Freedom House 2015 Report
The government of Somaliland, led by President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud Silanyo, continued its heavy-handed response to criticism and dissent in 2014. Arrests of journalists continued, and three domestic media outlets remained suspended. Tensions rose within the ruling Peace, Unity, and Development Party (Kulmiye) after chairman Muse Bihi Abdi announced his intention to run for the presidency in 2015 against Silanyo. Local media reported in May that three prominent party members were taken into custody after voicing support for Abdi’s candidacy. Abdi withdrew his candidacy in June.
The opposition Wadani party and the Justice and Welfare Party (UCID) voiced concern throughout the year about the government respecting electoral laws and procedures, alleging that the administration is delaying election preparations, particularly voter registration, in order to extend Silanyo’s term. Both presidential and legislative elections are scheduled for 2015.
Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 following the outbreak of civil war. The regional administration lacks international recognition as an independent state.
POLITICAL RIGHTS AND CIVIL LIBERTIES:
Political Rights: 21 / 40 [Key]
- Electoral Process: 5 / 12
According to Somaliland’s constitution, the president is directly elected for a maximum of two five-year terms and appoints the cabinet. The presidential election of 2010, originally scheduled for 2008, resulted in a smooth transfer of power from the United People’s Democratic Party (UDUB) to Kulmiye, the main opposition party. Silanyo, the leader of Kulmiye, captured almost 50 percent of the vote, comfortably ahead of incumbent Dahir Riyale Kahin’s 33 percent. International monitors identified some irregularities, but declared the vote free and fair. In May 2014, Silanyo announced his intention to run for a second term in 2015.
Members of the 82-seat lower legislative chamber, the House of Representatives, are directly elected for five-year terms, while members of the 82-seat upper chamber, or Guurti, are clan elders indirectly elected for six-year terms. The last parliamentary elections were held in 2005 and have been delayed since 2010. In 2013, the terms of the lower and upper houses were extended for a second time, until 2015 and 2016, respectively. The terms were first extended in 2010 on grounds that Somaliland could not organize another election so soon after the presidential poll.
In 2012, Somaliland held municipal elections, the first such elections in a decade. Though the elections were deemed free and fair by a coalition of local observers, large protests followed. Following the elections, President Silanyo called for a new voter roll to be created before the 2015 national elections.
In November 2014, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia reported of incidents of violence that took place amid preparations for the 2015 parliamentary elections. There were reports of casualties as well as of the detention of a number of parliamentarians.
- Political Pluralism and Participation: 10 / 16
Although parties defined by region or clan are technically prohibited, party and clan affiliations often coincide. A constitutional restriction allows for a maximum of three officially recognized political parties. The Registration and Approval Committee (RAC) reviewed 18 parties and associations to determine which could participate in the 2012 local elections. From the seven parties that competed, the three parties that received the most votes were officially declared eligible for elections for the coming decade: Wadani, the UCID, and Kulmiye. Wadani is the newest of these parties; it was formed by breakaway members of UCID in 2011 and drew members of the Horyaal and Nasiye political groups in the lead-up to the 2012 local elections. In 2013, Wadani and UCID agreed to align their strategies and form a coalition against Kulmiye.
- Functioning of Government:6 / 12
Corruption in Somaliland was a serious problem under the government of President Riyale, but there have been signs of improvement under Silanyo. A bill to strengthen the five-member Good Governance and Anti-Corruption Commission was passed by the legislature in 2012. In 2013, the government named Hassan Omer Horri as Director General of the commission. In January 2014, the commission published the findings of a National Corruption Perception Survey, funded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which examined citizen perceptions of government corruption. In February, the commission released a three-year antigraft strategy for Somaliland.
Civil Liberties: 25 / 60
- Freedom of Expression and Belief:7 / 16
While freedoms of expression and the press are guaranteed by the constitution, these rights are limited in practice. Eleven independent newspapers and three independent television stations operate in Somaliland, but both outlets and journalists routinely face government interference and harassment. The Silanyo administration has adopted a harsh approach to perceived critics in recent years, suspending several media outlets and levying heavy penalties on opposition journalists. In February 2014, the regional government banned Universal TV, a broadcaster based in the United Kingdom, after it aired a mock interview of President Silanyo on a political satire program. In April, police raided the offices of Haatuf and Somaliland Times, two Hargeisa-based newspapers, and suspended both outlets for “publishing false news and insulting officials.” Both papers were part of the Haatuf Media Network and published stories alleging corruption in the energy and interior ministries. The chairman of the company and an editor were charged in May with “libel, false publication, and antistate propaganda.” Both men were denied bail and received sentences of three years in prison, in addition to fines of 50 million Somaliland shillings ($8,000).
Islam is the state religion, and nearly all Somaliland residents are Sunni Muslims. While the Somaliland constitution allows for the freedom of belief, it prohibits conversion from Islam and proselytizing by members of other faiths. It also requires that candidates for the presidency, vice presidency, and House of Representatives be Muslim. Academic freedom is less restricted than in neighboring Somalia. The territory has at least 10 universities and colleges of higher learning, though they are not adequately funded or staffed.
- Associational and Organizational Rights: 5 / 12
Freedoms of assembly and association are constitutionally guaranteed. However, the government has been known to repress demonstrations in the past. Domestic human rights groups reported that police fired live ammunition at University of Hargeisa students during a peaceful demonstration against increased tuition fees in April 2014. Police violence was also reported at a demonstration in Gabiley in September. Local and international nongovernmental organizations operate without serious interference. The constitution does not explicitly protect the right to strike, though it does permit collective bargaining. The right to belong to a union is generally respected.
- Rule of Law: 7 / 16
The judiciary is underfunded and lacks independence, and the Supreme Court is largely ineffective. Somaliland has approximately 100 judges, most of whom lack formal legal training; judges are usually selected on the basis of clan or political affiliation. Somaliland’s constitution allows for three legal systems based on Sharia (Islamic law), civil law, and customary law. Upon taking office, Silanyo pledged to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and release all prisoners who had not been charged with a crime, apart from those accused of terrorism or theft. In March 2014, multiple members of the judiciary reported that they frequently face pressure from cabinet officials to make particular rulings or to release suspects.
Somaliland’s police and security forces have been accused of using excessive force. In 2014, the Somaliland-based Human Rights Centre’s annual report concluded that police operate with extensive impunity and use beatings, torture, and coercion to gather intelligence and extract confessions. According to the report, many of Somaliland’s police stations, which are intended to hold individuals for up to 48 hours, are used for long-term detention. These facilities have become overcrowded, and detainees are often held without food or other basic necessities.
In May 2014, local human rights organizations called upon the government to withdraw proposed antiterrorism legislation that they argued has the potential to severely restrict basic rights, including the freedoms of expression, assembly, and movement.
- Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 6 / 16
Societal fault lines are largely clan-based. Larger, wealthier clans have more political clout than the less prominent groups, and clan elders often intervene to settle conflicts.
Business opportunities are limited, and unemployment is high. Among individuals aged 25 to 34, an estimated 63 percent of men and 80 percent of women are unemployed. In October 2014, the governments of the United Kingdom and Somaliland cohosted a conference to encourage trade with and investment in the territory.
The Somaliland government has made attempts to combat human trafficking in recent years. An estimated 50 Somaliland residents are smuggled out of the territory every month. The government has a specialized department within the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs to investigate suspected trafficking. The U.S. State Department’s 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report cites the establishment of a committee in June 2013 to combat illegal immigration. In October 2013, Somaliland police arrested a man suspected to be a prominent member of an international human trafficking network led by Yasin Mahi Ma’alin, a Swedish citizen of Somali origin.
While society in Somaliland is patriarchal, women have made modest advances in public life. Quotas for political representation of women have been frequently discussed but never adopted. In 2010, Kulmiye expressed support for a 25 percent quota across all political institutions. There are no female judges, only four women in cabinet-level positions, and one female legislator in the House of Representatives.
Violence against women, including rape, remains a major problem. The practice of female genital mutilation is widespread.
Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year