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Rift Valley Institute

Making local knowledge work

An unlikely model of democracy in chaotic East Africa

On November 28, for the fifth time in 10 years, the former British protectorate of Somaliland held multiparty elections. With more than 2,000 candidates from seven political parties and associations contesting 379 seats, international observers described the polls as transparent and largely peaceful. But while hundreds of thousands queued patiently to cast their ballots, the election is at best a footnote in the annals of contemporary African democracy.

For Somaliland is in an unfortunate historical position: joined with Italian Somalia in 1960 to form the postcolonial republic of Somalia, the republic's chaotic vacuum of governance over the past 20 years has brought havoc to all parts of the country. In 1991, Somaliland charted its own course: it declared independence from the internationally recognised state of Somalia, formed its own governance institutions from its capital of Hargeisa, and set about rebuilding its infrastructure and economy. …

Aly Verjee, a senior researcher at the Rift Valley Institute based in Kenya, observed elections in Somaliland in 2005, 2010 and 2012.

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