INTERPEACE AND SOMALILAND VOTER REGISTRATION
First and foremost, the people of Somaliland do appreciate the efforts of the donor nations for assisting the Republic of Somaliland in the preparation of a National Voter Register as a gesture of nurturing the nascent democratisation process in the country. In return the donor nations should get the value of their taxpayer’s money. The primary objective of the voter registration was to establish the rudimentary of a National Data Base for future use. Voter registration is a continuous process subject to periodic upgrading. However; it is a very unfortunate fact that neither the donors nor the government of Somaliland got anything of value from this project. Why and how everything went wrong remains to be unraveled by the contracting parties, Mr. Robin Zamora, and Somaliland National Elections Commission.
The conduct of Mr. Zamora of Interpeace exceeded the laws of Somaliland as well as the terms of his assignment. In his capacity as a supervisor of the preparation of a reliable National Voter Register, in collaboration with the Somaliland National Elections Commission, Mr. Zamora and the Subcontractor did not live up to the expectations of the project. In the middle of the night and without even consulting the National Elections Commission of Somaliland, he distributed to the political parties what he termed as the final voter list. That was a reprehensibly irresponsible act that completely disregarded the laws of Somaliland. The sensitive nature of the information requires extreme caution when dispensing with the final results.
Furthermore, if it is proven that one byte of the information in Mr. Zamora’s custody was transmitted to any third party, without the prior knowledge and express consent of the Somaliland National Elections Commission, is a wanton crime and his employers shall be held accountable for that breach of trust.
A transparent electoral process is the corner stone of democracy because this fundamental principle in turn entails that disenfranchisement takes place through manipulative or gerrymandering means. Disenfranchisement comes in many different forms and shapes-the worst of which are ballot stuffing and vote rigging, to name a few. The purpose of a National Voter Register is to eliminate or at least minimize irregularities in any given election. Unfortunately, the Somaliland Voter Registration campaign failed to deliver the expected results. The Server and its associated paraphernalia are incapable of weeding out the large number double voters.
With the election date less than 48 days away, the procurement of additional software to enhance the performance of the Server is very counterproductive because that will require additional time and that will automatically postpone the election date. The opposition parties of Somaliland will not accommodate that. The burden of proof rests with the opposition parties who adamantly insist on using an inaccurate voter list. The future configuration of our houses of parliament depends on a fair and equitable distribution of seats. That comes only through one-man one-vote and nothing else. The outcome of the voter registration campaign turned the demographics of the country upside down through corrupted means.
On the other hand the government has an obligation to ensure that the Voter registration is reliable and accurately reflects the demographics of the country. The current voter list is neither accurate nor can it form the basis of a fair and transparent election. The only alternative is to go ahead with the election without voter lists.
Interpeace stated in a controversial and a very contradictory press release dated July 25, 2009:
"The Voter Registration system was seriously abused during its implementation, with widespread corruption and systematic fraud, resulting in the failure to record the fingerprints of more than half of all registrants. In other cases, over 150 registrations were made with a single fingerprint at the same registration centre, or through photographs instead of in person."
If Interpeace was aware of the existence of such a wide spread abuse of the Voter Registration drive, it should have raised the issue from the beginning. If one individual can easily obtain 150 different voting cards at one polling station, the data so far collected is corrupted and the process t cannot be billed as sound or transparent.
From the very beginning, the Server was billed as a state of the art technology capable of instantaneously identifying any double voting attempts. The preponderant assumption has been that with the Facial Recognition System and the Automated Fingerprint Identification System software are widely and successfully used around the globe by security organisations in tracking down criminals and thwarting the operations of terrorist groups. Granted that no two human beings have identical fingerprints or facial blueprints, this innovative system should have worked perfectly well for us. But it did not function according to its original billing because the parameters were beyond the capabilities of the Server.
Perhaps the system would have functioned differently had the individual data been instantaneously transmitted via Satellite to a Central Processing Station designed and capable to handle such information. This might have reduced the number of duplicate registrants. The cost of renting time on a satellite would have dented the Contractors bottom line but this would have saved the integrity of the process. This has been the weakest link in the operation. To maximise its profits, the Contractor had opted for the lowest possible price: Collect the date first and then upload it on the Server and the machine will automatically sort out all the garbage gathered at the field. It does not work that way at all.
or comparative reasons only, the regional breakdowns of the previous three elections of Somaliland were as follows:
REGION DECEMBER 2002 APRIL, 2003 SEPTEMBER, 2005
AWDAL 100,495 68,395 133,020
HARGEISA 186,383 213,956 253,229
SAAXIL 27,234 31,128 53,479
SANAAG 53,096 58,781 89,286
SOOL 6,251 * 9,785* 20,557*
TOGDHEER 66,598 116,046 121,751
TOTAL VOTES 440,067 498,639 670,322
Note: * The results from Sool Region are partial because of the dispute with Majertenia region of Somalia.
Data source: http://africanelections.tripod.com/somaliland_detail.html#2003_Presidential_Election.
Finally, Interpeace came up with the number 1,146,396 out of which only 586,975 voters satisfied the fingerprint identification and facial recognition parameters. That is roughly 52.20% of the total; while the other 48.80% are bogus or duplicate votes. This outcome cannot be the basis for a fair and free election.
Ahmed Ali Ibrahim Sabeyse
August 12, 2009.