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Sonyo Election: Intense But Peaceful Transfer Of Power

I was standing inside a hall at Ambassador Hotel. With the right hand on my chest, I was singing the national anthem.

Around me were many people, most of them youth, who were also emotionally chanting the anthem together with young boys and girls wrapped up with the traditional dress from the Somaliland Culture and Sports Association (SOCSA).

 

This anthem marked the opening of the fifth general assembly meeting of the Somaliland National Youth Organization better known as SONYO. Over a hundred youth delegates coming from all the official six regions of the country were sitting inside a beautifully arranged hall to elect the 13-member of new board who will lead the organization for the coming two years.

With their ID cards hanging around their necks, delegates were seated in the left side of the hall. On the right side were the observers from the different stakeholders and friends of SONYO who were invited to keep an eye on the proceedings of the meeting. In front of these two groups was a panel of guests of honor out of which the country’s vice-president stood out like a full moon in a clear sky. This is the first time a government official of that rank attended a SONYO GA.

After the band’s anthem, the master of ceremony called Mr. Yahye Ubahle, the outgoing chairman of the umbrella to the podium. Tall and wearing grey suit with a purple tie, he leaned to adjust the microphone to his mouth.

Mr. Yahye was leading the umbrella for the last two years and he was standing in front of the delegates to explain the achievements made during under his reign. Before he started to talk about what he was expected from him, he made a statement which made the delegates clap and cheer. While holding both of his two hands on the podium, Mr. Yahye said “mostly, when we come together in a meeting like this, we are divided and into groups” before he proceeded to make his sentence meaningful, he cleared his throat and added “but the thing I love most about SONYO is that when the election is over, we are one and united and together we strive to work on our common goal”.

The outgoing chairman stated a list of achievements of which the two most notable were getting an outside donor for the Umbrella for the first time in history and enhancement of the national youth policy which he said a ministerial cabinet is to rectify in the coming week before the document is submitted to the parliament.

After this first speech until to the official opening remarks of the country’s vice-president, a spurge of talks took most of the first day’s time even to the extent that the break was forgotten. Here, I would like to present some of the talks that captured my attention and compelled me to jot down in my notebook.

I found myself laughing and clapping when the former Minister of Youth and Sports Hon. Mohamoud Saed Mohamed, an important guest of honor for SONYO, came to the podium and said “today, I am not speaking to you as a minister, but as a member of UDUB opposition party.” Walah! This latter part of this statement is what made us giggle for the fact that I along with my other colleagues were admired to the beauty of the political transformation that took place in Somaliland.

Likewise, another statement that captured my attention came from Mrs. Fatima Saed, a notable woman activist. Mrs. Fatima is one of the great individuals who left no stone unturned to help SONYO stand on its own two feet. Talking about the cynics’ reaction during the initial formation of SONYO, she said “when we were establishing SONYO, the cynics used to say to us ‘don’t waste your time, these kids will not last more than a year’” with everyone attentively listening, she continued “and look the level SONYO has reached today. Even the government can’t work efficiently without the consent of SONYO”.

Following this, Mr. Ahmed Muhumed Madar is a man with a grey hair. As the chairman of the newly inaugurated Anti-corruption Commission, he is one of the guests of honor who spoke from the podium. While standing with a confident posture, he gave a wonderful advice to the youth and said “don’t wait to participate in the leadership of your country till you reach my age and you are all grey, but do it now and I believe you can”.

Farhan Faarah Adam is a young man of 27. He is the General Manager of ASAL Company, the business entity that sponsored all the posters and stickers of the meeting free of charge. This guy made a remarkable statement which I also found captivating. When he finished his speech about the company’s sponsorship, he looked at the nation’s political leaders sitting behind him and said to them “Look how peaceful is the election process of SONYO; you can take a lesson from them.”

Apart from these excerpts, other guests of honor including the vice-president all gave great speeches and were all united for the inspiration and encouragement given to the youth.

Then the guests of honors left and SONYO went on to its business. From there on, the meeting was in full action. For the smooth running of the meeting, the delegates elected a chairing committee that ran the election process. For the purpose of transparency and accountability, the outgoing board members presented bit by bit the financial assets and project performances of the umbrella during the last two years.

The outgoing council did not left the floor without being asked something about their presentations. The delegates raised a storm of questions which made the council to waddle when answering back. I believe that if the young generation was about to hold their organizational leaders accountable for their assigned responsibilities, there is a bright future for Somaliland.

One of the most exciting sessions of the GA was the review of the umbrella’s constitution. Just like a country’s parliament, the delegates discussed revised, and amended the constitution.

During this session, I found the idea of inscribing the founders of SONYO in the constitution as a step in the right direction.

This issue was raised by Mrs. Kadra Kalil who was one of the founders of the umbrella. When Kadra was handed the microphone, she captured the attention of everyone in the hall with her clarity and the logic of her argument. “when we were establishing this organization, she said, we used to sometimes walk on foot” “and now SONYO is an organization with a half million dollar budget.” With a strong sense of emotion in her speech, she continued “However, those of us who wasted their energy and time to support this institution to stand its own two feet are unknown and we aren’t even recognized as founders”.

One of the notable events in the meeting that sparked tension among the voting delegates related to the ratio issue of the regional representations of organizational members in the new-to-be-elected council. Some of the regional organizations more specifically Tog-dheer demanded to have greater representations in the new council. They argued that as they were the second largest region in the country, they deserved to at least have two councilors in the institution’s board. Unfortunately this issue was not solved and it resulted the voluntarily withdrew of Tog-dheer member organizations from the new council.

After the review of the constitution, the meeting reached its most sensitive, the election of the new council members. Although there was a fierce campaigning that could also be felt outside the meeting hall during the breaks, the election process was smooth, transparent, free and fair. The interesting issue was who would gonna be the chairman and that compelled the delegates sit in groups, consulting with their favorite candidate.

The election process ran late in the night until 11pm led to the appointment of 12 new council members from the regions except Tog-dheer who refused to take part in the new council unless their ratio is increased. The exclusion of this region did not undermine the process, but they came back to their seating and took part in the voting process.

After counting the votes, the chairing committee announced that Mr. Ahmed Abdi Wacayswas elected as the new chairman of the new council with an extremely narrow margin victory of 58 votes against his rival Ahmed Abokor who got 57 votes.

Taking the footsteps of the internationally-praised decision of former president of Somaliland, the defeated candidate congratulated his winning rival. While exposing to the numerous local TV cameras, Mr. Ahmed said “as the defeated candidate, I sincerely congratulate my friend Ahmed Wacays who won the chairmanship and I am sure that I will collaborate with him.”

I believe this democratic election process is one of the positive impacts inherited from the development agencies in the country. All in all, I strongly warn the youth specially SONYO member organizations to avoid the “Wrong way” of campaigning among themselves. They should be vigilant in anything that can undermine our journey and vision to join the developed world.

 

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