All aspirants for various political seats in the 2022 elections from the Somali community in Isiolo must be vetted before they are allowed to vie, an elder’s council has said.
Isiolo’s Somali Council of Elders Chairperson Shariff Abdullahi maintained that every aspirant will be subjected to the process where elders from the 10 sub-clans cast their votes through secret balloting and those who rebel will not get support from the community.
The process, which is part of negotiated democracy, is being undertaken by 30 elders, with each clan being represented by three delegates.
“Anyone who wants to lead the community should know that secret balloting is the system we will be using for all aspirants including those seeking to be deputies to gubernatorial hopefuls,” Mr Abdullahi said in Isiolo town on Saturday during the selection of candidates to represent the community in Burat and Bulapesa wards seats.
Mr Mohammed Barre Ahmed and Ismail Jama Sufi were picked by the elders and issued with certificates to vie for Burat and Bulapesa MCA seats respectively in the 2022 General Elections during the highly contested exercise that almost came to a standstill after one of the candidates walked out protesting the results, alleging bias.
Mr Barre, who was among the four who had expressed interest, garnered 12 votes while Anab Kassim, Mohammed Abbas Sheikh and Mohammed Hussein Dima got six votes each.
Mr Sufi won with 23 votes while Mr Jamal Ahmed Bolti garnered seven votes in the disputed exercise that the latter claimed was biased, saying some of the electoral officials had vested interests.
Disputed elders’ verdict
Mr Ahmed’s supporters thronged the venue before the exercise was over and disputed the elders’ verdict, saying they were determined to help the candidate clinch the seat.
The Bulapesa residents said they will not allow elders to impose on them a candidate who had no touch with the community at the expense of one who has been with them all through and is aware of the challenges they face.
“We do not know the one who was picked by the elders to vie for Bulapesa seat. We are the ones to decide,” Ms Zainab Qalicha said.
The disgruntled aspirant claimed that some of the elders were bribed to vote in a certain way, allegations that the elders dismissed.
“We have no confidence in them (elders) and they should know that votes are with the residents. Let us meet at the ballot,” Mr Ahmed said.
Mr Abbas, Mr Hussein and Ms Kassim, who dropped their bids, vowed to support Mr Barre for the Burat MCA seat.
“We all have one aim of serving our community with fairness and integrity and uplifting the lives of our people,” Mr Hussein said.
Back to activism
Ms Kassim, a gender activist, said she will revert back to activism and offer her full support to the selected candidate but decried cultural barriers limiting women’s involvement in politics.
“It is so sad that elders in the 21st century look at our dresses and not the ability and the knowledge we have. Elders have never seen us as leaders and I wonder how men will fight female genital mutilation, early marriages and champion for the girl child’s education,” she said, adding that women had been kept off the political table.
While majority of the aspirants agreed to abide by the elders' verdict, some still feel those who have been in politics for some time should be considered instead of newcomers. This is likely to divide the community politically.
Isiolo Deputy Governor Abdi Issa said there should be some provision within the delegates voting system to address issues and petitions by aspirants who feel dissatisfied with the process.
“We support the process by the elders and it should be fair and democratic,” Dr Issa said while appealing to those selected and those who lost to unite and work together in mobilising votes and propelling the community’s agenda.