Shukri Ismail

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Country of Reform
Richard Bennet and Michael Woldemariam
Shukri Ismail
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Hargeisa, Somaliland
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Reform Profile

Shukri Ismail discusses the formation and work of Somaliland’s first national election commission. She explains the difficulties the commission faced organizing Somaliland’s first elections, which included a difficult voter registration process, setting the election timetable and dealing with weak and newly formed state institutions and untested election law. Ismail also discusses the difficulties with political party formation, hiring and training election staff and the potential for violence when the commission ultimately determined the presidential election had been won by 80 votes. She also touches on working with international consultants, the electoral commission’s relationship with the media, the role of the clan in Somaliland’s elections, the lessons learned from Somaliland’s first elections and the challenges still ahead.

Case Study:  Nurturing Democracy in the Horn of Africa: Somaliland's First Elections, 2002-2005


At the time of this interview Shukri Ismail was the founder and director of Candle Light, a health, education, and environment non-profit based in Somaliland. She was the only female national election commissioner with Somaliland’s first National Election Commission.

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Shukri Ismail Interview

Nurturing Democracy in the Horn of Africa: Somaliland's First Elections, 2002-2005

Richard Bennet and Michael Woldemariam
Country of Reform
A decade after the former British protectorate of Somaliland severed ties with the rest of Somalia and declared independence, the fledgling state took the next steps toward democracy by holding direct elections. This transition occurred over the course of four years and three elections, during which the people of Somaliland elected district councils in 2002, a president and vice president in 2003, and a parliament in 2005. Somaliland’s democratic elections, the first in the Horn of Africa since 1969, were landmark achievements, as traditional social and political mechanisms legitimized the results and reinforced stability in the aftermath. The inexperienced and under-resourced National Electoral Commission successfully navigated the development of political parties, avoided the potential for violence when the margin of victory in the presidential election was only 80 votes, and managed an improved parliamentary election by introducing innovations that made the electoral process operate more smoothly. By avoiding violence and building consensus for peaceful, democratic transitions, Somaliland’s first elections highlighted a mix of traditional and democratic innovations conducted in a resource-poor environment.
Richard Bennet and Michael Woldemariam drafted this policy note on the basis of interviews conducted in Somaliland during October 2010. For a detailed look at the establishment of civilian government in Somaliland from 1991 to 2001, see the companion case study, “Navigating a Broken Transition to Civilian Rule.”
Associated Interview(s):  Adan Yusuf Abokor, Shukri Ismail, Mohamed Fadal

Navigating a Broken Transition to Civilian Rule: Somaliland: 1991-2001

Richard Bennet, Michael Woldemariam
Country of Reform
After nearly a decade of civil war, Somaliland declared independence in 1991 amid high expectations. Though the war had left the East African country desperately poor and deeply divided, the rebel organization that had won liberation, the Somali National Movement (SNM), had taken steps to ensure that peace and public order would be preserved in the run-up to a transition to civilian government in May 1993. Yet scarcely a year into its administration, the SNM imploded, unleashing a spiral of violence that threatened the country’s future. As the prospect of all-out warfare loomed throughout 1992, the government of SNM Chairman Abdulrahman Ahmed Ali Tuur struggled to navigate the stormy transition from fragmented rebel rule to a legitimate civilian administration. This case study describes these efforts and focuses on the political consensus building that brought Tuur’s successor, President Mohammed Ibrahim Egal, to power. Egal’s early efforts to build coalitions, manage political opponents and disarm clan militias were more successful than Tuur’s, although problems of insecurity and violence persisted. The case offers broader insights into ensuring peace in post-conflict societies and demonstrates how many of the actions needed to build short-term political consensus can come at the expense of long-term efforts to bolster good governance.

Richard Bennet and Michael Woldemariam drafted this policy note on the basis of interviews conducted in Hargeisa, Somaliland, in October 2010. The companion case study, “Nurturing Democracy in the Horn of Africa: Somaliland’s First Elections, 2002-2005,” examines how Somaliland successfully avoided violence and instituted efficient electoral processes.

Associated Interview:  Adan Yusuf Abokor, Mohamed Fadal