National Electoral Commission (NEC) of the breakaway republic of Somalia’s Somaliland said on Saturday that it has finalized preparations for the presidential election on Monday.

NEC Chairperson Abdukadir Iman Warsame said the election will take place in 21 electoral districts with 1,642 polling stations, saying ballot boxes, papers and machines are ready.

“Election campaigns in Somaliland came to an end on Friday, we are ready for the presidential election on Monday, about 9,000 staff will be working for this election to guide, help voters and check them,” Warsame told a news conference.

Three parties will field presidential candidates — Muse Bihi Abdi of the ruling Kulmiye party, Faisal Ali Waraabe of the For Justice and Development party (UCID) and Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi of the Wadani party.

Both UCID and Kulmiye competed in the 2003 and 2010 presidential elections, but this is the first election for the Wadani Party, which secured the right to field a candidate based on its performance in the 2012 local elections. The current President, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud will not defend his seat.

The authorities have closed public and private schools across Somaliland, a former British protectorate, for eight days since most of them will serve as polling places.

The electoral body said Somalilanders will go to the polling stations at about 7 a.m, adding that 704,089 voters have been registered who will cast his or her ballot from the area registered.

Warsame said the election results will be announced after two or three days of voting, noting that the winner will be declared on either Nov. 18 or 19 if there would be not complaints.

He said the name of the winner will be submitted to Supreme Court which has ten days to confirm or annul the results of the winner.

All the three presidential contenders have pledged to pursue international recognition of Somaliland, improve education and tackle unemployment rates in the drought-prone state.

Analysts say whoever wins the Monday polls will inherit a fragile economy which is heavily dependent on livestock exports and remittances.

A resident in Borama town told Xinhua by phone that the presidential election campaigns ended in a peaceful manner.

“Now campaigns are off, we wish free and fair election happen in Somaliland, we hope to cast our votes on Monday,” said the resident who did not want to be named.

Somaliland which used to be a British colony has enjoyed relative peace for the past two decades as it declared independent from the rest Somalia in 1991 and now wants to be a separate country.

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In a breakthrough for the campaign against female genital mutilation,  the three candidates in Somaliland’s presidential election — all of them men — have said they will seek to ban the practice.

Almost all women in Somaliland have undergone female genital mutilation.

On Monday, the self-declared state in east Africa will elect a new president — and all the candidates have pledged to outlaw the barbaric practice following a campaign backed by the Standard.

About 98 per cent of women in the former British colony, which declared independence from Somalia in 1991, have undergone FGM.

London campaigner Nimco Ali travelled to Somaliland to lobby the three main political parties on the issue. They all met her and promised to bring in legislation to end the procedure.

Frontrunner Musa Bihi Abdi writes today in this newspaper that ending FGM in Somaliland will “complete the circle of a campaign that the Evening Standard has done so much to highlight over the last five years; the campaign to end the practice of FGM or female genital mutilation”.

Ms Ali said: “I can’t explain how beautiful it is or how overwhelmed I am that these things are materialising.

“When I first started campaigning there was a lot of shame, stigma and fear, but now there is hope, conviction and pride.

I am so honoured they met me and what a level of respect I have for each and every one of them.”

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On Nov. 13, Somalilanders will vote for a new president. The campaign kicked off in dramatic fashion in October with Somaliland’s first-ever presidential debate shown live on national television, and large campaign rallies.

Here’s what you need to know:

Somaliland has a long history of elections and executive turnover

A former British protectorate, Somaliland enjoyed five days of sovereign independence before uniting with Somalia in 1960. Following a brutal civil war, Somaliland dissolved its union with Somalia in 1991 and continues to exist as an unrecognized de facto state.

With 4 million people and a territory of 68,000 square miles, Somaliland impresses outside observers with its sustained process of electoral democracy and a hybrid blend of traditional and modern state institutions. Somaliland’s stability stands in contrast to the insecurity and poor governance in neighboring Somalia.

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Self-declared independent state of Somaliland has called off school for eight days in preparation towards its third presidential election scheduled for November 13.

The Education ministry announced this week that schools including universities will be closed from November 7 to November 15, two days after the polls.

The directive follows a request from the National Electoral Commission (NEC) which says it will use most of the schools as polling centres.

Somaliland is anticipating a smooth election which will be the first in the Horn of Africa region to be trouble-free and the first in Africa to use the iris-recognition biometric voter registration system.

The elections were scheduled to be held in March but was postponed due to the drought condition in the region.

Three candidates are vying to replace the country’s fourth president Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo who withdrew from running for a second seven-year term.

The three candidates are former minister Muse Bihi Abdi of the ruling KULMIYE (Peace, Unity and Development Party); veteran politician Faisal Ali Warabe of UCID (Justice and Welfare Party); and then the former speaker of the House of Representatives Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi Irro of Waddani (National Party).

They started campaigning on October 21 and so far, no incidents of violence have been recorded as each candidate was assigned specific days to campaign to avoid clashes.

Out of the about 4 million Somaliland population, 704, 089 registered voters are expected to elect the new president. There are 1,642 polling stations in the 21 constituencies across the six regions of the country.

A team of 60 international election observers from 24 countries have been deployed to the country by the international election observation mission (EOM) funded by the British government.

“This election will mark a milestone in Somaliland’s electoral development as it will be the first time that the incumbent has not challenged for the top job,” said the leader of the team, Dr Michael Walls of the Development Planning Unit (DPU) at the University College London.

They have held successful presidential elections in 2003 and 2010 including a parliamentary election in 2005.

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

Described as the most peaceful state in the Horn of Africa region, Somaliland can boast of an army, 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.

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 the autonomous region of Somalia and not a sovereign state.

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On 13 November, Somaliland will embark on its third presidential elections since it unilaterally declared independence in 1991. With the incumbent set to step down, voters at 1,600 polling stations across the autonomous region of Somalia will choose a new president.

Despite not being a recognised independent state, Somaliland is considered to be one of East Africa’s best-functioning and most stable democracies. The election, part funded by the European Union and UK, will be overseen by international observers and may be the first in the world to employ iris-based biometric voter registration.

Somaliland also has a relatively mature political culture. This was exemplified on 30th September when outgoing President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud “Silanyo” issued a decree banning government officials from utilising state resources for election campaigning and ordering state media to give fair and equal coverage to all contesting parties.

Another example of Somaliland’s political maturity was seen on 19th October when the three presidential candidates engaged in a town hall-style debate. The event, which was live-streamed from the capital Hargeisa, allowed the media and public to scrutinise each of the nominees’ policies.

This state of affairs contrasts sharply with Somalia’s recent elections, which concluded this February. That fraught process faced repeated delays amidst political infighting and insecurity; relied on abundant international funding and support to take place; and involved a highly limited franchise in which just 14,025 people selected the president.

Next week, Somaliland will be hoping to show the region how things can be done.

“All international eyes are on Somaliland’s election,” says Laura Hammond, Reader of Development Studies at SOAS University of London and long-time analyst of Somaliland affairs. “If it comes off smoothly…then Somaliland will (not for the first time, it must be said) have demonstrated its political maturity and ability to pull off what the Mogadishu-based government of Somalia can still only dream of: a direct election by the people.

“The fact that the result is too close to call is already in many ways a sign of healthy democracy in action.”

[“Otherwise we’ll have to go to war”: Somaliland demands recognition 26 years on]

High stakes

Somaliland’s election comes at a critical moment for the autonomous region. While the government continues to demand recognition as an independent state, the international community has recently been exerting pressure on Somaliland to join Somalia’s federal state-building exercise.

However, Somaliland has so far dismissed these calls and may have been strengthened in its position this year thanks to a $442 million deal with DP World. The UAE-based company agreed to modernise Berbera port in conjunction with Somaliland and its land-locked neighbour, Ethiopia. This development could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in customs revenue for the Somaliland government, making it even more self-sufficient.

Somaliland also struck an even more controversial deal with UAE this February. In the face of toothless objections from Mogadishu, the UAE gained permission to build a military base and airport in Berbera.

This increased investment and international attention for Somaliland means that there is all the more to play for in the upcoming poll. “The stakes are much higher this election, and the rewards could be even greater to the eventual winner,” says Sharmarke Jama, a former trade and economic adviser to the Somaliland government.

The contenders

Somaliland’s constitution allows presidents to serve two terms. But President Silanyo, a British-educated economist, has decided to step down after just one. This has left the field wide open, and three candidates are now vying to replace him.

The man in waiting
The ruling Kulmiye (“solidarity”) party’s standard bearer is Musa Bihi. A former military man, Bihi was an air force commander in the Somali National Army and leader of the military wing of the Somali National Movement (SNM), the main rebel group in Northern Somalia set up to overthrow dictator Siad Barre in 1991.

Bihi co-founded Kulmiye with Silanyo in the early-2000s. Many speculate that the two made a pact ahead of the 2010 elections that Bihi, and his influential Habar Awal clan, would support Silanyo’s bid for office. In return, it is believed that Silanyo agreed to step down after one term to make way for Bihi.

Kulmiye can boast certain achievements while in office, including a marked increase in foreign direct investment and a degree of reconciliation with Somaliland’s volatile eastern regions. However, it also faces many criticisms. Some argue that the government has been complacent over the economy, allowing inflation and unemployment to rise. Kulmiye has also been blamed for an increase in rent-seeking and cronyism, with critics pointing to a fire sale of state-owned land in Berbera at below market prices to political supporters.

The challenger for change
The main challenger to Bihi and Kulmiye is Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi “Irro” of the Waddani (“national”) party. Irro was the Speaker of Somaliland’s House of Representatives from 2005 to 2017, only stepping down recently to avoid a conflict of interest.

Waddani positions itself as the change party and, although it gives little away in terms of specific policy proposals, it has proven attractive to voters frustrated with the government. However, the opposition party has also faced much criticism, particularly over its alleged links to the Federal Government of Somalia in Mogadishu. Much of Waddani’s senior leadership is made up of former Mogadishu-based ministers. Meanwhile, it is noteworthy that Irro is the only candidate to suggest cancelling the lucrative military and port deals with the UAE if elected.

Like Taiwan, party politics in Somaliland are dominated by the pursuit of international recognition and any ambivalence to this mission is seen as treacherous by the wider public.

The outsider
The third candidate hoping to be Somaliland’s president is Faysal Ali Warabe of the Justice and Welfare Party (UCID). Nicknamed “Hyena” due to his eccentric and larger than life nature, Warabe has contested every election since 2003. He is yet to prevail despite the fact that UCID is the only party with a genuine political identity.

UCID is a socialist party dedicated to combating inequality and has gained plaudits, particularly among the youth, for not activating clan bases or engaging tribal elders to drum up support. In contrast to his competitors, Warabe has chosen to put policy over clan interests in his campaign, which has focussed on getting out the youth vote, including through a specially-created app. It is for these reasons that Warabe and UCID may be the wildcard of the election.

Forcing the world to take notice
2017, however, is probably too soon for UCID’s kind of campaigning to be successful. Indeed, unofficial polls predict a close race between Bihi and Irro, both of whom have effectively courted support among their clan power bases and sought the backing of elders who hold sway in Somaliland’s different regions.

This suggests that the vote on 13th November could well go down to the wire. But there is more at stake than just the result. If Somaliland can hold credible, peaceful elections for a third time, the international community will be forced to sit up and take notice.

When compared to the ongoing election fiasco in Kenya and the non-election which took place in Somalia – not to mention the situation in the likes of Ethiopia, Eritrea and the two Sudans – Somaliland can use this poll to further leverage its position as a democratic outpost in an ever-volatile neighbourhood.

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A 12.2km2 trade zone is to be developed in Somaliland to complement the Port of Berbera.

DP World Group chairman and CEO Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem and Republic of Somaliland minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation Dr Saad Ali Shire signed the agreement for the Berbera Free Zone (BFZ).

The development is based on DP World’s Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza) in Dubai and aims to attract investments, encourage trade, create new jobs and position Berbera as a gateway port for the region.

Under the terms of the agreement, DP World will develop BFZ in phases, with the first phase focusing on 4km2 of land out of the 12.2km2 earmarked for the project. Future phases will be detailed in a concept plan.

Each phase of the BFZ will start once the previous phase has achieved 85% occupancy. It will target a wide range of businesses including warehousing, logistics, traders and.

Further details of the BFZ will be concluded with Somaliland’s new government after the country’s elections, scheduled for 13 November.

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Despite declaring its independence from Somalia in 1991, Somaliland has yet to gain international recognition. In addition, it has been hit by a severe drought in the last three years. Read this, our Reporter’s notebook, to find out more.

When you arrive in the city of Hargeisa, you land in a country that does not exist. More than 3 million people live here but no other nation recognises it. Somaliland proclaimed its independence in 1991 after a bloody civil war with the rest of Somalia. Since then it has managed to hold democratic elections and bring about peace and stability.

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Three Somali-American women were threatened with death by a woman at a Walmart Supercenter’s parking lot in Fargo, North Dakota on Tuesday, according to local television news station KVVR. The woman also instructed the Somali women to “go home.”

Videos of the incident began to circulate social media, leading the woman, Amber Hensley, to come forward and apologize for her actions.

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Islamist militants in Somalia have imposed a ban on humanitarian assistance in areas they control, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to choose between death from starvation and disease or brutal punishment.

In some towns, hungry and weak people have been ordered by extremist leaders to remain where they are to act as human shields against US airstrikes.

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Somalia’s central government’s failure has continued for years — despite hosting a large African Union peacekeeping force and many international military advisers, and receiving a significant amount of development aid. The nation’s trajectory sharply contrasts with that of Somaliland, a major region of 4 million people that declared its independence from Somalia in 1991. While the rest of the world hasn’t recognized Somaliland as a state, Somalilanders have governed themselves autonomously for decades now. Without significant foreign aid, and through local conferences facilitated by clan elders, Somalilanders rebuilt their leveled capital of Hargeisa and improved access to education, safe drinking water and essential health services. They have even elected their past two presidents through a general vote — something Somalia has yet to accomplish.

Read the full article on washingtonpost.com