Somalia: Territorial dispute arises over voter registration

MOGADISHU, Somalia (Caasimada Online) – The Galmudug regional government in Somalia has raised concerns about what it calls encroachment by the neighboring State of Puntland over the ongoing voter registration exercise. 

The disputed areas, Dhinowda and Hirsalama, are located in Mudug region, which is under the jurisdiction of Galmudug state.

According to Abshir Abdi Sheikhow, the Minister of Information for Galmudug state, Puntland conducted voter registration in the contested areas, prompting protests from the government. 

“While we may entertain the idea of permitting you to register individuals who reside outside of Puntland and its territories beyond our jurisdiction, it is of utmost importance that we take great care to avoid jeopardizing the safety and peaceful coexistence of our fellow brothers and sisters in those areas, Sheikhow said.

Previous territorial deputies 

This is not the first time Puntland and Galmudug have disagreed over territory.

In 2015, the Galmudug state was established, prompting objections from Puntland, arguing that half of the Mudug region had been removed from its jurisdiction. 

A portion of Mudug subsequently merged with Galgadud region to form the Galmudug state.

Puntland contended that this action contravened the Provisional Constitution, which permits two or more regions to unite and create a Federal Member State.

Similar disputes have also arisen over voter registration in the contested Sool region, claimed by Puntland and Somaliland.

Puntland’s first direct elections 

Puntland is currently conducting voter registration ahead of district council elections scheduled for May 25, 2023. According to State President Abdullahi Deni, the elections will proceed as planned. 

In October of 2021, Puntland carried out a trial run in the districts of Eyl, Ufeyn, and Qardo, resulting in the election of 87 council members through a process involving nearly 30,000 voters. 

The Transitional Puntland Electoral Commission (TPEC) had facilitated voter registration since the previous year in anticipation of the upcoming district council elections. 

These elections will be a first in Somalia, which has previously relied on clan-based electoral options.

On the other hand, the self-declared Republic of Somaliland has effectively organized one-person-one-vote elections for presidential, parliamentary, and local government positions.