IMG_2320Ufeyn district constituent voted in their 3rd local council elections, as local council structural reforms progress across Puntland State of Somalia. President Abdiweli Ali Gaas, the Minister for Interior, local government and rural development, PDRC, Bari region authorities and constituent representatives combined efforts to establish a local council for the district. The Ufeyn district council reformation process was overseen by a vetting and confirmation body commissioned by the Puntland president and supported by the Puntland Development Research Center (PDRC).

The week long process resulted in the election of a new mayor, deputy mayor and 4 female councilors; making Ufeyn – so far – the district with the highest number of women councilors in Puntland.

HE Ahmed Osman Elmi the Minister for Interior and Local Government, pronounced Mohamed Ahmed Arab the new mayor of Ufeyn district. The 26-year-old university graduate wins former mayor in the race by 2 votes becoming the 3rd mayor since the establishment of the district in the early 90s.

The following is a narrative of the Ufeyn district elections process and a brief overview of the district.

About Ufeyn

Ufeyn is a district located some 90 Kms south east of Bossaso district in Bari region of Puntland State.  It was formerly under the jurisdiction of Iskushuban district until it was instituted district in the 90’s by the Puntland State government. The district council structure is composed of 21 council seats representing the constituencies of Ufeyn district.

The main socio economic practice in Ufeyn is nomadic pastoralism. According to statistics from the Puntland Ministry of Education, Ufeyn district has the highest number of primary education institutions in Puntland State, Somalia. The district has 10 primary schools. This is largely due to the successful local initiative for education popularly referred to as “A goat for one child’s education”. This initiative has mobilized over 1700 pupils and students, some of them from nomadic and disadvantaged families in Ufeyn district.

“We shall support this ingenious initiative of the people of Ufeyn.” HE Minister Ahmed pledged to the communities of Ufeyn and praised them for their commitment to education.

Amina from the PDRC decentralization pillar said , “Decentralization potential in Ufeyn district is promising, as demonstrated in the growing number of homegrown community social service delivery initiatives, and the inclusion of educated women and youth in local political structures’’.

Preparations

The electoral environment was tense at the beginning with constituents competing and lobbying for the council seats. President Abdiweli commissioned a vetting and oversight body for the elections in Ufeyn district. The body comprised the State Minister for Security, Ufeyn’s parliamentary representative, the Director General of the Ministry of Ports, Marine transport and counter piracy, plus two prominent members from the constituencies. The 5 member commission was directed by the President to guide the nomination of council representatives, the vetting of nominees and conflict resolution amongst the constituencies.

The PDRC decentralization pillar and mobile audiovisual teams supported the vetting and oversight body in operational and technical matters during processes.

Community Mobilization and Advocacy

The PDRC MAVU team worked closely with the elections body and government authorities. They collaborated in facilitating public sensitization, and community mobilization for peaceful participation in the elections. Meanwhile, researchers from the PDRC decentralization pillar advocated for the implementation of Puntland Law no.7. The advocacy championed for women and youth representation in the district council.

“We realized the tensions amongst the competing constituencies”, Mr. Abdinassir from PDRC said “and decided to diffuse threats that could disrupt the process.’’

PDRC conducted public film screenings to raise awareness prior to the elections day. The public gatherings attracted over 300 participants. The motivational films resonated with the target audiences. Audience favorites were a documentary on the Somali Youth League and the struggle for independence, a video of the recent coronation ceremony of King Burhan from the Darod monarchy, and an inspirational film showing the recent council formations in Jariban district.

Apart from mobilizing the community, the film screening forums were used as platforms for dialogue between the ministry, regional and district authorities, the commissioned body, constituent representatives and residents of Ufeyn district.

Film Based Discussions

The film screening sessions were followed by speeches from PDRC researchers, highlighting the issues depicted in the films and explaining the importance of applying participatory processes to establish the district council.

“It is important to ensure the participation of district constituencies as paramount partners and primary constituents of the elections” PDRC MAVU researcher told the audience. “The equitable example of local governance shown in the film covering the process in districts of Mudug region deserves emulation and replication in Ufeyn district, and the wider Puntland.”

Speaking to the audience during the film based discussions, PDRC decentralization researcher Amina called upon women to mobilize and advocate for the implementation of the women’s quota in the district council. The researcher blamed the women’s reluctance in advocating for their political rights as the main challenge in achievement of gender benchmarks articulated in the executive order issued by the office of the Puntland president.

Vetting and Qualification of Candidates

The vetting and confirmation process was guided by strict criteria required for qualifying council nominees. Constituency representatives – basing their propositions on outcomes from deliberations within their respective constituencies – nominated potential district councilors and submitted them for approval to the evaluators.

The vetting body reviewed twenty four candidates for eligibility. The body cleared 21 candidates for the district council and rejected three of the submissions.

PDRC provided technical support during the vetting process. The organizations MAVU team and its decentralization pillar observed proceedings of the vetting process, documented progress and promoted the implementation of the candidate qualification criteria.

Election Results

The vetting body qualified 21 councilors. Of the 21 councilors seventeen are male while four are female in Ufeyn’s district council. Next, the vetting and confirmation body convened the newly elected councilors to elect the district mayor and deputy mayor of Ufeyn district.

District councilors voted by show of hands. The minister for interior, state minister for security, Bari region governor, the director general of the ports ministry, Beeldaaje Ali Farah, PDRC and community representatives observed the proceedings of the voting.

In the mayoral race, Honorable Ahmed was pitted against veteran civil servant Mr. Ahmed Aw-Farah. Honorable Ahmed won in a landslide victory where 11 councilors voted for him, 9 voted for his opponent whereas 1 person abstained from the vote. Meanwhile, the deputy mayor’s race was won by Honorable Mahamed Mahamud Mahamed. Mr. Mahamed canvassed 13 votes beating his opponent Said Mahamed Said who got seven votes. One councilor abstained from the vote.

Speaking to the audiences at the election event, the minister for interior HE Ahmed Elmi congratulated Ufayn district for selecting four female councilors, making them the district with the highest representation of female councilors in Puntland.

“I am glad that PDRC is here today to witness this, PDRC used to blame us for establishing district councils with less representation of females”, Minister Ahmed said “are you happy with the results?”

PDRC’s Decentralization researcher, Amina confirmed that Ufeyn district council featured the highest number of female councilors in Puntland.

Conclusions

The closing ceremony was attended by traditional leaders, Puntland government officials and Bari regional authorities.

PDRC supported advised the selection and vetting commission in the selection of new councilors, the organization facilitated conflicts over representation between constituencies during the selections process and mobilized communities for active participation and dialogue in the local council restructuring process in Puntland. Moreover, PDRC facilitated refreshment, venue, media and documentation for the new councilors. Most important however, PDRC inspired constituents and constituent representatives to establish equitable local councils that represented all members of their communities through film based inspiration and discussion.

Paramount chief Beel-daaje Ali Farah called upon the Puntland government to distribute development equitably among the districts of Puntland and dissuade from being biased towards easily accessible districts along the main tarmac road in Puntland State. The paramount chief expressed confidence in the incumbent district council saying that the community development expertise of the young mayor and the civil service experience of his deputy mayor –a long serving secretary of previous district administrations presented hopes for initiating sustainable community development in Ufeyn district.

The Puntland Minister for Interior, local government and rural development appreciated PDRC’s role throughout the establishment of district local councils in Mudug and Bari regions.

“PDRC and Ministry of Interior have advocated for and facilitated the establishment of local councils in Puntland in the past 2 months.” The minister said, as he explained the success of the partnership in the recently concluded elections in the 4 districts of Mudug region.

“We ask PDRC to continue supporting the government until the local council elections are concluded in Puntland.” The Minister said. “We have discussed their support in preliminary district council support and have so far conducted induction and will continue induction for district councilors in the newly instituted district councils.’’

Ufayn is the 5th district to conduct local council reform since the initiation of the process in Puntland in April 2014. The new wave of local council reform has seen improvements in the representation of women and youth in district council positions.

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