News / Africa

Somaliland Voters Go to the Polls

Woman casts her ballot in Somaliland municipal elections, Nov. 28, 2012. Credit: Kate Stanworth
Woman casts her ballot in Somaliland municipal elections, Nov. 28, 2012. Credit: Kate Stanworth
Somaliland held municipal elections Wednesday. Seven political parties took part in the first poll for local councils since 2002.

Although Somaliland has declared itself an independent state, it has not received full international recognition since breaking away from Somalia in 1991.

The IEO -- International Election Observers -- has a team of more than 50 people in Somaliland. Dr. Steve Kibble, joint coordinator of the mission. From the capital Hargeisa, he said that Somaliland’s municipal elections are “important in several ways.”

“Somaliland has proved that it’s on the road to some form of democracy of its own making. We saw pretty free and fair elections, which contrast with some of the neighbors, it must be said.”

Kibble describes Somaliland as “an important player for some people even though it’s an unrecognized state.” He said Somaliland played a “key” role in international conferences on the Horn of Africa.

Long queues of voters in Somaliland municipal elections, Nov. 28, 2012. Credit: Kate StanworthLong queues of voters in Somaliland municipal elections, Nov. 28, 2012. Credit: Kate Stanworth
Long queues of voters in Somaliland municipal elections, Nov. 28, 2012. Credit: Kate Stanworth
Long queues of voters in Somaliland municipal elections, Nov. 28, 2012. Credit: Kate Stanworth
“I think there’s a kind of implicit recognition, not that I’m qualified to talk about recognition as an international observer. But recognition in the sense that people can see its value, and the fact that it’s on this road to a hybrid form of democratization, mixing sort of traditional and democratic forms,” he said.

Kibble was in Somaliland for the first municipal elections in 2002. Since then, a parliamentary election was held in 2005 and a presidential vote in 2010.

As for the election process, he said, “There have always been ups and downs. But in terms of the understanding of the Somaliland people for democracy, I think that has been a more and more sophisticated tactic. One always has to balance off sub-clan interests against individual interests and policy interests. That’s not very well formulated in many ways. But the actual mechanics of the electoral process are well understood, and people have been turning out in really big numbers today.”

Over 50 IEO mission observers are deployed over six regions, but they were not placed in any areas where their safety could be in jeopardy. The observers come from 18 countries, including the U.S. and Canada, many European nations, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa.

Kibble said, “Also, there are lots of volunteers that have paid their own way, paid their own expenses, flights, etcetera, to get here. So it kind of shows the interest.”
He said that elections can be “quite volatile” in Somaliland, adding, “people get very enthusiastic and exuberant. And sometimes the police kind of whip them into line a bit more than you would expect…in rather quieter North American [and] European countries. That having been said, it’s very heartening to see so many people queuing-up to vote in the pretty hot sun. Mostly, things appear to be pretty stable, pretty peaceful.”

There have been allegations of underage people attempting to vote and of the government driving its supporters to the polling stations. There are also reports of police firing in the air as part of crowd control.

“These are just allegations at the moment,” he said, “We will obviously try and check those out as much as possible. But the overwhelming mood from our observers, at the moment, is that things are going along fine.”

The IEO mission will issue an interim report on the municipal elections before it leaves. The findings will be presented to the National Electoral Commission. A final report may be issued in December.

Kibble said, “This is a rather complicated process where people vote for a local councilor, but also are voting to streamline seven political parties into three registered parties under the constitution.”

The election panel listed nearly 2400 candidates for about 350 council seats.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs