Thursday, September 08, 2005

International observers to Somaliland poll

A team of experts from four continents is preparing to visit the still unrecognised country of Somaliland to ensure that its forthcoming parliamentary elections are free and fair. The team is led by the same experts that concluded that the 2002 local elections were free and fair.

The group of 20 international election observers was chosen by international development agency the Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR) and includes writers and academics renowned for their work on this fledgling nation in north-western Somalia, according to a CIIR press release.

The upcoming parliamentary polls in Somaliland are the last step in the unrecognised country's process of creating democratically elected state institutions. Somaliland has already organised a referendum over Independence (from Somalia) and presidential and local polls.

According to CIIR, there will be 982 polling stations around the country during the upcoming elections. The Somalilander electoral commission expects that the polls will be as smooth as on earlier occasions.

Somalilanders hope the polls will bring international recognition for their new nation, built from scratch by ordinary citizens after years of devastating civil war. Somalilanders regard these elections as testament to the support they feel they deserve from the international community while their country pushes for democratic practice in Africa.

The team of observers has been funded by the British Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and is led by Dr Steve Kibble and Dr Adan Abokor, the representative for Somaliland. Dr Kibble and Dr Abokor also led the team observing the 2002 local elections, which the concluded "proved peaceful, reasonably free, fair and were enthusiastically welcomed."

Mohamed Dualeh, a Somalilander living in Britain, is to accompany the team on his first visit to the country. "I am really looking forward to the elections," Mr Dualeh said. "All Somalilanders are expecting and hoping to see a successful last phase of the democratisation process and we hope it leads to the recognition of the country as a peaceful and democratic state in the Horn of Africa."

Somaliland has gained fame for becoming a peaceful and democratic oasis in the troubled Horn of Africa region. In 1991, Somaliland decided unilaterally to end its union with Somalia, which had been gripped by three years of civil war, and embark on a process of democratisation. A referendum in 1999, local elections in 2002 and a presidential election in 2003 followed.

There have however been some setbacks during the last years - notably the government's incomplete compliance with human rights standards, as shown by the arrest of journalists and efforts to lean on the judiciary. Somalilanders still hope the democratisation strategy will bring international recognition.

By staff writer

© afrol News

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