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Rebirth of Somaliland

Rebirth of Somaliland#

Peace and State building processes#

On 26 January 1991, the Somalia military leader, General Mohamed SiyadBarre finally fled. His hasty flight was precipitated by armed southern fighters at the head of which was the USC, shelling him out of Villa Somalia, the seat of government. Immediately afterward, Mogadishu unilaterally built a ‘Somalia’ government putting Ali Mahdi Mohamed at the Presidency.

On 31 January 1991 he announced the composition of his government, declaring that the insurgency which toppled SiyadBarre started from the central regions totally ignoring the decade-long armed struggle of the SNM – the single, most potent factor that made the mighty military machine of the dictator eat dust. If not for the weakened condition of the military might which paved the way for the blitz to advance the USC, the SNM and others made on the capital during the closing months of 1990 would not have been possible.

Brothers Grand Conference. Burao, Somaliland, 1991, copyright Boobe Yusuf Duale

Two weeks later, clans of Somaliland came together in Berbera. The meeting resolved that within two months each clan should mend fences among its political and traditional leaders, select representatives for a grand conference to be held in Burao in mid-May, and decide on a possible outlook to a government separate from that of Mogadishu which had already shown all the go-at-it-alone hallmarks which failed the intended merger of Somaliland and Somalia in 1960. It was during this mulling period in which clans deeply discussed what the future direction of Somaliland would look like.

The clans successfully concluded their side meetings and converged in time in Burao to reach pivotal resolutions that were to become the most critical since the nation’s hasty escapade to a Mogadishu that did not truly share its enthusiasm in 1960.

On 18th May 1991 at this second national meeting, the SNM Central Committee, with the support of a meeting of elders representing the major clans in the Northern Regions, declared the restoration of the Republic of Somaliland, covering the same area as that of the former British Protectorate. The Burao conference also established a government for the Republic; an administration that inherited a war-ravaged country in which tens of thousands of people had been killed, many thousands injured, and the main cities, Hargeisa and Burao, almost entirely destroyed. The territory had been extensively mined, yet with the establishment of peace, hundreds of thousands of internally and externally displaced people were starting to return home.

It was at this meeting that the first government of the new republic was elected. president Abdirahman Ahmed Ali, the last SNM leader during whose tenure the country has finally reached its dearly-sought goal of freedom and restoration of its sovereignty, was selected to lead the new government. Hassan Essa Jama became the first Vice President of the government.

Burao conference in 1991. Copy right Boobe Yusuf Duale

As difficult and incendiary as those first three years were, pacification among clans continued and the ground for an eventual demobilization of militias was laid. This period is characterized by the ‘establishment of security and government’.

According to the Academy for Peace and Development (APD), about 39 peace conferences and meetings took place between 1991 and 1997 which shared core values and objectives. Among these were:

  • Restoration of relations between communities affected by the war;
  • Establishment to relatively stable security regime in which law and order has increasingly fallen within the ambit of a system of partially decentralized government;
  • Establishment of local and national institutions of governance; and
  • Creation of an environment conducive to economic growth and the beginnings of what might be considered a more broadly-defined process of development.

This first government was replaced by another grand conference held in Borama in 1993 during which Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal was elected President with Abdirahman Aw Ali Farah the Vice presidency. A National Charter to pave the way for a full-fledged national constitution was also adopted.

Borama conference in 1993 Copyright Boobe Yusuf Duale

Democratization process and elections 2002-2020#

In the period between 1993 and February 1997, when the third grand conference was convened in Hargeisa, saw the demobilization and nationalization of clan militias, a brief flare of an internecine conflict between the government and one of the major clans of Somaliland, and the solid foundation-laying of a true institution- building that prepared the country for a democratic, multi-party system. The last conference that clans’ representatives participated was in 1997 and this is where the democratization process took the lead in the pursuant of years in which the first democratic popular elections were held in 2002 since in 1959 of the Somaliland British Protectorate.

Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal was, again, elected president and Dahir Rayale Kahin became the third Vice President of Somaliland in 1997. Soon after, the government set about the draft of requisite instruments for the formation of political associations and the election of local councils and members of parliament. “Subsequently, the political system of Somaliland has had this transition from clans elected leaders into popular democratic elections and Somaliland succeeded to manage this transition where the citizens opted running a constitutional democracy and multiparty political system”.

In accordance with Article 9 of the Constitution passed in the year 2000, the three most successful of the associations turned into national political parties at the end of local council elections. The first three such parties were UDUB, Kulmiye and UCID. At present set-up, UDUB went out of the political structure and was replaced by Waddani.

The table below shows elections and one-person, one-vote balloting held since 2002.

1Constitutional referendum2001
2Local council and political parties elections2002
3Presidential elections2003
4House of Representatives elections2005
5Voter registration2008-2009
6Presidential elections2010
7Local council and political parties elections2012
8Voter registration2016
9Presidential elections2017
10Parliamentary and local council elections2021

Somaliland has succeeded in establishing a multiparty competitive electoral system, where opposition and ruling parties compete freely, and where power has been peacefully and smoothly transferred from incumbent presidents to the opposition. Somaliland practices or performs most democratic fundamental and universally agreed on principles and values that included but not limited to freedom of speech, free press, free market, human rights, vibrant civil society and non- state actors, freely operational opposition parties, civic participation and right to assembly and association.