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International Observers Report on Somaliland elections and SONSAF biases

Hargeisa (SD) – A report released by the Independent International Observers on Somaliland’s elections in May 31, 2021 states that SONSAF as a gatekeeper of the government, the Electoral Commission and some international donors could damage the independence of local election observers.

“It is, however, also the case that the institutionalisation of civil society through SONSAF, and the use of SONSAF as a ‘gatekeeper’ of civil society by the Somaliland Government, NEC and some international donors, can dilute the independence of civil society as observers and monitors of the political process. It can also act as a barrier to the emergence and acceptance of new voices in civil society.” The report said.

The report said the non-SONSAF organizations, who trained over 600 people were denied access to monitor the election.

“SONSAF were the sole organisation accredited by NEC for election observation, although others had expressed interest in observing but were not permitted to do so. This included the Centre for Policy Analysis (CPA), who sought and were denied accreditation for 600 observers. The effect of this denial was to limit the diversity of reporting and overall reduce scrutiny on election day.” Said the report.

Adding that “While the CPA’s unaccredited observers, who were trained to observe the election, were denied access to polling stations and remained outside them, SONSAF conflict observers, who would have been better deployed observing the general atmosphere and the queues where conflict did occur, were instead inside polling stations where they did not have visibility of outside conditions.”

According to the report, SONSAF has set up a monitoring unit called the Elections Operations Room. According to the report the place has become a place used by officials, yet another example of lack of independence.

“In the case of the SONSAF Situation Room, this functioned more as an Elections Operations Room, bringing together the different parts of Government such as the security forces and NEC to receive and respond to incidents. The SONSAF situation room was also used as a media centre and VIP reception centre. This underlines how intermingled CSOs are with institutions in Somaliland.” The report said.

Guleid Jama one of Somaliland’s social activist reacting to the report said “What the report points out is that we know that SONAF’s approach is flawed, impartial, and oppressive of civil society, especially those based in the various regions and districts of Somaliland.”

Adding “ SONSAF itself is not a democracy but is ruled by a small group (oligarchy). And yet wants to claim to be overseeing democracy.”

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