UN Report: Somalia's Puntland electoral conflict escalating to dangerous levels
GAROWE, Puntland - The Electoral conflict in the Puntland state of Somalia has escalated to unimaginable levels, a report by the United Nations has confirmed, in what could further pile pressure on President Said Abdullahi Deni, the regional leader who has been accused of strangling democracy in his Federal State.
For long spells, the exercise was delayed with authorities failing to kick off voter registration, but would go on albeit under the familiar territory of conflict. The exercise was launched on Jan 5th, 2023 amid concerns that were raised by opposition formations in the northeastern state.
Although the first phase of the voter registration proceeded relatively smoothly, the UN report noted, the start of voter registration in the Nugaal region was denounced by local clan elders and a senior Puntland Security Forces commander, alleging that the electoral process was not based on "consensus".
A few weeks ago, the opposition accused Said Abdullahi Deni of conspiracy to extend his term by mutilating constitutional provisions. The standoff as expected, related to voter registration but unfortunately, the regional administration went on to admit even underage kids to the voter register.
According to the report, "subsequent talks between the state government and opposition representatives aimed at resolving the dispute ended in deadlock, following which armed forces aligned with the opposition moved into Garowe and exchange fire with troops loyal to the Puntland government for several hours
on 6 February".
"The clashes ended when elders convinced the pro-opposition armed forces to retreat from Garowe," added the report, which has been obtained by Garowe Online and whose details are now public.
The dispute emerged following a lack of consensus as the government ignored concerns from the opposition. At that time, the opposition tabled points regarding contentious issues that needed to be resolved before the launch of voter registration. The deadlock over this led the majority of opposition political associations to boycott the electoral process.
Members of the opposition believe Deni aims at extending his term through the local council election program, which is being implemented at gunpoint with people in some areas, including the Nugal region rejecting the voter registration, further stalling the exercise despite forceful implementation.
A few days ago, a top elite force commander from Puntland's Danab Bridge warned Deni against holding a disputed election with many elders voicing the same. Critics believe the forced program would create havoc in the state and further cause destabilization.
Oct 25th, 2021 local election in Qardho, Ufeyn, and Qardho was held on a political consensus despite some fraud issues raised in the exercise. But the ongoing process is carried out by force and became armed voter registration, analysts argue.
Puntland president Deni's term expires in Jan 2024 having been elected first in 2019. Puntland was founded in 1998 and has been the model state in Somalia but the ongoing electoral conflict is poised to cause further escalation of the conflict, which observers say would automatically cause chaos in the state.
The opposition has stood firm, maintaining that there will be no elections in the remaining councils, arguing that Puntland leadership should respect the rule of law as enshrined in the constitution. Deni has also been accused of perpetuating impunity in the northern state.