15 December 2017

Somalia: Somaliland Peacefully Swears in New President

In a peaceful election, residents of the self-proclaimed state of Somaliland voted in its third presidential poll, which resulted in Muse Bihi Abdi being sworn in as its fifth president

Muse Bihi Abdi, a retired pilot, was declared the winner of the tightly contested Somaliland poll held on 13 November 2017. He polled 55% of the overall votes cast to win over opposition candidates Abdirahman Iro and Faysal Ali Warabe.

Delegates from East Africa and officials participated in the inauguration in which President Abdi took over from Mohamed Mohamud Silanyo, who has been in power since July 2010. The election was historic for employing iris technology to avert electoral fraud, yet the opposition still cried foul, alleging fraud. At the inauguration, the president wasted no time in addressing his dissatisfied opponents.

"I am ready and working to solve all the election-related disputes and to cool down all the brothers who have grievances. If you have grievances, I urge you to come to the table," he said during the inauguration ceremony, which was broadcast live by the privately owned Horn Cable TV.

In addition to reaching out to the electorate that did not vote for him, President Abdi will have to deal with high unemployment rates, especially among the youth. He will also have to continue the struggle to get international recognition for Somaliland.

Somaliland declared unilateral independence from Somalia on 18 May 1991. It has been under pressure to hold talks with Somalia, but so far these have been futile.

Described as the most peaceful state in the Horn of Africa region, Somaliland can boast an army and its own currency and legal system. The territory has been experiencing stability and economic prosperity. It has been influential in the fight against piracy and terrorism in the Horn of Africa.

The 26 years of diplomatic isolation has made it difficult for Somaliland to have access to loans from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It is regarded as an autonomous region of Somalia, not a sovereign state.

Somaliland held successful presidential elections in 2003 and 2010, including a parliamentary election in 2005. The 2017 election is touted to be the first incident-free poll to be held in the Horn of Africa in many years. In fact, Somaliland's history of peaceful, credible elections and democratic transition sets it apart from the anarchic southern Somalia, and indeed from much of East Africa.

Somaliland's history of peaceful, credible elections and democratic transition sets it apart.

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