Somaliland: In Defense of the National Electoral Commission: An Open Letter to Somaliland Allies and Partners

I am writing in response to the open letter published by on November 19th, 2017. The letter is authored by an individual who signed his name as:  Khalid Sahid Dirir. The author made a weak attempt to undermine the integrity of the Republic of Somaliland NEC or National Elections Commission. The allegations listed in the open letter fail to accrue enough evidence to question the integrity of Somaliland electoral process. Although the letter starts to acknowledge that the Republic of Somaliland had previously held successful elections, the remainder of the arguments presented in of Mr. Dirir’s letter is filled with a cunning attack on the Somaliland electoral system.

Mr. Dirir’s open letter suggests some of the reported irregularities in the election call for ‘the cancellation of the current election process;’ and the dismantling of the NEC. I find these suggestions ludicrous. The letter reflects only one political party’s concerns on few irregularities which can be resolved in the appropriate legal channels. NEC is bound by the legal system enshrined in the constitution of the Republic of Somaliland. Perhaps it would be customary to echo the notion that ‘there is no such a thing as a perfect democratic election’; yet democracy works best to facilitate citizens’ inclusion in the political process, social change and smooth political transfer.

Both the independent local and international observers disagree with Mr. Dirir’s analysis. First, SONSAF, the Somaliland non-State Actors Forum, which is a conglomeration of non-governmental local agencies mobilized 600 independent observers who oversaw the election process of 41% of the 1642 polling stations. SONSAF presented a preliminary report in a press release on November 15th, 2017, and concluded that “the November 13th, 2017 election was peaceful and smooth administratively; at the same time the presidential election was free when it comes to NEC compliance of the laws and regulations.” Second, although the sixty international observers noted some areas of concern, their press release on November 16th, 2017 concluded that “[they] did not observe irregularities at a scale that would undermine the integrity of the electoral process.”  Given these independent analysis, Mr. Dirir’s open letter failed to persuade its readers and Somaliland international partners on any of the issues.

The Republic of Somaliland is in a region plagued by political turmoil (e.g. recent Kenyan elections), but there is an overall consensus on the competence of Somaliland’s NEC. The institution successfully utilized the latest biometric technology to minimize voter fraud and pursued highest standards of transparency. NEC’s integrity sets a great example for neighboring countries to manage free and fair elections. The Republic of Somaliland evidently acquired great potential to inspire democratic political engagement for African nations and the rest of the developing world. I am confident that Mr. Dirir’s letter will not cast a shadow over the free and fair elections in hopefully the country which will soon be the youngest state in the Horn of Africa.