In a very strongly phrased press release, Wednesday, the Somaliland National Electoral Commission (NEC) over-reacted to the formation of a voluntary, unpaid committee – the Elections Dispute Resolution Committee (EDRC) nominated to mediate in election-related disputes before they reached courts or went out of hand.
The Committee, organized by the largest non-state actors SONSAF, is composed of prominent members of the society, including two ex-vice presidents, academicians, traditional leaders, religious scholars and members of the business community.
The NEC press release put both the formation of the committee and the historical conflict resolution mechanisms which helped Somaliland keep standing on its feet despite many an incendiary situation out of context.
The National Electoral Commission called the Committee ‘illegal’ and ‘unlawful’, as it called on SONSAF to gets ‘its hands off NEC affairs’, despite the fact the President of the Republic of Somaliland only recently asked SONSAF to keep positively contributing to the democratic processes of the country. The NEC outburst is a direct challenge to the President’s call – if nothing else.
Clearly, NEC wrongly perceived that SONSAF was challenging the National Electoral Commission’s role/s. It did not present evidence supporting that perception.
The National Electoral Commission went way out of step, as a result, in enumerating why it thought the EDRC was encroaching on their responsibilities.
- For one, NEC denied that many a situation was brought back in line by using traditional methods and ad hoc committees such as the EDRC. If left to NEC alone, Somaliland would not have been where it is today. Examples abound: Local Elections of 2002, 1st Presidential Elections of 2003, Parliamentary Elections of 2005, 2nd Presidential Elections in 2010, 2nd Local Elections in 2012.
- The formation of any conflict resolution body and/or initiative aiming to mitigate, neutralize existing or potential conflict is welcomed by the RoS Constitution. Hence, the constitutionality of the EDRC. Besides, NEC uses articles in the Bill that established them to ‘illegitimize’ EDRC, not the Constitution.
- The EDRC is a voluntary committee and has never claimed to be taking over or assume roles mandated to NEC, the Guurti, the Political Associations Committee the judiciary bodies or the elections monitoring committee. Theirs is purely to act as a vanguard to help lower tempers and act as go-betweens among principal actors that disagreed on issues relating to the election process in order ensure a fair, free, dispute free electoral success.
- The National Electoral Commission was only responsible for technically preparing the ground for elections (poll stations, resources, logistics, manpower) and for releasing results.
- Conflict management is not – and had never been – within NEC mandate (as it claims)
- Prominent members of the Upper House of the Somaliland bicameral parliament – the Guurti – were part of the EDRC formation from the beginning to the end.
- All three political parties – Kulmiye, UCID, Waddani – blessed both the intent behind the formation of the EDRC and the caliber of members.
- The Hon. Chief Justice was present at the launching ceremony highlighting the informal nature of the committee wisely sending out a message to entities such as NEC that may have felt threatened for one reason or another.
- SONSAF represents the largest non-state actors membership and has played supportive, leading, highly commended roles in Somaliland’s elections processes since its inception
- The EDRC was going to use its resources, time and steam to help NEC achieve and take credit for successful electoral results, and not the other way round as the Press Release reflected
- The Republic of Somaliland runs on well-oiled traditional conflict management mechanisms, not on press releases born out of fictional misconception.
In light of above and a few more, NEC’s undignified reaction to the EDRC, analysts point out, tells much about the caliber of the current composition of its membership. Over-reactions should have been the last thing NEC should have shown, they say.
In all, the NEC press release unveiled a state that trains the National Electoral Commission as a sedate, rational national body and the colossal responsibility it is entrusted to on ill-light.