Cablegate: Somalia - Debate Continues Over Somaliland Election

DE RUEHNR #1826/01 2401122
R 281122Z AUG 09




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: As Somaliland's political crisis
continues, major disagreements remain between the Somaliland
government and opposition parties. Still at issue are the
voter registration list, the possible postponement of the
elections, currently scheduled for September 27, and the
nature of a caretaker government should elections be
postponed. On August 20, thousands of demonstrators from the
two opposition parties protested peacefully in all six
regions of the self-declared Somaliland republic, despite
attempts by police to stop them (reftel). In an effort to
mediate, Ethiopia dispatched a delegation to Hargeisa.
Negotiations resulted in a &Non-Paper on the Upcoming
Election in Somaliland,8 which was issued on August 22, and
claimed to outline an agreement between the ruling party
UDUB, and the two opposition parties, Kulmiye and UCID.
However, on August 23, Kulmiye and UCID issued a strongly
worded letter in which they rejected the Riyale
Administration's proposals to a) postpone the election (which
has already been delayed three times), b) extend the
President's term, and c) retain four of the current election
Commissioners. The leaders of the two opposition parties
appear to have very different views on the progress made by
the Ethiopian-led mediation. Embassy believes that premature
international community support for the Ethiopian-led effort
might pressure the opposition parties into accepting a
settlement which appears at this juncture to unduly favor the
incumbent President and his party. End summary.

Ethiopian Mediation Efforts and the "Non-Paper"
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (SBU) An Ethiopian delegation led by Minister of State for
Foreign Affairs Dr. Tekeda Alemu visited Hargeisa from August
19 - 23, in an attempt to break the impasse between the
Somaliland government and opposition parties. As a result of
the Ethiopian-led efforts, a &Non-Paper on the Upcoming
Election in Somaliland8 was issued in Hargeisa. The
non-paper claimed to outline a number of points agreed upon
"in principle" after extensive consultations with the
Ethiopians, and to a lesser extent British government
representatives in Hargeisa. The non-paper was intended to
form the basis of an agreement and a future Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) between the ruling party UDUB and the two
opposition parties, Kulmiye and UCID. The non-paper appeared
to decidedly favor the Government's position. It proposed
postponing the election (currently scheduled for September
27), extending the terms of office of the President and Vice
President, and "revisiting" rather than "revoking" the
National Electoral Commission (NEC) decision on the voter
registration list. In the past none of these proposals has
been acceptable to the opposition.

The Electoral Debate: "Solution" or Stalemate?
--------------------------------------------- -

3. (SBU) In an August 23 joint letter, both opposition
parties rejected the Government proposals to a) postpone the
election, b) extend the President's term, and c) retain the
current election Commissioners. The opposition parties in the
letter insisted that if elections were delayed beyond
September 27, a "caretaker" government should take
responsibility until elections could be held. Observers are
certain that President Riyale would certainly reject this, as
he has consistently maneuvered to remain in power.

4. (SBU) On August 27, we learned that opposition leaders
Ahmed Mohamed "Silanyo" (Chairman of Kulmiye) and Faisal Ali
Warabe (Chairman of UCID), planned to issue a second joint
letter which we expect to receive shortly. The second letter
was reportedly intended to clarify the current position of
the opposition on the Ethiopian mediation and the non-paper.
"Silanyo" and Warabe told us that the second letter would
emphatically reject any extension of the President's and Vice
President's terms and insist, as earlier agreed by all three
parties, on the removal of four members of the NEC.

5. (SBU) Although the proposed joint second letter as
previewed by the opposition parties was to hew to the same
hard line, the two major opposition party leaders in a
subsequent, August 28 conversation nevertheless appeared to
have different views on the progress made during the
Ethiopian mediation. "Silanyo" told us that the negotiation
was a failure and voiced deep frustration with Ethiopian
mediation efforts, and especially with Tekeda, who he said

NAIROBI 00001826 002 OF 002

was adamant that the President and Vice President remain in
power in the interests of stability. Warabe, who talked with
us just one hour earlier, appeared more optimistic.
Confusingly in light of the proposed second letter, he told
us that he felt the negotiations initiated by the Ethiopians
were proceeding in a positive manner. Warabe admitted that
the Kulmiye party remained less optimistic, but he believed
that if an interim national unity government were formed with
ministers from the opposition, he would be able to persuade
"Silanyo" and his party to sign an agreement.

Comment and Way Forward

6. (SBU) There are several significant concerns with the
Ethiopian non-paper. It appears that the non-paper, at least
in its current form, is not supported by the two Somaliland
opposition parties. Even if a degree of buy-in were to
emerge, which would likely require concessions on points
vital to the opposition, the next steps are problematic, and
could derail the mediation efforts. The Ethiopian delegation
reportedly plans to return to Hargeisa in early September to
develop the non-paper into a MOU. While the Ethiopian
diplomatic endeavor was initially welcomed by all parties, we
note that developing the degree of detail needed for an MOU
would be a significant challenge and would inevitably raise
controversial issues that have been glossed over in the
non-paper. Second, we noted that the non-paper is very
general on a number of key points, including the way forward
for the voter registration list and the appointment of an
unspecified "expert body" to address voter registration. We
are concerned that the non-paper's vagueness could be
exploited by President Riyale,s government in order to
attain its own objectives. Finally, selecting a mutually
agreed upon election date will likely be tricky if the
September 27 elections are delayed.

7. (SBU) On August 27, the Embassy delivered a letter to
President Riyale from Assistant Secretary Carson, which
highlighted USG concern with the NEC,s decision not to use
the internationally-funded voter registration lists. The
letter also condemned the Riyale Administration's
heavy-handed treatment of the press. Somalia Unit has
continued to push the Somaliland government to agree to a
long-delayed call between Somaliland President Riyale and a
high-level Department representative. Riyale,s staff,
however, continues to delay, citing a long-promised,
"pending" letter from their Foreign Minister which in their
view must be received by the USG before any conversation can
take place. PDAS Carter conducted an interview with Horn
Cable TV during the week of August 17 which increased
pressure on President Riyale.

8. (SBU) Ethiopia and other involved parties are likely
trying to gauge the degree of international support for their
mediation efforts. The media reported that the African
Union's envoy arrived in Hargeisa on August 25, and planned
to meet with representatives of all political parties. We
believe that premature international community support for
the Ethiopian-led effort might pressure the opposition
parties into accepting a settlement which appears at this
juncture to unduly favor the incumbent President and his

© Scoop Media

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