Skip to content

Somali elections and the hypocrisy of the international community

Storyline:Archive, Opinions

By T. Roble

The Halima Yarey-led electoral commission Saturday delivered its starkest assessment of the prospects of an election this year and in the same breath, a shameless admission it would not deliver an election for Somalia this year despite pronouncements in the last three and half years it had the eye on the ball.

As Somalis sifted through the NIEC’s shocker in disbelief and agony, the UN led the pack of the international community in heaping praises and thanks to Yarey and NIEC for ‘setting the pace for early 2021 elections.’

Nothing demonstrated the unbridled hypocrisy and deceit of the International Community in Somalia than the very statement hurriedly and seemingly ‘excitedly’ by James Swan, Nicolas Berlanga and Ben Fender. The three represent the UN, EU and UK in that order as ambassadors and envoys.

“EU joins UN in congratulating NIEC and its Chairperson for the presentation yesterday. We also insist on the need of political consensus based on agreed principles: opening of political space (from selection to election) and timely elections,” quipped Berlanga in a tweet.

No one in their sane minds expected a universal vote in Somalia in 2020 and none-zilch should dream of the same in March or August 2021 as promised by NIEC and bought hook-line-and-sinker by the International Community

Berlanga had last month expressed distaste at the delay of Yarey’s appearance in the House for a month in May. “The EU in Somalia expresses concern at any possible repercussion the new date of NIEC’s appearance before Parliament may have on timely elections,” the EU ambassador had said in a tweet May 26, 2020.

In joining the UN to celebrate NIEC’s announcement of ‘no-elections’, Berlanga seemed to imagine no one keeps records of his earlier statements. But it goes further than that-it demonstrates the very casual and deceitful approach representatives of the international community have handled Somalia’s situation; in cahoots with their local surrogates.

“In this sense,” Berlanga said, “March 2021 option seems technically more realistic, financially more cost-effective and better aligned with agreed principles.”


The UK ambassador Ben Fender went further to express ‘happiness’ for the announcement which majority of Somalis and sensible external actors see as a wild goose game. “Delighted to see NIEC confirm direct elections can be held in early 2021 with on-the-day voter registration (the more affordable model). Welcome plans for FGS-FMS Presidents to discuss soonest, with a view to broader consensus on the way ahead plus completing the parliamentary process,” said Fender whose nation has in the past described itself as the pen-holder for Somalia at the UN Security Council.

UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) headed by James Swan pioneered the chorus of cheers to Yarey and her disgraced Commission. “The UN in Somalia thanks the National Independent Electoral Commission chairperson Halima Yarey for presenting technical options to achieve direct voting for Somalis as early as March 2021.”

Those who have followed this electoral circus must be now familiar with sexed-up statements and terms such as ‘first universal elections in 50 years’ and ‘one-person-one-vote, end to clan-based elections et al. NIEC and representatives of the international community have led this chorus for some time now but Yarey’s announcement Saturday punched the near crescendo key resulting in a disastrous rumble into a decrescendo.


No one in their sane minds expected a universal vote in Somalia in 2020 and none-zilch should dream of the same in March or August 2021 as promised by NIEC and bought hook-line-and-sinker by the International Community.

But to jump into praise for NIEC without question is not only hypocritical of the IC but speaks of complicity. One wonders what happened to calls for timely elections which have remained by-words from the IC over the years.

Not even a line on ‘regret for failing to meet constitutional timelines’ could make way into statements from the trio. Instead, theirs was the assumption that the Provisional Constitution is just a piece of paper.


NIEC had four years to prepare an election. It also had four years to be frank to Somalis on the viability of elections. It is noteworthy that Yarey and company came to office in 2015; sat through the 2016 elections with no role, learned no lesson from then elections then waited until four months into the elections only to tell Somalis ‘we’re sorry, we need more time’.

NIEC is bedeviled by incompetence, lack of independence, financial muscle, goodwill and the energy to conduct such an all-important exercise. It is a moribund institution which requires to be injected with some energy and competence.

The call for a competent and independent electoral body as espoused by opposition parties could not be any louder. Unfortunately, as has been the case in the last four years, dissenting voices in Somalia are dismissed by the international community as ‘spoilers’ while the Farmaajo administration brands them as ‘qaran dumis’ or enemies of the public.


Going forward, the sooner we come to terms that a universal vote will not happen in March or August the better. Even these timelines by NIEC are pegged on the understanding voter registration starts this coming week which you and I know is far-fetched.

Halima Yarey and NIEC cannot deliver any election for Somalia. Swan will make another superfluous statement at the Security Council in August this year speaking of ‘landmark pronouncements’ by NIEC while western ambassadors in Mogadishu will continue the merry-go-round for the remainder of the year.

Soon it will be December and no meaningful progress including voter registration will have taken place. To avoid that, let us humbly revisit the 2016 model, patch it up, panel beat, upgrade and come up with the Super Enhanced Option (SEO). Choose the next parliament with that model and soberly prepare for a universal vote in 2024. Meanwhile, the International Community learn one or two about honesty and sincerity.