Somalia’s Jubbaland state polls agency has yielded to international pressure, allowing more room for other candidates to register in an election that was threatening to divide the federal region.
The Jubbaland Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission said in a statement, it was giving a conditional 72 hours from Saturday for anyone interested in the race to file their papers.
It, however, retained its tough conditions for entrants, including payment of $30,000 for men and $15,000 for women, proof of leadership experience and that the applicant must not be a dual national, among other conditions.
The election is scheduled for next Thursday.
PROTECTING PEACE AND STABILITY
Dr Hamza Abdi Barre, the JIEBC Chairperson, said the move followed discussions with the international community on the implications of leaving out candidates whose participation would make the polls credible.
“Taking the current peace and stability enjoyed into consideration…the JIEBC decided to officially re-open the registration of the presidential aspirants for three days,” he said in a letter on Friday evening.
The decision to allow more candidates means the final contenders could increase from the current six, especially since a dozen more politicians had protested alleged bias from the JIEBC and formed a parallel electoral commission.
The JIEBC had initially ended registration on July 26, 2019.
Under the old list, incumbent Sheikh Islam Ahmed ‘Madobe’ was to compete against Mohamed Omar Gedi, Mohamed Abdille Magan, Anab Mohamed Dahir, Abdi Hiis Udan, Ahmed Abdi and Abdirahman Ahmed Rabi.
All the seven had agreed to compete under the legal JIEBC, which Madobe created under local laws as the holder of the presidency.
Other contenders were locked out of the race by the JIEBC over what the Commission termed as late submission of papers, and failure to meet other qualifications. These contenders created a parallel electoral commission, despite condemnation from the international community.
They are known as the Union of Jubbaland Presidential Candidates for Change and include Dr Mohamed Ibrahim Shakuul, Mr Abdulkadir Ali Sharray, Salah Ahmed Hussein, Mr Adam Afey Mahmoud, Mr Abdi Osman Esse and Abdalla Ibrahim Afwaranle.
Others are Abdirahman M Jibril, Dr Mohamed Yusuf Aw Dahir, Ali Jamaa Hussein, Mohamed Ali Yusuf, Sayid Saahid Sayid and Dr Mohamed Yusuf Duale.
Madobe’s former ally in the Ras Kamboni Brigade Abdinasir Seraar, also accused JIEBC of bias. However, it was not clear if he had joined the alternative commission. JIEBC did not list him among the candidates.
It wasn’t clear whether those who formed the alternative commission would now accept to enrol as candidates under JIEBC.
But James Swan, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative to Somalia who had led a delegation of the African Union and IGAD, called for one credible process.
He said that would be the surest way to avoid violence in an area where militants al-Shabaab still roam.
Mr Swan warned that issues surrounding who takes part, “if unresolved, could have a destabilising effect on Jubbaland, at a time when preserving unity and stability is of vital importance.”
On Saturday, the JIEBC, which insists it is the only legal entity for running elections, conducted the election of the local Speaker. Abdi Mohamed retained his seat after getting 55 votes against his opponent Hussein Shinow’s 18.
The speaker will be in charge of the vote for the presidency next Thursday.
Mr Adan Khalif and Mr Abdi Baley were also elected as the first and second Deputy Speakers. The three will serve for the next four years.
Under the rules of elections, the local MPs will elect the President next Thursday through a secret ballot, overseen by the JIEBC.