With the upcoming Presidential and legislative elections less than a year away, Somaliland decided to launch a new biometric National ID program for its approximately 4 million people from scratch. According to Somaliland’s interior Minister, Mohamed Ali “Warran-Adde” , the whole registration and issuing digital ID cards would take six months, even though Somaliland does not have a paper based ID system
No doubt, a modern and secure Somaliland ID card would effectively help the country to fight election fraud and related identity issues. But many Somalilanders have a serious concerns about President Silanyo’s National ID card project .And their main concerns are whether it is feasible to register close 4 million people within six months, cost and the timing of the National ID system.
Moreover, Silanyo circumvented unilaterally the parliament to enact by decree the National ID system, the primary form of citizen identification, which is a massive undertaking. It is assault on Somaliland’s constitution which gives the Parliament power to write laws—and it is a blatant power abuse.
The most vocal opposition of Silanyo’s massive National ID project is Faisal Ali, the leader of Justice and welfare party, who accused the government of using the National ID registration as scheme to delay the election. In a recent interview with BBC Somali service, Faisal Ali, said,” A complete National ID system would not take six months but more than four years.. ..” He also added that the government is not honoring its agreement that it signed with the opposition parties. According to Faisal, that agreement stated both the National ID and voter registration for the upcoming elections should concurrently take place at the same time. But a recent legislation passed in Parliament requires any voter to have a National identity card, which would take years to be issued for the public.
Meantime, as usual, absent from this dispute over the National ID, is the speaker of the Parliament, Mr. Abdulrahman Erro. But I am not expecting any leadership from the speaker. If he does not have the support of the majority of the legislators then why he is still the speaker of the parliament?
Somaliland would be better off if he resigns from the speaker-ship and let one of Silanyo’s lap dogs take over that position. In fact, there is no effective opposition in Somaliland to check and curb the power abuse of the Silanyo administration and the speaker is the main reason that we do not have one.
Today, it is clear Silanyo’s National ID project is a sham and another opportunity for his greedy and corrupted cronies to loot public money as a government contract. How such a massive project could be funded without the Somaliland Parliament getting involved in the first place? But in reality, because of the poor leadership of the speaker, the Somaliland Parliament became an extension of the Silanyo administration.
African leaders do not give up their power willingly even when their term expires.Silanyo is no exception. He is using every tactic to stay in power.
In 2009, then candidate Silanyo complained and protested the makeup and the lack of the impartiality of the electoral commission, and delaying tactic of then President Riyaale to seek for a term extension.
Now, ironically, the President Silanyo is using the same tactics his predecessors used for keeping power. Why is the President launching the National ID project when just nine months are remaining of his term; when we know that it is impossible to issue 4 million people with electronic ID, within six months?
Of course, Somaliland needs a National ID system. But it is not a top priority and it is not urgent now. The Somaliland people could wait for new identity cards after the election.
What Somaliland desperately needs is holding a credible, free and fair election on time without delay .In 2012 local elections, there was massive rigging in many districts. The Somaliland people deserve a credible election for their own future.
But neither Silanyo nor Erro are capable of taking Somaliland into a better a future.
The future of Somaliland might depend on the candidate the Justice and welfare party nominate for the 2015 presidential election. If Faisal Ali could become a midwife for his party’s nomination for a candidate who could unite the Somaliland people with agenda and a vision to move Somaliland forward; the Somaliland people might have a fighting chance for a better future. I am not sure whether Faisal would like to play that role as kingmaker. But it is something worth suggesting. However, The New Yorker Magazine also reported that he is a presidential candidate in 2015 in a story about his son, who joined the ISIS.
Finally, the presidential candidates and their respective parties must come together to sort out the dispute over the National ID.And since President Silanyo’s party controls all branches of the government including the Parliament, the President must show leadership and put the interest of the nation ahead of his own party and not squander the liberty and stability that Somaliland people had fought so hard for last two decades.
There is no way a National ID system could be completed within six months. Let common sense prevail here for the sake of Somaliland.
Ali Mohamed is co-founder of the Horn of Africa Freedom Foundation in Lewis Center, Ohio. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.