Some people from the regions of eastern Sanaag and Sool, which are contested by Somaliland and Puntland, have participated at the SNRP, believing that their future interests will be best served by a united Somalia rather than an independent Somaliland. The majority of people in Somaliland, however, support their government’s decision to stay away from the process in the belief that the time for talking will be once peace has been achieved in Somalia and an accountable government is in place.

During the 10 months that the SNRP process has been under way in Kenya, Somaliland has carried out the first democratic multi-party elections in Somalia since 1969. Multi-party elections to district councils took place in December 2002, and these were followed in April 2003 by presidential elections. The elections are ‘a crucial part of the transformation of Somaliland’s post-war system of government, from a clan-based power-sharing system to a constitu­tional government based on multi-party democracy’.1 The process is considered ‘potentially very significant for the future of Somaliland and the political entity (or entities) that emerge from the remnants of the Somali state’. (Ibid)

Three parties fielded candidates in the Presidential Election2 and 488,543 votes were cast by women and men of eligible age at 782 polling stations.3 Voting was conducted peacefully and international observers who witnessed the elections, including a large delegation from South Africa, concluded that they had been carried out in a free and transparent manner and generally in line with international standards. The party of the incumbent president, Daahir Rayaale Kaahin, won the elections, beating its closest rival, Kulmiye, by only 80 votes. The narrow margin of victory gave rise to a period of tension as Kulmiye contested the results and the government sought to prevent violence by invoking emergency laws, detaining opposition supporters and controlling the media. Civil society forums stepped in to mediate and the public made clear that the parties should follow constitutional process to resolve their differences.

On 16 May 2003, following confirmation of the result by the Supreme Court, Daahir Rayaale Kaahin was sworn in as the first elected President of Somaliland. Three weeks later a committee of sultans persuaded Kulmiye to concede defeat and prepare to contest parliamentary elections. (Ibid)

One of President Kaahin’s first decisions was to appoint Edna Adan as Minister of Foreign Affairs, the most senior position yet held by a woman in any Somali government. A second woman was appointed as Minister of Family and Social Welfare.4 Women also expect to gain seats in Somaliland’s next parliament, which will be formed through multi-party elections within two years.

NOTES

1. Mark Bradbury, Dr Adan Yusouf Abokor, Haroon Ahmed Yusuf, ‘Choosing Politics over Violence: Multi-party Elections in Somaliland’, Review of African Political Economy, May 2003.

2. A woman, Fawziya Yussuf Haji Adam, tried to challenge the system by running as an independent candidate but was barred by a Supreme Court ruling.

3. Two districts in eastern Sanaag and three in Sool did not vote.

4. This post had previously been held by Edna Adan.