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Who’s who in Somaliland politics

A Street in Hargeisa, capital of the secessionist territory of Somaliland Mohammed Amin Jibril/IRIN
A street in Hargeisa, the Somaliland capital: Political events in recent months have rocked the region's relative stability (file photo)
Since Somaliland unilaterally broke away from the rest of Somalia in 1991, it has prided itself on its relative peace and the development of democratic institutions, but political events in recent months have rocked its stability.

This article offers a brief overview of Somaliland’s political landscape.

Dahir Riyale Kahin, who leads the United People’s Democratic Party (UDUB), was elevated from Somaliland’s vice-president to president in 2002 on the death of Mohamed Ibrahim Egal. He very narrowly won a presidential election in 2003.

Riyale, who once served as a colonel in Somalia’s infamous National Security Service under the late president Mohamed Siad Barre, comes from Borama near the Ethiopian border and belongs the Gadobirsey clan. He used to enjoy considerable support from the Isak, Somaliland’s dominant clan, whose internal divisions made an outsider more appealing than conflict. This support has waned over the last few years.

He is now facing his biggest political challenge from two opposition parties who hold a majority in the lower house of parliament. “It is very hard to see how he can overcome this challenge. The numbers are against him," said one political observer in Hargeysa, the capital.

Ahmed Mohamed Mahamoud, universally known as Silaanyo, leads the Development and Solidarity Party, or Kulmiye, and is considered the leader of the opposition. He lost by fewer than 100 votes to Riyale in 2003.

Silaanyo, in his 70s, served in different ministerial positions in the Somali government in the 1970s and 1980s before joining the armed opposition. He was one of the main leaders of the Somali National Movement, which helped oust Siyad Barre in 1991, and later served in the Somaliland government as a minister under Egal.

He belongs to the Habar Jelo, a subclan of the Isak, and hails from Burao, the second largest city in Somaliland. He is the man most likely to be the next president of Somaliland if he can unite the Isak vote.

Opposition supporters demonstrating in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, to protest the government's decision to hold presidential elections on 27 September without voter registration lists 200908250803530669
Photo: Mohamed Amin Jibril/IRIN
Opposition supporters at a recent demonstration in Hargeisa. They were protesting a move by the government not to use voter registers during the presidential election, which as since been postponed indefinitely (file photo)
Faisal Ali Warabe, leader of the Justice and Welfare Party, or UCID, is an engineer by profession. He was a senior civil servant in the Somali government before the fall of Barre. He is a latecomer to Somaliland politics but is considered one of the most charismatic politicians in the region and one of the few to advocate the rights of marginalized communities. His party holds the third largest number of seats in the lower house. Warabe is from Hargeysa and is a member of the Isak subclan, Iidagale.

Suleiman Mahamud Aden is the leader of the upper house of parliament, or Guurti, and is one of the people publicly working for a peaceful solution to the current crisis. Suleiman Gaal, as he is better known, will be the main beneficiary if an impeachment process launched by the opposition against Riyale goes through. As leader of the Upper House, under the constitution, he will assume the presidency until elections are held.

Abdirahman Mohamed Abdillahi, widely known as Iro, is a member of UCID and close ally of Warabe’s. He is the speaker of the lower house of parliament and among those the government has accused of fomenting the current crisis by pushing for Riyale’s impeachment. Iro is seen as a likely candidate for interim vice-president should Suleiman Gaal assume the top job.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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