In Somaliland, Democracy Relies on Healthy Dialogue

HARGEISA, 7 September 2009 (Somalilandpress) – When I visited Somaliland in 2003 and traveled from Sanaag to Awdal regions via beautiful and mountainous Sheikh City, I could always see one thing: whatever the town or city, every time I would see locals gathered at some teashops discussing and resolving the great issues of the country in very good-natured and healthy way, I consider such gatherings as Citizen Watchdogs, who could solve the country’s problems better than elected parliaments.

That claim may or may not be true, but as I continued my visit in these enjoyable moments I often thought to myself that the health of Somaliland democracy is sustained by these informal discussions among the citizens. These discussions are replicated countless times across the country and in different forms. At teashops, Kat Chewing sessions, and many other places. This was one of most encouraging democracies, I have witnessed in the Arab and Muslim World throughout my experience.

In Somaliland, when citizens listen to different viewpoints, they come to understand that politicians typically can’t resolve difficult disputes quickly because each one got hidden political agenda: To Become President. However, the people of Somaliland give the politicians enough space to practice their constitutional roles in the politics, but citizens always defuse the tension, in case of politicians fail to end their differences. Mahatma Gandhi said “Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress”. This wonderful democracy in Somaliland allows more than one political view to be expressed in an open discussion, like the current opposition parties.

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In fact, the current criticism by opposition parties over the manner that President Riyale is running the country is essential in democratic systems. They help prevent abuse of power by individuals or groups. Today, the free press and strong opposition parties in Somaliland know everything going around in Somaliland. The Somaliland democracy system always encounter crises; but eventually the system remains stable enough to find compromises or solution in civilized democratic way.

Many Somalis in Puntland – particularly Faroole supporters – believe that Somaliland is disarraying and current political disputes will bring it to end. I don’t blame them, because they never enjoyed or witnessed free democracy like Somaliland in their entire life. They suffered violence and killing, where there is no law-of-order and criminals are ‘HEROES’ in Garowe. They don’t know that healthy disagreements, like in Somaliland politics, are beginning of development process. They should understand such differences don’t reflect on Somaliland’s national interest.

Supporters of Faroole failed to understand that healthy democracies grow stronger from critics. They misbelieve that current election disputes in Somaliland will result chaos, as usual in Garowe city. They don’t know that the government system in Somaliland is very strong, and critics are normal in all democratic societies around the world.

The overarching aim of Somaliland policy is to promote the expansion of democracy in the neighboring countries, as it is the only surviving democracy in the region that is dominated by dictators and military leaders. Somaliland could be described as flower in middle of desert. Somaliland proved all its enemies, including Faroole supporters, wrong and democracy prevails always.

The current political uprising in Somaliland Parliament led by opposition parties like UCID and Kulmiye are sign of free and fair democracy, unlike many neighboring countries that either don’t have parliament or dictator controls it.

In Somaliland, the Opposition Parties control the Parliament with overwhelming majority of about 65% and UDUB, with few seats the parliament, is the ruling party. This promotes accountability, lack of major corruptions and unauthorized use of power by the president and ruling party. Somaliland Parliament controls the activities and transactions of the government.

Recently, Opposition parties in Somaliland took the streets in the major cities of Somaliland including Hargiesa, Gabiley, Burao, Berbera, Erigavo and even Lasacanod. The protestors clashed with the police, and even opposition parties’ use public venue to talk to supporters. This is the free democracy of Somaliland, where neither president and ruling party nor the opposition can take the rule into their hands.

Many factors contributed the current election dispute in Somaliland including the newly installed biometric system, where all Somaliland voters registered electronically using fingerprinting. This system was new to both Somaliland government and Somaliland’s National Election Commission, and until today the server of the system is facing errors. The international community failed to help Somaliland in debugging the server, or provide skilled IT Professionals to Somaliland’s National Election Commission.

Interpeace and EU sponsored the server, but they both failed to debug the errors. The people of Somaliland and government contributed very well in registration process, where government supplied necessary support to the election commission, and 58% of population turned out to the election registration. We can say the new technology let Somaliland and democracy down!

Conclusion:

The people of Somaliland, Opposition Parties and Government rely on healthy dialogues that saved their country from the violence, which destroyed the region, and wise chief tribes always look for peaceful solution to all conflicts.
The people should look into their interest, instead of supporting politicians. Somaliland is your asset, so protect it with all possible means.

By: Abdulaziz Al-Mutairi
Email: az.almutairi@yahoo.com

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