The United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) provided critical support to the just concluded presidential election in Somalia, ensuring that the exercise was not only held on schedule but also went on smoothly.
UNSOS had the herculean task of getting the venue of the election ready at short notice, following a last-minute decision to change the site to host the historical event.
The presidential election was initially set to be held at the General Kahiye Police Academy but a decision was made a few days before polling day, to shift the election to the United Nations base camp in Mogadishu, presenting a huge challenge to UNSOS, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Given the sensitive nature and magnitude of the event, the number of individuals involved, the security implications and the integrity of the exercise, it meant getting the venue (a hangar) ready in 72 hours, a feat UNSOS accomplished with distinction.
“We were asked to provide the necessary support for this event and with basically 72 hours at hand, we had to convert the facility into the kind of facility which would be able to support over 1500 people and a presidential election which was rather challenging and daunting for us because we had never been involved in an event of such magnitude and importance,” David Wilkins, the Officer In Charge of the Facilities and Environmental Management Section (FEMS) of UNSOS noted.
With the polling date fast approaching, UNSOS staff worked tirelessly to ensure the venue was ready, come Wednesday February 8, 2017, the D-day for the election. They worked overtime, reviewing the logistical challenges, among them, planning the seating arrangement, sorting out the power and water issues and fixing the air conditioning.
“There were other supplementary arrangements for catering, for people of close protection security and other members of the electoral process who were outside. We had special VIP rooms set up and break up conference rooms available, if needed. So there was a lot of planning that went into this,” Wilkins explained.
Maryan Ahmed, a Civil Engineer with FEMS, who supervised the works at the venue, attributed their success to teamwork and commitment.
“We have a team of contractors who work with us and we were working for 14 hours every day, closing at 9:00pm. We would start at 6:00am to ensure that all the equipment is set and ready a day before the election,” Eng. Maryan observed.
UNSOS also ensured AMISOM had adequate security equipment, among them, security scanners which were used to screen candidates entering the venue. The equipment helped AMISOM soldiers and police secure the presidential election.
UNSOS also supported UNSOM and AMISOM to relay the proceedings of the historic event live, enabling thousands of viewers to follow the event on television and the internet locally and internationally.