Free and Fair Elections in Somaliland-Brenthurst Foundation

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THT-Members of The Brenthurst Foundation’s Somaliland Election Monitoring Mission visited Somaliland between 26 May and 2 June 2021 to monitor Parliamentary and Local Government elections on 31 May 2021 at the invitation of President Muse Bihi Abdi. This report was agreed to by the mission and handed over to the presidency on 1 June 2021.

Led by the Foundation’s director, Dr Greg Mills, the mission included the following members, all based in African countries:

  • E President Ernest Bai Koroma, Former President of Sierra Leone
  • Mr Alex Waiswa, National Unity Platform, Uganda
  • Mr Aly Verjee, Africa Center, US Institute for Peace, Ethiopia
  • Mr Abbasali Haji, MD, East Africa Capital, Tanzania
  • Mr Atom Lim, Special Advisor to President Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria
  • Mr Benjamin Ezeamalu, Premium Times, Nigeria
  • Mr Bradford Machila, Legal Adviser, UPND, Zambia
  • Ms Chipokota Mwanawasa, Lawyer, Zambia
  • Ms Dianna Games, CEO, Africa@Work, South Africa
  • Ms Gladys Hlatywayo, Secretary for International Relations, MDC, Zimbabwe
  • Ms Gwen Ngwenya, Head of Policy, Democratic Alliance, South Africa
  • Mr Johannes Martin, Shadow Minister for Defence, PDM, Namibia
  • Mr John Githongo, CEO, Inuka, Kenya
  • Mr John Steenhuisen, Leader, Democratic Alliance, South Africa
  • Dr Kizza Besigye, Leader, Forum for Democratic Change, Uganda
  • Mr Lutero Simamgo, MDM, Mozambique
  • Ambassador Lewis Brown, Former Representative to the UN, Liberia
  • Mr Peter Fabricius, Daily Maverick, South Africa
  • Mr Richard Harper, Richard Harper Logistics, South Africa
  • Mr Tendai Biti, Vice-President, MDC, Zimbabwe
  • Mr Zitto Zaberi Kabwe, Leader, ACT Wazalendo, Tanzania

The above members were specifically selected for their experience in either observing or participating in elections as members of political parties, sometime both.

The Brenthurst Foundation team comprised:

  • Dr Greg Mills, Director, South Africa
  • Mr Ray Hartley, Research Director, South Africa
  • Dr Lyal White, South Africa
  • Ms Marie-Noelle Nwokolo, Ghana
  • Ms Leila Jack, South Africa
  • Ms Gugu Resha, South Africa.

The mission travelled to six centres – Hargeisa, Berbera, Burao, Sheikh, Boroma and Gabiley – encompassing an estimated three-quarters of Somaliland’s 3.5 million population.

A total of 249 polling stations were observed by the group, comprising nine percent of the total number of 2709.

This report is a summary of their observations of the election of 31 May 2021.

Historical Background

In June 1960 Somaliland gained its independence from its colonial master Britain before deciding to join former Italian Somaliland five days later in a union which collapsed amidst civil war in 1991.

In the centre of the capital, Hargeisa, is the 18 May independence memorial, commemorating the event when, having lost control of the province, the Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre ordered his air force, operating from the local airport, to bomb the city briefly captured by local Somali National Movement (SNM) liberation fighters in May 1988, resulting in many thousands of civilian casualties. By the time of Siad Barre’s fall three years later, the main cities of Hargeisa and Burao had been reduced to rubble.

Peace and recovery have not demanded vast external resources, but rather the mobilisation of domestic political will.

Somaliland’s democracy was built on five major internal meetings, starting with the Grand Conference of the Northern Peoples in Burao, held over six weeks, concluding with the declaration of Somaliland’s independence from Somalia on 18 May 1991.

The independence declaration was signed in an octangular tin-roofed building near the former colonial governor’s building, without electricity and running water, the white walls outside still pock-marked by bullet holes. This and other peace conferences were managed and financed by locals, bringing their own food and shelter.

Such events were organically bottom-up rather than top-down. Peace in Somaliland demanded a combination of community spirit and persistence, as has the recovery which has followed.

The Brenthurst Foundation published on 1 June 2021 its “Report of the Brenthurst Foundation Somaliland Election Monitoring Mission.”

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