Somalia marked its 50th anniversary of independence from colonial rule June 26 with bullets on one end of the country and ballots on the other. In Mogadishu, the official capital in the south, the president of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, gave a hopeful but solemn address—even as violence continued in the city. On June 27, a Mogadishu market came under mortar bombardment as Shabab insurgents attacked TFG troops and African Union peacekeepers, leaving three dead and nine injured. Since the beginning of the year, 200,000 Somalis have fled Mogadishu. Many have sought refuge in the camps that ring the city, such as the Afgooye Corridor, home to the world’s largest concentration of displaced people—more than 360,000.
Meanwhile, in the unrecognized independent republic of Somaliland in the north, some 1 million voters lined up at polling stations under tight security to elect a new president—despite threats from al-Shabab in the south to attack voters. In an audio message, Shabab’s leader, Sheik Mukhtar Abdirahman Abu Zubeyr, called democracy “the Devil’s principle” and warned people in Somaliland not to adopt it.
“I am so happy that we are voting democratically, and I hope that the election will end peacefully,” said current President Dahir Riyale Kahin of the ruling party UDUD after casting his vote in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. The UDUB, challenged by two other parties in the race, pledges to respect the outcome. “If we lose, we’ll give up power,” promised Said Adani Moge, a spokesman for Somaliland’s government. “The most important thing is peace.” (The East African, June 28; Before It’s News, June 27; Raxanreeb Online, Suna Times, June 26; CNN, NYT, June 26; The Horn, Hargeisa, via AllVoices, June 25)
The US-funded International Republican Institute (IRI) found that Somaliland’s election was peaceful, without major incident and generally met international standards. However, violence was reported in eastern Sool, Sanaag and Cayn districts—known as the SSC Regions. While most of Somaliland is dominated by the Isaq clan, the SSC Regions are controlled by the Dhulbahante clan, some of whose leaders have declared their own breakaway enclave. Ten peoples were reported killed in clashes in Sool district after militiamen tried to bar polling from the enclave. Somaliland’s government said the militia had invaded from Puntland, a neighboring de facto independent region accused by Hargeisa of having territorial designs on the SSC Regions. (Northern Somalia News via AllVoices, AllVoices, Somaliland Press, AP, June 27)