New Technology Undermines Somaliland Election

HARGEISA, 5 August 2009 (Somalilandpress) – The people and Government of Somaliland spend time, energy and money to the biometric voter registration to have free and fair election. The process continued for two years across Somaliland from Sool to Awdal regions. The world witnessed millions of Somalilanders in long queues for hours under blazing sun to redefine their identity as Somalilanders, after premature unity with Italian Somalia on 1st July 1960. The women and youth played very important role in voter registration process. Thousands of Somalilanders volunteered in helping the government to complete the registration.

The Somaliland flag was flying on the roof of very house across the country. The international community including USA, EU and African Union praised Somaliland for becoming the first African Nation to carry out electronic biometric voter registration, in the heart of a region dominated by dictators and kings.

Somaliland registration started after thousands of unarmed civilians were killed and displaced in Kenya over disputed election result. Also, democracy and human rights record in the region is not cheering.

However, the recent election dispute in Somaliland, between the political parties, government and National Election Commission, has triggered political confusion, particularly after President of Somaliland Dahir Riyale Kahn canceled the result of biometric registration, and called for traditional finger-painting style of election. This is a fallback to Somaliland democracy and after two years of hard work of enrolling the millions of citizens; also, it is disappointment to international community that helped Somaliland to achieve it.

Today, it is not right to accuse each other over the election because the country needs somebody to save from political collapse. The result of the Server – Biometric Registration – is very essential for the people, though it contains minor errors but yet better than finger-painting.

Biometric system will, at least, identify Somalilanders from the others in neighboring countries. We all know that Somali speaking people in the Horn of Africa lookalike each other and difficult to distinguish between them; but the biometric system will filter out the non-Somalilanders.

Interpeace is part of the failure in Somaliland Voter Registration, because it failed to generate accurate result from the Server, which is under its direct management.

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Interpeace disappointed the people of Somaliland, who strongly turned out for voter registration. Somaliland Government and Opposition Parties cooperated with Interpeace very effectively. However, it is below par to hear the announcement of Interpeace of the failure of the server to produce correct and reliable statistics that can help the country to vote for its 4th President in less than 20 years. Such announcement angered the government and people equally, so Interpeace needs to apologize to the people of Somaliland and solve the errors in the server.

Riyale´s decision of sending police to eject Interpeace from the country was very unwise and undiplomatic and it is a slap in the face of those who wanted to help and with good intentions towards Somaliland democracy progress. Interpeace left for now, and Somaliland is biggest looser because it cannot avoid financial needs to run the process of voter registration and expertise to reboot the server.

The New Technology:

Over the past year and specially the last six months much has been said about the Server and right now it has taken its own. The technology used in Somaliland Voter Registration is latest in the world, and this was very excellent step towards building free and fair democracy in Somaliland. The World and Donor Nations welcomed the initiative of registering the voters. However, Interpeace´s silly minor mistakes screw the registration process.It seems that Interpeace supplied this bad/old/low configuration server to reduce the cost.

After consulting highly skilled IT Professionals particularly ´System Administration area´ and after study on errors announced by Interpeace and National Election Commission, they described the errors very minor and result of bad study before the installation of the system. They underscored that hardware capacity of the server is too small to handle database of the voters.

The frequent statements from Interpeace and National Election Commission are: the server is filtering out the duplications; the server has errors and rebooting; the server accepted all duplications at the registration time and doing double job to clear it; the server is unable to have reliable output; and finally, Interpeace announces failure of the biometric registration server!!! The professionals finalized that current problem is result of bad pre-installation survey.

IT Professionals advised the hardware of the server should be upgraded and software to be reexamined to be fit to handle database of 4 million voters in Somaliland. The testing phase must include plan for next 20 years according to population growth rate.

They called for upgrade of both hardware and Software including the operation system, which should have latest security and performance tuning patches. The hardware upgrade should include Hard Disk, RAM and the Processor. They highlighted that majority of the data captured in the server are not in text or binary format like picture and fingerprint, which needs massive storage area. RAM and Processor helps the server to boot and run quickly particularly during filtering the duplicates.

The people and government of Somaliland accepted the offer of Interpeace to install the Server at the initial stage, and it should take all the responsibility. Both government and people of Somaliland done their part of job, but Interpeace failed!!!!

People of Somaliland & Government:

The world witnessed your powerful desire to establish fair and free democracy in your part of the world, after many recognized governments failed to do so. The world appreciated your commitments towards quality democracy with little outside support. It was amazing to see the people of Somaliland standing for long queues for many hours waiting to register for the election. These were unforgettable moments in the history of democracy.

However, today your democracy is under threat by Interpeace and its weak relation with government, National Election Commission and Opposition Parts in Somaliland. However, this does not demoralize you because you are people of democratic principles. Yet, you can do free and fair election using the current result from the server. There are minor errors in the result and must be corrected in the upcoming Parliamentary Election. The current Server result is better than traditional finger-painting election system, and will, at least, stop Non-Somalilanders from voting.

The security and stability is the backbone of your struggle to democratic and independent Somaliland, and shall be protected with every possible tool. The government and Opposition parties are politicians, and we know politician is full of lies. A politician is your servant and you appoint him to run your affairs for a period of time.

The decision of Riyale administration to expel the representative of Interpeace was wrong and politically motivated; because Riyale believes that he can be reelected using the old finger-painting system, but this wrong!!! Riyale deported the representative of Interpeace knowing that his administration cannot repair or fix the Server, and that Interpeace are the only one who can do it. So, Riyale minimized the chances of free election in the country.

Riyale administration arrested the representative like thief, after police arrested him from his hotel room escorted him to the airport, where he was put into waiting aircraft. It was not a wise and civilized step.

Riyale should accept Interpeace back to Somaliland because it is the only organization that can run the Server again, unless Riyale is planning another voter registration in the country, which may need another millions of dollars and two more years!!!

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

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