Horn of Africa Bulletin, Volume 29 Issue 1 - January-February 2017: 2017 elections: Making Somalia great again?



  1. Editor's Note

  2. Somali elections online: View from Mogadishu

  3. Somalia under Farmaajo: Fresh start or another false dawn?

  4. Somalia’s recent election gives Somali women a glimmer of hope

  5. ‘Regional’ representation and resistance: Is there a relationship between 2017 elections in Somalia and Somaliland?

  6. Money and drought: Beyond the politico-security sustainability of elections in Somalia and Somaliland


This January-February issue focuses on the elections in Somalia and their impact on the future of Somalia. This issue also addresses the interface between the elections in Somalia and their impact on ‘Somaliland’.[1] Interestingly, the issue of the HAB was overtaken by the Somalia elections which proceeded more rapidly than anticipated; the elections in Somalia began in 2016 and after repeated postponements were finally concluded on the 8th of February 2017. Legislators elected Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (also popularly known as Farmaajo) as President, which led to widespread celebrations amongst Somalis in Somalia as well as neighbouring countries and the Diaspora. Faduma Abukar’s article is particularly insightful in this regard being based on direct reportage of events just before and after the elections. Her article captures the unrestrained joy and hope that greeted the news of Farmaajo’s victory and provides a very interesting overview of the outsized role of social media in the Somalia elections. As several articles in this issue of the Horn of Africa Bulletin attest, Farmaajo’s victory was viewed not only as a victory for clean politics in Somalia, but also as pointing the way towards the end of the perennial conflict and foreign involvement in Somalia . The article by Najum Mushtaq explores this overarching theme in detail and provides an overview of the challenges facing the new president of Somalia. Najum’s article ends on an optimistic note and suggests the possibility that the new president’s thinking and priorities augur well for the future.

The larger canvas is also critical in this context. The recent elections in Somalia have generated high expectations in Somalia regarding peace and reconstitution of the fragmented Somali state, but at the same time leave the door open to disillusionment, if the new president does not perform as expected. Therefore, expectations and hope will need to be tempered especially bearing in mind the intractable challenges that the new president is facing.

In the political science literature which focuses on democratic transitions, elections have customarily been viewed as an institutional and procedural hallmark of democratic political systems, as well as a key legitimation tool for political systems and elites. While the process and outcome of the current elections is to be commended, the reality is that the elections in Somalia were based on a very narrow franchise. The 275 members of the lower house of the legislature (House of the People) were elected by 14, 025 electors, while the 54 members of the upper house of the legislature were elected by the state assemblies of the different regional administrations in Somalia.[2] The members of the various state assemblies are not elected through universal adult suffrage. The article by Mohamed Amin focuses on issues of gender and politics and sounds a sombre note in underlining the continuing obstacles to political participation by Somali women which are exacerbated in the constricted spaces allowed for in the existing political system in Somalia.

Keeping in mind developments in Somalia and political state of play in the rest of the Horn of Africa, Somaliland stands out for being a political entity that has organized successive free, fair and competitive elections. Interestingly Farmaajo’s electoral victory and his calls for reconciliation with Somaliland have led to renewed expectations that Somaliland may yet be integrated with Somalia. Peter Chonka’s panoramic and analytic take on the complex political manoeuvring and tensions between the Somali Federal Government and authorities in Somaliland in the context of the elections in south central Somalia is a riveting and necessary read for all those interested in the recent elections and what they portend for the future of Somalia. He concludes by suggesting that fluidity and dynamism defines the relationship between political elites and entrepreneurs in Somalia (including Somaliland) which could lead to multiple possible political outcomes.

The article by Aly Verjee discusses the often-mentioned but seldom adequately studied topic of electoral finances and the impact of financial resources in Somaliland elections. His article is based on a collaborative research project that studied the role of financial resources and inducements in the 2005 legislative and 2012 local council elections in Somaliland.[3] Aly’s article highlights some of the salient effects of electoral spending by parties and political entrepreneurs and how this has affected the electoral system. The article underlines the gaps in approaches that reify elections and electoral processes while at the same time ignoring larger socio-economic dynamics.

A recurrent theme in several of the articles in this issue of the HAB focuses on foreign involvement in Somalia. The articles while showcasing the perceptions and dominant Somalia narrative regarding foreign involvement in Somalia, fail to engage adequately with the range of foreign actors engaged in Somalia and their divergent interests and motivations.

Demessie Fantaye