presidential elections were postponed in 2007 and again in 2008 due to what officials called technical problems, including inadequate voter registration.

The poll was then set to be held before April 6, 2009, following a civil registration process.

But again, the 2009 elections have been repeatedly delayed for numerous reasons but particularly due to problems in the voter registration process.

By African standards, the voter-registration process in Somaliland was one of the most advanced in the continent.

It included a biometric system with a database registering fingerprints, photographs and personal details.

But after the October 2008 bombing by Al Shabaab, the foreign staff in charge of running the computer equipment for the registration pulled out, severely delaying the registration process.

But though the truce has cool political temperatures, the main worry is whether it will hold for long given the high tensions that were brought about by the election fever and accusations of planned malpractices.

According to observers The EastAfrican spoke to, the situation in Somaliland remains fluid.

But one thing that stands out is that the hitherto suppressed media has played a key role by continuously putting politicians under pressure to put the survival of the country before their own political survival.

Source: The Eastafrican

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