International partners visit Baidoa for consultations on national elections
A delegation of Somalia’s international partners today visited South West State to meet with its president, electoral authority and civil society on the country’s upcoming elections for the House of the People, and reaffirmed their support for the holding of a credible electoral process.
“Our discussion with the President and his team focused on how a free, fair and credible election will be accomplished in South West State. There was agreement in our discussions that such an electoral process is a strong foundation for the legitimacy of any government, and I am pleased to state that the President underscored his commitment to ensuring a credible and transparent process,” the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, James Swan, said in remarks to the media in Baidoa, the capital of South West State.
“The credibility of an election cannot be judged on the day of voting alone, of course. The process leading up to polling day itself is equally important,” he added. “In this regard, there was also agreement on the importance of ensuring that the political space is open to all voices, and that freedom of speech and organization is a key requirement in this respect.”
Mr. Swan was speaking at a joint media encounter alongside South West State’s President Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed ‘Laftagareen,’ and on behalf of a delegation of Somalia’s international partners.
Joining Mr. Swan on the visit to the Federal Member State’s capital were the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, Ambassador Francisco Madeira; the European Union Ambassador to Somalia, Tiina Intelmann; and the Chargé d’affaires of the Embassy of Norway, Haakon Svane.
While there, in addition to consulting with the South West State administration, the delegation also meet with the Chairperson of the South West State’s State Elections Implementation Team (SEIT), Yussuf Abdulkadir Mohamed, and other members of the electoral body.
They visited the SEIT’s offices as well as three of the planned voting sites for the upcoming House of the People elections, in addition to meeting with representatives of local civil society organizations.
Speaking on behalf of the visiting international partners, Mr. Swan noted that South West State has made commendable progress with electoral preparations, with it being one of only two Federal Member States to have successfully completed elections for the Upper House within the agreed timeline.
“This is very encouraging, and we hope to see similar advances with preparations for the House of the People elections,” Mr. Swan said.
Currently, some parts of Somalia are holding elections for its Upper House, and the country is also preparing for elections for its Lower House, known as the House of the People. The United Nations and Somalia’s other international partners have been heavily engaged in supporting national efforts to advance the country’s elections.
“Somalia’s international partners remain committed to supporting South West State in the pursuit of a credible electoral process, as well as in furthering the shared goal of building together a better future for all the people of South West State,” the UN Special Representative said.
South West State security
The UN Special Representative noted that President Abdiaziz briefed the delegation on the security situation in South West State and the challenges his administration faces.
“We have taken note of Al-Shabaab’s continued efforts to blockade key locations across South West State’s regions and remain deeply concerned by this,” Mr. Swan said on the topic.
He also said the delegation commended the efforts of the South West State security forces, the Somali National Army and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) in countering the threat posed by the extremists, adding that the sacrifices made by these forces in the fight against Al-Shabaab “shall never be forgotten.”
On the current tensions that have affected Somalia’s national leadership, the UN Special Representative commended the South West State leader for his efforts to mediate between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed ‘Farmajo’ and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble.
“We sincerely hope that his efforts, and those of other Federal Member State leaders and other mediators, will help resolve any remaining differences,” Mr. Swan said. “The need for dialogue, goodwill and putting the needs of all Somalis first and foremost is especially important now to allow Somalia to continue on its path of stability and reform.”
Close to two dozen of Somalia’s international partners issued a joint statement earlier in September in which they urged Somali leaders to de-escalate tensions and work together to advance the implementation of the 27 May Agreement toward the holding of elections.
30 per cent women’s quota
The issue of ensuring that the minimum of 30 per cent women’s quota for parliamentary representation is met in the elections was also highlighted.
Mr. Swan noted how the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed, had recently visited Somalia to emphasize this point and how President Abdiaziz had taken part in a meeting with her when this topic was discussed.
He echoed the Deputy Secretary-General’s comments that the country’s parliamentary elections are an opportunity to build on the progress made in women’s political participation and that women’s full inclusion in all sectors of society will contribute to greater resilience, peace and stability in the Horn of Africa country.
“This issue of women’s participation remains a vital one for Somalia – not just for the elections, but in the wider sense of being important step to full representation and an inclusive society,” Mr. Swan noted.
Today’s visit follows consultations earlier this week in Mogadishu between President Ahmed Abdi Karie ‘Qoorqoor’ of Galmudug and international partners.
The UN Special Representative said international partners expected to have more consultations with the leaders of the other Federal Member States in weeks to come after the visit.