- In the breakaway republic of Somaliland, voter registration resumed yesterday amidst heavy security, following a delay caused by an October terrorist attack. Presidential and local elections are planned for early 2009.
According to local media sources, the registration programme resumed yesterday morning in the local region of Marodi Jeh, made up of 377 local registration locations guarded by members of the Somaliland police force. According to these same sources, participation of local residents appeared to have been steady with long lines outside the registration locations from 6:30 am until around noon prayers.
Marodi Jeh, which is the most populated region of Somaliland, is expected to provide a strong test of the registration programme. Te programme for the first time include the use of bio-metric technology for registering voters in the 2009 presidential and local assemblies polls.
Among those who registered this morning at various locations around Hargeisa, included the President of Somaliland, Dahir Rayale Kahin, the leaders of the two Somaliland opposition parties, Kulmiyee and UCID, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud and Faisal Ali Warabe.
Speaking to local media outside the registration office, Somaliland President Rayale presented his new voter registration card, which included his photograph, name and other personal information. Mr Rayale encouraged the people of Somaliland to take part in the voter registration programme in order to exercise their democratic rights.
Also addressing the Somaliland media at their respective registration locations, the leaders of Somaliland's opposition parties, Mr Mohamud and Mr Warabe, welcomed the resumption of the voter registration programme after the recent terrorist attacks and also displayed their new voting cards.
According to local media sources, the majority of the registration locations around Marodi Jeh region appear to be conducting their work, although there are reports of at least ten locations in which the registration officers reported some technical difficulties, which had led to delays.
The voter registration drive programme is expected to take at least six day in the Marodi Jeh province, with offices open from 6am till 8pm local time. For other, less central provinces, it is yet to be announced a detailed schedule.
Somaliland has been a self-ruled entity since 1991, when the former British colony unilaterally declared its renewed independence from former Italian Somalia. During the last 17 years, Somaliland has developed a well-functioning democracy, with free and fair elections being held regularly, according to international observers. Somaliland's drive to be recognised by the international community however has failed so far.
The country's reputation of a safe harbour in an otherwise unstable Horn of Africa region has been challenged by several terrorist attacks. The latest was on 29 October, with bombs exploding simultaneously at the presidential palace and the Ethiopian embassy in the capital, Hargeisa. The attacks, bearing the fingerprint of al-Qaeda, killed around 20 civilians and caused an interruption in the country's voter registration.
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