Cablegate: Somalia - Somaliland Averts Crisis

DE RUEHNR #2030/01 2711034
O 281034Z SEP 09




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: SOMALIA - Somaliland Averts Crisis

REF: a) Nairobi 2010
b) Nairobi 2009

1. (SBU) Summary: On September 25, Somaliland averted what
appeared to be an imminent political crisis when its Guurti (House
of Elders) agreed that all parties must adhere to the six-point
framework agreement that had been endorsed by all sides. (A day
earlier, on September 24, most observers believed that the Guurti
would opt for a unilateral, one-year extension of President Riyale's
term in office.) Opposition supporters rallied the public to
prepare to protest this ruling and the government massed its police.
Once the Guurti's announcement was made, the crowds dispersed and
all parties celebrated an end to the standoff and a new opportunity
to break the political deadlock. The text of the agreement is in
Paragraph 7. The six-point framework agreement will be signed in
Hargeisa, most likely on September 29. The Ambassador and President
Riyale will speak by telephone on September 29. Somalia Unit and
other members of the Nairobi-based international community will
mobilize a team of independent international experts to help the
National Electoral Commission review election preparations and set a
new timeline. End summary.

Immediate Crisis Averted

2. (SBU) On September 24, all signs were that parties in Somaliland
were headed for a bitter showdown. Reports indicated that the
Guurti's unilateral extension of President Riyale's term in office
for one year was a fait accompli (ref a). Although Riyale stated
publicly that he supported the six-point framework agreement, he
also said that the Guurti is an independent body and that he would
not interfere in its work. The opposition, respected Somaliland
leaders, and members of the administration warned Riyale and members
of the Guurti that an extension would undermine the six-point
framework agreement and reduce prospects that consensus on the way
forward could be reached. We made the same point to the Office of
the President and to our contacts from all sectors. We registering
as well concern that a Guurti decision to extend Riyale's term would
likely lead to violence.

3. (SBU) We understand that intense political negotiations among
all parties lasted until 4:00 a.m., September 25. One of our
contacts within the government told us that Riyale unsuccessfully
tried to strengthen his hand by re-deploying military forces from
the Sool and Sanaag regions to Hargeisa. The general in charge of
these troops reportedly refused the order. Another government
contact told us that in the middle of the night he confronted
Riyale, telling him that if he proceeded with his plan, the U.S.
would make him a target of sanctions, including a travel ban and
asset freeze. Traditional and clan leaders played a prominent role
in the negotiations. Many of the pressure points outlined in ref b
were used liberally by those trying to avert a crisis.

4. (SBU) On the morning of September 25, there was a heavy military
and police presence in the area around the presidency and the
Parliament. The public heeded calls by the opposition parties to
gather and prepare to protest any unilateral move by the Guurti.
While the situation was tense, there was no violence. At
approximately 9:30 a.m.(local), the Guurti convened and announced
its decision that all parties must adhere to the six-point framework
agreement and that the President's term in office would expire one
month after the presidential election. Saleban Mohamud, the Guurti
Chairman, told reporters the elders had overwhelmingly voted to
pressure Riyale into negotiations. This decision rubber stamped the
general framework agreement and clarified various constitutional
interpretations that some claimed would have led to a power vacuum.
After the decision was announced, the crowds dispersed peacefully.

All Parties Ready to Move Forward

5. (SBU) Right after the Guurti's September 25 announcement, we
spoke with the Office of the President, Minister of Foreign Affairs,
leaders from both opposition parties, and civil society
representatives who were all happy with the results. Foreign
Minister Duale told us that, through this process, the Somaliland
authorities have learned that the United States was a "true friend"
of Somaliland. Duale said the decision was "bad news for the
extremists who had hoped to exploit a power vacuum and popular

NAIROBI 00002030 002 OF 003

dissatisfaction." Duale and representatives from the opposition
parties asked for immediate U.S. assistance to re-focus their
efforts on the next steps. They asked us to help "guarantee" that
the elections take place as quickly as possible. They also asked
for more sustained U.S. engagement in Somaliland, including a focus
on institution-building and job opportunities.

Memorandum of Understanding

6. (SBU) We received the text of the framework agreement from our
UK counterparts who told us that the signing ceremony will likely be
scheduled for September 29. The UN Political Office for Somalia
(UNPOS) will charter a plane for members of the international
community to be present at the event. The UK representative told us
that all are eager to have as wide representation as possible to
indicate that the agreement is "not an Ethiopian-only initiative."

7. (U) The text of the six point agreement follows:

Begin text:


The three registered political parties in Somaliland, together
hereafter referred to as the "Parties;"

Committed to preserving the peace, stability and credibility that
Somaliland has achieved over the last decade and half;

Conscious of their responsibilities to safeguard the welfare of the
people of Somaliland in a sub-region where the preservation of peace
and stability in any country is not an easy exercise;

Fully cognisant of the imperative necessity of creating the
conditions for fair, free and peaceful elections, without which the
preservation of peace, stability and credibility of Somaliland will
not be possible;

Fully convinced that the ruling party and the two opposition parties
have historic responsibility to make the upcoming election free,
fair and peaceful;

have reached the following understanding:

-- Paragraph 1

Given the shortage of time remaining before September 27, 2009,
which is the jointly agreed time for the next election, the parties
accept that the election be postponed. The new time for the election
is to be decided as per what is stated in paragraphs 4 and 5 below.

-- Paragraph 2

The Parties agree that all options, including changes in the
leadership and composition of the National Election Commission, need
to be considered to restore public confidence in the Commission and
to make sure that the Commission is able to perform the role
expected of it under the Constitution.

-- Paragraph 3

The three parties have agreed that there is a need for a voters'
registration list as legally provided for, for this and future
elections. In this regard, taking note of the shortcomings of the
existing voter registration list, the three parties accept that
there is a need to further refine the list and to consider whether
further safeguards are required to avoid multiple voting.

-- Paragraph 4

The parties have agreed to invite independent international experts
to assist the National Election Commission in reviewing Somaliland's
electoral preparations. The experts will be invited to submit their
recommendations to the Commission including on how to refine the
provisional voter list, and on the timetable under which the
remaining preparations for the election can be held. The Commission
shall then fix the new date for the election based on the amount of
time required for the final election preparations to be made.

NAIROBI 00002030 003 OF 003

The Parties also decided that detailed terms of reference for the
experts should be agreed with the political parties and the

-- Paragraph 5

On the basis that the determination of the date of the election is
de-politicised, with the date to be fixed by the Commission, in
light of the recommendations by the experts as set out in paragraph
4 above, the parties have agreed that the term of office of the
President and Vice-President should be extended to a date not more
than one month after the date to be fixed by the Commission for the

-- Paragraph 6

The parties underline the need for Friends of Somaliland to continue
their engagement with the three parties with the view to
contributing to the faithful implementation of the understanding
contained in paragraphs 1 to 5 above and assisting the Somaliland
authorities to carry out a free, fair and peaceful elections
critical for preserving the stability, security and credibility of

Next Steps

8. (SBU) On September 25, we met with our international
counterparts, including the UK, EU, Norway, Sweden and UNPOS. All
agreed that while the immediate crisis was averted, the framework
agreement offers few details and provides leeway for all parties,
especially the government and the ruling UDUB party, to drag their
feet. In fact, the MOU is just a general agreement to move forward
on the elections, returning the process to where it was on July 27,
prior to the decision by the NEC and the government to throw out the
voter registration list. All donors agreed that continued pressure
on all parties, especially the government, is necessary to maintain

9. (SBU) Also on September 25 Ambassador Ranneberger sent a letter
to President Riyale requesting a telephone conversation in order to
register our concern about recent developments in Somaliland, as
well as to discuss the Somaliland President's plans for the
elections and to push for rapid changes to the National Electoral
Commission (NEC) and refining the voter registration list. A call
between Riyale and the Ambassador has been scheduled for the morning
of September 29.

10. (SBU) In the coming days, the UK and the U.S. will co-chair a
meeting of the Somaliland Democratization Committee, bringing
together the Nairobi-based missions focused on the electoral
process. All international partners agreed that collectively we
must push the parties to quickly change the composition of the NEC.
These changes would pave the way for the team of international
experts mentioned in para 4 of the MOU. The UK announced that it
will pay for a small team, but only after a new NEC leadership has
been announced. We will augment this team with expertise through
our Somaliland-based partners to help the NEC develop
recommendations to fix a new election date.

11. (SBU) While the framework agreement was celebrated by all
sides, it is very broad and provides no details on the modalities of
implementation. However, it was successful in breaking the
political impasse, thus averting what many thought would become a
violent confrontation. We plan to continue our engagement with
Somaliland, emphasizing contacts with those in the political
parties, but also with the traditional elders, businessmen, and clan
leaders who continue to wield significant influence over the
political landscape.


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