Somalia is ‘set to redraw electoral boundaries’

Somalia’s National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC) officials are now set to embark on the electoral boundary delimitation exercise following intensive three-day training in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

The Commission’s chairperson, Halima Ismail Ibrahim, said the exercise will start in earnest next year ahead of the one-person one-vote elections in 2020.

The three-day training, facilitated by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and supported by the African Union Commission (AUC), brought together 24 participants drawn from NIEC, various ministries, Office of the President and Office of the Prime Minister.

Halima said while they had planned to start the process in 2020, they realized after their training that the exercise was urgent and required a lot of work hence their decision to immediately embark on the process.

“When I was coming from Mogadishu, I didn’t have the knowledge that I have now. We thought that it was a simple thing, the delimitation of boundaries for elections, and we were planning to do it around 2019 but before we start we need to take (various) steps, you need a lot of principles to follow, you must have a legal framework whether it’s from parliament or from the NIEC, we have found that we are in a real critical situation. We must start the process as soon as we go back,” she said.

During the training, which was carried out by electoral experts from several African countries and the AUC, the Somali electoral commission officials were taken through boundary delimitation experiences from Kenya, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Tunisia among others.

“The most important thing that opened our eyes was DRC, how they did it (even though) the territory was complicated, the country divided, infrastructure destroyed and how there was interference from foreign countries and their military. When we studied all that we said if DRC did this, Somalia’s will be very easy to do. And we are confident we can do it,” Halima added.

During the three days, the participants deliberated on the legal and institutional framework for electoral boundary delimitation, impact of system of government and electoral systems on the delimitation, and the use of technology in boundary delimitation among others.

Ali Mohamed Mohamud, a senior policy adviser, Ministry of Interior of the Federal Government of Somalia, said the team had gained plenty of insights in the way democratic and independent elections are held in the normal and post-conflict countries in Africa.

“We gained a lot of inside information especially when we compared different countries, how they did it, regular, normal countries that didn’t have any problems and also post-conflict countries. So that helped us to prepare ourselves for the coming 2020 elections,” Mohamud said.

The acting Head of the Democracy and Electoral Unit at the AUC, Guy Cyrille Tapoko, promised the participants that the AU would continue to support Somalia’s electoral process. He said the countries picked as examples were carefully selected.

“All these contexts were selected with the view of giving all the dynamics to the members of the electoral commission of Somalia and also other stakeholders to understand what is really about electoral boundaries delimitation for them understand the dynamics, the criteria, the principles that they may need to consider when they think about their own electoral boundaries delimitation,” said Tapoko.

The NIEC has been carrying out training to build capacity ahead of the 2020 general elections during which Somalia will revert to universal suffrage.