The elections today in Somaliland were remarkably peaceful and orderly. Observers hardly remarked any irregularity. Participation rates seem to be high. In and around Hargeisa an estimated 80-90% of registered voters cast their vote. Queues were orderly and polling staff, party observers and police appeared to fulfill their tasks professionally.
It is widely expected that the ruling Kulmiye party, whose current President Silanyo is stepping down, will win the popular vote, but the main opposition party, Wadani, could come a close second. The other party in this constitutionally-fixed three party system, UCID, will certainly come last. The results are expected to be announced around November 17 or 18; until then, social media is cut off.
Democratic elections may be most interesting at the fringes of the democratic world. Whereas elections in Europe only become slightly exciting when lunatics or dangerous nationalistic movements participate, here in Somaliland the upcoming presidential elections of 13/11 are an uplifting experience.
I am the first to rail about ‘elections without democratization’ and the imposition of the model of representative elections (which is arguably starting to fail in the West) on developing countries under the ‘There Is No Alternatiive’ motto, stifling local political forms and vitality.
Nonetheless the electoral campaign here in Somaliland is stirring up a positive mood in society. I have even decided to stay in Hargeisa during the elections and may be part an Electoral Observation Mission.
The Kurds and the Catalans are voting for self-determination. It seems nothing can stop a people who have decided to vote for self-determination, although it seems not a single state is ready to accept it. The lesson from Somaliland, an unrecognised country since 1991, is: there is no need to worry about not achieving international recognition: you can live very well without.
Certainly these elections will be held, one way or another, and the outcome is predictable: overwhelming support for independence.
Published in 2013, Kapteijn’s book (available online here) about the period of intense clan conflict in Somalia (1980s to 1993) refreshingly first approaches these bloody events through the lens of poetry and popular culture. She finds a few examples of incitements to violence based on the ‘other’ whose identity is solely defined by clan, but mainly hears voices of Somalis rejecting this mentality, wondering how it suddenly gangrened their culture and destroyed their country.
She then goes on to explore that question through accounts of the clan cleansing, either published or collected by her. Her book has become one of the main English-language documents trying to understand this dark period of Somalia’s history; from the civil war that erupted in the final years of Barre’s reign (1980s), through the collapse of his government in January 1991, until the international intervention in 1993. This subject has received much less coverage than, for example, piracy or Al Shabaab and its international links. The victims could mostly not made themselves heard in this era, before the mobile phone and internet, and most contemporary chroniclers prefer not to dwell on the savage killing, looting and forced displacements.
Somalis I met who read this book (or know about it) seem generally uncomfortable that a foreigner has poked her nose into this painful period. They don’t believe she can grasp what they themselves still struggle to understand. Since all clans and many of today’s political leaders participated in this period of clan cleansing, no-one is scot-free, and any foreign investigation may feel like an ICC-like invasion of Somali sociopolitical space, with potentially negative effects (‘opening a can of worms’). Shame about this period is also still very strong. Continue reading →
Yes, I agree with Prof. Harari that the human race must seek to become divine (see my previous post, a review of his book). Like him, I also think that the key lies in developing our power. But unlike him, I do not see that happen in this world, with its dangerous imbalances, and I don’t think technology (like increasing the life span of humans) is going to play such an important role.
If the evolution of the human race may be compared to that of an individual, we would now be in the teenager phase. We are in the process of becoming conscious of our individuality, in the process knocking our parents (imaginary: God, Gods or Mother Nature) from their pedestal. As acne-scarred teenagers we care little about the environment and engage in violent schoolyard fights. At times we’re suicidal, at others we’re conceited and over-confident.
We must now transition to the adulthood phase, before we utterly destroy our environment and ourselves in the process. We need a new pact to regulate human society, based on the consciousness of being all together on this planet with its finite resources. Continue reading →
Harari asks important questions about the future of humankind and, for this alone, I’d recommend this book. But he brushes away some important issues that may force today’s world to change – notably, injustice, spirituality and environmental crisis – and bases his vision of the future on an ‘End of History’-like smug belief in liberalism where the only factor of change is technology. Therefore his analysis is flawed and, I believe, his predictions far off the mark. Continue reading →
Today, on February 8, 2017, the most corrupt and least democratic polls I’ve ever witnessed unexpectedly delivered victory to the least corrupt and most popular presidential candidate in the race: Farmajo. How did that happen?
This simulation of a peace conference is the final class of my Lessons (Not) Learnt in Afghanistan course at the Paris School of International Affairs. I will be tweeting about the results in live, under the hashtag #RaqqaDeZRPG. Continue reading →