Elections: Is Somalia Ready?

Published on 19th January 2017

Somalia is having its very own unique election this year, both for a president and a new parliament, but the state of the country is rather complex. Issues related to bribery, mismanagement and bigotry have been raised. The most precarious issues are the urgent issue of the drought in parts of the country, the political rights of women, minorities and repatriated refugees. With that in mind, is this the time to hold elections?


Lack of rain and failed crops have made thousands of Somali herders lose their livestock, belongings and property. Nomads are being forced to leave for the cities, putting additional pressure on already pressured resources in newly arrived cities all over the northern and north-eastern parts of Somalia. The lack of will to mobilize, address the issue and put in measures where they are due is lacking.

There needs to be significant amount of movement and engagement to meet the challenge head-on, unless and until that happens, the Somali people will continue dying from starvation and thirst. The thoughts of the 2011-drought that took 260,000 lives, many of whom were children, still lingers fresh in the minds of too many Somalis.

Disbelief, shock and anger rose to the surface as the news of one of the contenders for parliament bribed his seat for 1.3 million reached the media. The lack of credibility and accountability is yet another reason why the election is eating itself.


30% of the seats in the Upper and Lower House have been allocated to women. In 2012, this quota was not met. In 2016 it still remains to be seen. Women make up half the population, excluding them politically will only make Somalia lesser of a peaceful and coherent place.

Few have opposed the 30% quota as much as The Somali Religious Council. The Council stated that giving women the 30% quota would lead to social upheavals. Fadumo Dayib, a Finnish-Somali woman who is running for presidency, stated that the role of women needed to be formalized and institutionalized. Somali women have been the backbone of the country in the face of anarchy, though unacknowledged, a quota could be a step towards inclusion. Critics, however, imply that this quota will not be successfully met, and women will continue to suffer from political exclusion.

The pending issues of minority-clans

The political consensus of the 4.5-political system is indeed divisive. The 274-seat parliament will be divided as the largest four clans will have 62 representatives each, while the remaining 31 will be divided among the minorities. The lack of respect for creating a proper power-sharing system has lead to a fossilization of political will to justice, inclusion and diversity.

The practice of discrimination and social exclusion is repulsive. A proper power-sharing system needs to be drawn and all sorts of explicit political exclusion ought to be dismantled. Unless mechanisms are put in place socially, politically, culturally, institutionally and structurally, there will always be a de facto acceptance of the status quo.

Repatriated Somali refugees

Somali refugees in Kenya are being repatriated by the thousands, only to be sent back to an unsafe environment, along with bleak opportunities to create a dignified life for themselves. The Somali government is hardly able to put in proper measures to address the issues of the thousands of IDPs living in Mogadishu. How can it "resettle" thousands form Dadaab? The precarious situation of the refugees is worsened as the state of Jubaland is reluctant to welcome them, but instead chooses to close their borders, adding insult to injury.

The lack of a coherent Somali policy, both domestically and foreign politically, is one of the root causes of the rather unfortunate situation of repatriated Somali refugees, who are currently in a limbo-situation.

Is this the time for elections?

Although the previous mentioned issues are all ever-present, going through with this election is more important than ever. Principally and politically it is. Generally there is significant dismay and stagnated support for the Mahmoud-administration. It is time for a structural and institutional change. The election may prove to be a political farce, but does Somalia have other options? Not at this point. The diaspora along with the locals can only hope that indeed, the election does not eat its own children.


By Khadra Yasien Ahmed

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