Civil society organizations (CSOs) in Somaliland continue to play a pivotal role in the country’s democratic transition. Despite the multiple challenges and risks they face, CSOs have been at the forefront in advocating for inclusive and democratic governance processes, protection of human rights and strengthening accountability and the rule of law in Somaliland. Among the key legislations CSOs have been engaged with and their status are outlined below:

Anti-Rape Act (Sexual Offences Bill)

Anti-Rape Act (Sexual Offences Bill)

Status: Pending

On 25th August 2020, the Somaliland House of Representatives passed this Bill but with significant amendments. The new version differs from the original bill which CSOs were advocating for. Currently, the Bill is with the Guurti (Upper House of Parliament); it is unclear when theyplan to discuss it and if they will approve (with or without amendments) or reject it.

Brief history of the Bill

The original version of the Bill that was passed by both Houses and signed by the President into law in January 2018 was disputed by the religious leaders on the grounds that some of its provisions contravene religious teachings; in the circumstances, the President returned the Bill back to the Lower House for amendments to address the concerns raised by religious leaders.

According to the Somaliland Women in Law Initiative (WALI), The Somaliland Ministry Employment, Social, and Family Affairs stated that there have been 520 rape cases reported in 2018 while in 2019 there have been more than 460 cases. In addition, rape cases are the least reported crimes. Women and girls do not have adequate awareness and access on how to report rape while the relevant government authorities do not officially publish data on rape.

To address the increasing incidences of rape and other sexual offences, the Sexual Offences Bill was developed in a process that was spearhead by civil society organisations and brought together civil society, academia and government officials. The Bill was presented to parliament for debate and finally approved in 2018.

Religious leaders criticized the Bill stating that it violated the culture and the principles of the Islamic sharia. There is still an opportunity for CSOs to influence the Bill; to do this, they will need to re-organize themselves and strategies – including bringing on board other players to support their efforts. A major challenge is that religious leaders are more influential than civil society and their views given more weight/consideration by policy makers.

Women and minority quota Bill

Women and minority quota Bill

Status: Failed

On 27 August 2020, the House of Representatives approved an amended electoral law that disregards quota for women and minority groups.

In August, the Somaliland House of Representatives appointed an advisory subcommittee to review the current electoral law, including the 20% seat allocation for women and propose amendments. On xxx the committee proposed several changes including the removal of quota reserved for women from the law on the ground that reserving a quota for a particular group or gender goes against the constitution of Somaliland. Currently the proposed amendments to the electoral law are being discussed in the Lower House.

Brief history of the bill

Allocating at least 20% of the 82 parliamentary seats for women candidates has been a feature of Somaliland’s electoral system since the country adopted a multi-party election system.

  • On 12 July 2012, the draft law on women’s quota was brought before the House of Representatives; a majority of MPs rejected the draft law on technical grounds with the result that the proposal was returned to the advisory subcommittee of the House.
  • On 30 January 2013, President Ahmed Mahamoud ‘Silanyo’ reiterated his support for the women’s quota in an address to the two houses, urging elected officials to reconsider their position and pass the law.
  • In 2017, during his campaign for presidency, the current president of Somaliland committed to approving the women quota, if elected. Soon after his election in 2018 his cabinet approved 20% of the (82) parliament seats to be allocated for women.

There are significant cultural and religious limitations to women’s political participation and many religious leaders are opposed to allocation of quota for women; this is exacerbated by limited access to financial resources by women which hinders their (women) political upward mobility.

CSOs strongly opposed the amendment and held meetings trying to influence certain leaders in the house to reject the amendments proposed by the committee. Despite the rejection of the proposed quota by the committee, on 3rd September the three political parties in Somaliland agreed to reserve the women and minority quota within their parties to promote women leadership and women participation in politics

In Somalia/land’s traditional patriarchal society there is little opportunity for women in key decision-making roles. However Somaliland’s move from a clan-based to semi-democratic multi-party system is already bringing opportunities for women.

Somaliland women remain optimistic that progress is imminent but they realize that forces wishing to maintain the status quo will remain a significant obstacle.

Somaliland Electoral Law

Somaliland electoral law

Current Status: Passed the Upper House (Guurti)

Date passed: 06 October 2020
The Somaliland electoral law is currently on the President’s desk for signature. On 6th October the House of Elders (Guurti) overwhelmingly voted for the bill without further amendments to the version approved by the House of Representatives on 27 August 2020. The bill excluded women and minority group’s quota

A brief history of the bill
On 12 July 2020, the three political parties in Somaliland (Wadani, UCID and Kulmiye) and the national electoral commission reached an agreement to conduct Local Council and parliamentary elections in 2020. Major issues holding back the elections were:

  • Clan seat allocation which some clans believe was not based on a fair power sharing deal. The current formula for the allocation of representatives seats per region in 2005 law is based on the February 1960 allocation of Somaliland legislative council seats
  • Opposition political parties did not have confidence in the new election commission

To address this challenge, the leaders of the three political parties agreed that the President will send the clan seat allocation argument to the constitutional court for a decision. On 27 August 2020, the Somaliland Constitutional Court ruled that unless a census is conducted, it is not possible to review the seat allocation which Somaliland parliament approved in 2003. The court decided that the regional representation in parliament will be distributed as follows: 20 Hargeisa; 15 Burco; 13 Borama; 12 LasAnod; 12 Erigabo; and 10 Sahil.

The first election bill drafted by the Somaliland Ministry of Interior in 2001 was largely based Somalia’s 1964 law; it was revised in 2005.

Somaliland CSOs have been and continue to advocate for inclusivity particularly the marginalized such as women, youth and minority communities.