News / Africa

    Calm, High Turnout in Somaliland Elections Despite Isolated Clash

    Michael Onyiego

    Despite isolated incidents of violence, high voter turnout and relative calm have marked the presidential elections Saturday in the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland.

    Polls opened at 7 a.m. Saturday morning local time across the northwestern region of Somalia as Somaliland, an autonomous but unrecognized nation, looks to cement its democratic credentials among the international community.

    Ballots are being cast for three presidential candidates: Incumbent President Dahir Riyale Kahin, Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo and Faisal Ali Warabe.

    Silanyo represents the Kulmiye party, seen as the main rival to President Kahin's UDUB or United Peoples' Democratic Party in Somali. Presidential elections were originally scheduled to take place in August of 2008, 5 years after the previous presidential poll, but instability in the Sanaag and Sool regions in the east forced the delay.

    According to the Joint Coordinator of the International Election Observation team, Michael Walls, the voting has gone well. "The mood is pretty good," he said. "There is quite a relaxed environment in most places. Many of the queues are extremely long, but voting seems to be progressing pretty consistently. Things seem to be progressing pretty well. The reports we are getting from the different regions from our observers also are by and large pretty positive."

    According to Walls, voter turnout has been high for the region. Reports indicate that Somaliland citizens began arriving at polling stations as early as 3 a.m. Saturday morning and the observer estimated that roughly one-third of Somaliland's 1,070,000 registered voters had cast their ballot by midday.

    While the country is mostly upbeat, reports of violence in the southeast have dampened the mood. Walls revealed that a female member of the Somaliland Electoral Commission was killed in fighting between Somaliland forces and the Sool, Sanaag and Cayn, or SSC Militia in a town 35 kilometers south of a Las Anod. The fighting took place in the Sool region, where the militia is fighting for an independent republic of its own.

    Walls said the incident was isolated and took place in an area where some violence was possible.

    In contrast with its neighbors to the east and south, Somaliland has been relatively stable and democratic for the past two decades. In 1991, when the overthrow of Mohammed Siad Barre in Mogadishu plunged the rest of the country into chaos, Somaliland declared independence and continued governing.

    The country now boasts two peaceful parliamentary elections and a presidential election in 2003 which was widely observed as free and fair.

    Walls says these elections have so far met the same mark, though a peculiarity in Somaliland culture could see them fall just short of international standards.

    "In 2005 and before the term we used was 'reasonably free and fair.' I think in the context of Somaliland transparency is prized a lot more than secrecy," he said. "A lot of votes are cast in the full view of and in consultation with or where the voter is telling the officials and the observers and the agents in the polling station who they are voting for."

    "So to that extent there is a lot of practice there that you would say wasn't consistent with a lot of what is thought of as international standards. On the other hand there is a very, very minimal level of intimidation that any of the observers have reported so far," he added.

    There was worry that threats of reprisals against voters from Islamist group al-Shabab might keep people from voting, but Somaliland's citizens have been so far undeterred. Al-Shabab controls much of south and central Somalia and is fighting the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu to establish an Islamic state in the Horn of African Nation.

    While no incidents involving al-Shabab have been reported, the Somaliland government has taken no chances. The autonomous state has shut down its borders and forbidden movement inside the country.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.