We are on right track, says Somalia’s electoral body after capacity building training

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13 Jul 2017

We are on right track, says Somalia’s electoral body after capacity building training

Nairobi – Somalia’s electoral body – the National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC) - has described as “very fruitful and beneficial” a three-day capacity building workshop which closed yesterday in the Kenyan capital, in which matters related to the registration, regulation, funding and monitoring of political parties in their country were discussed.

Twenty-seven participants who attended the training expressed optimism that the lessons, experiences and knowledge gained, would help the country’s electoral body deliver its “one-person-one-vote” mandate in the 2020/2021 elections.

“Yes, we are on good track in meeting our mandate. It’s a good start,” Said Ali Sheikh, the NIEC deputy chairperson said, in response to whether the workshop had strengthened the capacity of the body to hold democratic elections in Somalia.

Mohamed Omar, the commission’s head of political parties’ registration, said the workshop drew from experiences and lessons in Africa and the Arab world. “Step by step and we will get there as regards universal suffrage.”

The meeting gathered electoral experts from Kenya, Nigeria, Iraq, Palestine, Tunisia, Sudan and the UN Development Programme- United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia’s Integrated Electoral Support Group (IESG). Through group work, presentations and discussions, the participants were trained in matters related to the registration of parties, monitoring campaign financing and observing international standards for candidate nomination.

Facilitators included, among others; Aminu Idris, the director of the Nigeria Independent Electoral Commission; Saad Al Abdali, head of political parties registration department in Iraq; Mouldi Ayari, the adviser of the Tunisian Parliament and former head of the country’s Electoral Campaign Department; and Anis Al-Sbaa, the head of political parties department of the Palestine Central Elections Commission.

“According to my own perspective, [the meeting] was successful and it achieved its objectives of exchanging and sharing knowledge, experiences and lessons in the management of electoral processes,” said Badrieh M.A. Al-Balbisi, Secretary General of the ArabEMBS (an association of electoral management bodies of ten Arab countries, including Somalia), which organized the training.

“We have given various experiences on procedures and reforms, and highlighted experiences from these countries and electoral bodies. We also looked at challenges and possible solutions,” Ms. Al-Balbisi added. She said her organization was willing to continue assisting the NIEC deliver its mandate in Somalia.

In her remarks at the close of the workshop, the NIEC Chairperson, Halima Ismail Ibrahim, thanked the ArabEMBS organization and the IESG for organizing and funding the training.

Gerald Mitchell, the IESG Director, described the training as a “landmark meeting”, a peer-to-peer exchange of ideas, experiences and lessons. “Rich experiences have been drawn from Arab and African countries. Political parties’ registration is a key step to universal suffrage of one-person-one-vote,” he noted, saying he looked forward to similar trainings in future.

Saad Al Abdali, the head of political parties’ registration department in Iraq, said the workshop had achieved its objective of helping Somalia’s electoral body strengthen its capacity to oversee the registration and monitoring of the country’s political parties, and their ultimate funding. “The Somalia electoral and political laws are similar to those of Iraq. We have a good experience in Iraq and this is what I came to share with our people in Somalia.”

The workshop provided a good opportunity for the exchange of ideas, experiences and lessons. “We agreed [in the workshop] to have continuous assistance to the NIEC anytime they require us,” Mr. Al Abdali added.

Participants commended their facilitators for the insights they shared at the workshop, saying the training would go a long way in strengthening democratic institutions in Somalia.