Friday, 1 January 2010

Somaliland: A Way out of the Electoral Crisis

Nairobi/Brussels, 7 December 2009: The stalled electoral process has plunged Somaliland into a serious political crisis that presents yet another risk of destabilisation in the region.

Somaliland: A Way out of the Electoral Crisis,* the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines what stalled democratisation could mean. It concludes that politicians must finally uphold the constitution, abide by electoral laws and adhere to inter-party agreements if the region, which seeks independence from Somalia, is to hold genuinely free and fair elections in 2010. Otherwise, there is a risk that hard-earned stability will be lost as clan militias remobilise.

"President Rayale and his ruling party have benefited from more than a year-and-a-half of additional time in power", says E.J. Hogendoorn, Crisis Group's Horn of Africa Project Director. "But all the political stakeholders are in some way responsible for the selection and continuation of an incompetent electoral commission, widespread fraud during voter registration, frequent skirting of the constitution and failure to institutionalise democratic practices".

The current crises stems from repeated rescheduling of elections despite the expiration of President Rayale's term in May 2008. The elections due in September 2009 were suspended because both opposition parties planned boycotts after the electoral commission said they would proceed even though massive fraud made the voter registration list unusable. The parties were brought back from the precipice by agreement to delay the vote, revamp the electoral commission and refine the list.

Improving the political culture will be a long-term, internal process but extensive electoral reforms must be implemented urgently. As a start the electoral commission and the voter registrar need to be professionalised and depoliticised. The new commissioners must focus on preventing electoral fraud, working with international experts to choose a date for the next election and identifying problems with the current electoral list. As a priority, they must hire a competent, impartial registrar. Then the electoral laws and agreements must be adhered strictly by both political parties and voters.

Elections should also be held for both the House of Representatives and district councils in 2010. The constitution calls for selection of the Guurti, the non-elected, clan-nominated upper house of the parliament, every six years but does not say how this is to take place. This must be defined urgently. International partners should keep a close watch on developments and sustain pressure for truly free and fair general elections next year.

"Somaliland has made genuine progress in its democratic transformation, but political wrangling has corrupted governing institutions and undermined the rule of law", explains Daniela Kroslak, Crisis Group's Africa Program Deputy Director. "Its democratic process needs to be institutionalised. If not, non-violent means to resolve conflict could be replaced by the remobilisation of the militias and a risk of a return to civil war".

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The Meaning of Vibrant Africa
written by: Aiko Doden, 20-Nov-09

Sitting next to me on the plane bound for Kenya from southern Sudan was a Norwegian gynaecologist. I had just completed my two weeks' reporting assignment in Africa, and the gynaecologist had finished hers and was heading home. The doctor said that she had volunteered to work in southern Sudan on a three-month assignment, but was cutting it short by one month. "I have not seen so many deaths of mothers and babies before in my career. It was just too much," she said, and asked me what mission had brought me all the way from Asia. "I was covering that very issue, maternal and child mortality," I replied. She then said I too must have seen many deaths. "The war is supposed to be over but people are still dying in Sudan."

Improving the maternal mortality rate is among the eight targets of the UN Millennium Development Goals that the international community pledged to achieve by 2015. As of 2009, the maternal mortality rate not only lags far behind, but the gap between the developed and the developing world is shockingly acute, with more than 85% of maternal mortality accounted for by South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Africa has two faces. One is a resource-rich land of hope and opportunity, and the other a land of mounting challenges. Africa can only become a vibrant land of hope and opportunity, the theme of last year's Tokyo International Conference on International Development (TICAD), when people themselves feel that lives are improving and when people live on to enjoy life.
The gynaecologist was right in saying that the war was 'supposed' to be over in Sudan. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement reached in 2005 brought to an end what was known as the longest civil war in Africa, but peace remains fragile. Because of the prolonged civil war, Sudan's basic healthcare services are not adequate, resulting in a high maternal mortality rate. One out of every 53 pregnant women die before or during childbirth, while in Japan the ratio is one in 11,600. Mothers and infants die not only because of a lack of medical services, but also from malnutrition, lack of education and lack of access to hospitals. At the root of all these is poverty. A peace agreement may have been reached, but the peace dividend itself has yet to be shared among the Sudanese people.

In the state of Sennar that I visited, there are only about 30 hospitals for a large state one-tenth the size of Japan. In Sudan, about 70% of pregnant mothers give birth at home and mothers rely on village midwives for safe delivery. That is why the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) established a midwife training programme called "The Mother Nile Project" in 2008 to improve the maternal mortality rate by empowering midwives. JICA experts are sent from Japan to provide capacity building courses that improve the skills of the local midwives. Japan has drastically decreased its own maternal mortality rate to one-third of that in the decade following World War II by strengthening its network of basic health services. Countries like Sudan that are in the midst of nation building are trying to follow in its footsteps.

Midwives told me that they not only tend to deliveries, but also keep their eyes on the pregnant mothers throughout their pregnancies. They will visit the houses of women in the village, talk to them, comfort them and educate them so that they will be able to avoid whatever risks may come with pregnancies. It is said that midwives often has to challenge social norms in rural villages since it is common for people to think that giving birth requires no professional assistance for a cost and that therefore no midwives are needed.

A midwife called Faiza recalled she once had to confront a husband, telling him that it was his responsibility as husband and father to ensure that both the infant and the mother stayed well. She said she regards it as her social responsibility to save the lives of the people in the village because she is the only one in the village who has the skill and the expertise to do so. Equally, it would be Japan's social responsibility in the international community to provide such assistance to save lives in Africa through individuals like Faiza.

Wars not only take lives in battle, but also cause significant delays in anti-poverty programmes and the implementation of health services. The negative effects will be manifested evidently in high maternal and child mortality rates in the years that follow unless adequate services are provided in time. Vibrant Africa will only be realized if these problems are properly addressed. Reaching a peace agreement is one thing, but building peace is another. The initiative has to go on because it takes longer to secure peace than to break it.

Aiko Doden is Senior News Commentator at the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK).

The views expressed in this piece are the author's own and should not be attributed to The Association of Japanese Institutes of Strategic Studies.

Contention Over Rankings of African Nations
written by: Celia W. Dugger, 06-Oct-09

JOHANNESBURG - Two independent ratings of Africa's best- and worst-governed nations - one released Monday, the other last week - both put Mauritius at the top of the heap and Somalia at the bottom and reached often similar, though far from identical, conclusions about the 51 countries in between.

But behind these efforts to assess the voluminous evidence on African governance - a catchall phrase that includes measures like corruption, vaccine coverage, crime rates and armed conflict - lies a dispute between a Harvard political scientist, Robert Rotberg, and a wealthy Sudanese-born philanthropist, Mo Ibrahim, who used to finance his research.

For the past two years, Professor Rotberg, the head of a program on conflict resolution at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and Mr. Ibrahim, who leads his own foundation, collaborated to produce the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. But they parted ways over who should have final say.

Last week, Professor Rotberg and his colleague, Rachel M. Gisselquist, released their Index of African Governance. Their work is now supported by the Boston-based World Peace Foundation, which Professor Rotberg leads.

In an interview after the indexes were released, Mr. Ibrahim said decisions about the Ibrahim index were always meant to shift to the African researchers and institutions that his foundation's board had increasingly brought into the process - a shift he said Professor Rotberg had resisted.

"Why should an American gentleman sitting in Boston have editorial control?" Mr. Ibrahim asked. "That is unacceptable."

Professor Rotberg saw the dispute differently. He said he and Ms. Gisselquist had invented the index and wanted to retain authority over it. "The issue is academic freedom versus foundation control," he said in a telephone interview on Monday.

The two rival ratings count 9 out of 10 of the same countries among the best and worst governed, though not in the same order. Among the best governed, both name Mauritius, Seychelles, Cape Verde, Botswana, Tunisia, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa and São Tomé and Príncipe. The Rotberg index also includes Algeria in the top 10, while the Ibrahim index counts Lesotho.

Among the worst performers, both count Guinea, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Congo, Chad, Sudan and Somalia. For the Rotberg index, Angola made the bottom 10, while the Ibrahim index included Equatorial Guinea.

They had more substantive differences over rankings for nations in the middle. For example, the Rotberg index ranked Malawi, a small, impoverished southern African nation, 14th, while the Ibrahim index put it 25th.

Daniel Kaufmann, a Brookings Institution expert on corruption who is advising the Ibrahim Foundation, said the effort to make the index an African assessment of African governance could add to its influence on a continent where there is still suspicion of Western research.

"It will be harder to reject because of the Africanization," said Mr. Kaufmann, who was formerly at the World Bank Institute, where he shaped its global governance ratings.

The Ibrahim Foundation has placed full-page advertisements in newspapers in 45 African countries describing its findings in local languages, an attempt to inform a broader public and to encourage civic groups to take advantage of the trove of information on its Web site.

Advisers on the Ibrahim index say it relies on more recent data - from 2008, as well as 2007 - and tracks a broader array of information, including assessments by experts, than does the Rotberg index.

Professor Rotberg said empirical data comparable across countries - the main basis for his and Ms. Gisselquist's rankings - were generally not available for the previous year. That is why they used 2007 data for the 2009 index.

Both indexes offer elaborate and detailed breakdowns of dozens of indicators. Some who have researched similar issues but are not involved in either of the new indexes, like Hennie van Vuuren, in the Cape Town office of the Institute for Security Studies, said the split that led to two indexes was unfortunate.

"It would make much more sense to pool resources and have a methodologically strong index - an instrument that African governments and civil society groups can trust to be a mirror of the state of governance on the African continent," he said.