afrol News, 4 June - The second multi-party elections for the presidency of the breakaway republic of Somaliland have kicked off, promising a tight fight between President Dahir Riyale Kahin and opposition leader Ahmed Mahamoud Silanyo.
The Somalilander government yesterday kicked off the election campaign with a short statement: "Somaliland presidential election campaign started officially today, and the three political parties allotted certain days to do their campaign outings. The election is to take place on 26 June, 2010, which will fall on the 50 Anniversary of Somaliland's independence day."
The presidential elections were originally scheduled for August 2008, but were first postponed as two Somaliland provinces were occupied by the Somali province of Puntland. After several postponements and increased pressure from the main opposition party Kulmiye, President Riyale this year finally decreed the 26 June as election date.
President Riyale's UDUB party has dominated the country since it broke away from Somalia in 1991, re-establishing the Somaliland Republic that gained independence from Britain in 1960 and soon thereafter joined former Italian Somaliland to form Somalia.
But re-established Somaliland - which has not been recognised by any country yet - has a vivid political life, with the population split between the main parties UDUB and Kulmiye. Every election held in Somaliland has proven a close race between the two parties.
The closest political race in Africa's election history was seen in Somaliland's last presidential poll, in April 2003. President Riyale won the vote with 42.08 percent of the poll, followed by Kulmiye Mr Silanyo receiving 42.07 percent of votes. A re-count showed that only a few hundred votes stood between the two candidates.
A smaller party, UCID, however recorded a strongly increased popularity during Somaliland's last elections, in September 2005, as the Hargeisa parliament was reshuffled. UCID at that occasion got 26.9 percent of the vote, and has thus put an end to the older two-party system.
A good performance by the UCID candidate in this month's presidential polls is believed to threaten Kulmiye candidate Silanyo to a greater degree than the incumbent as no second poll round is planned for. Mr Silanyo is expected to need a united opposition to have a good shoot at President Riyale.
The Somalilander President enjoys some popularity for being able to provide the country with a stable government while neighbouring Somalia still is ruled by chaos and violence. But the population is also disappointed by Mr Riyale's failure to protect the national territory from Puntland and his failure to achieve international recognition.
The lack of foreign recognition is costing Somaliland and its citizens dearly, making economic development a difficult task. This also means that Somaliland is not eligible for international funding and development aid and stands unprotected against Somalia's outspoken aims of re-annexing Somaliland.
Foreign policies thus have sailed up as a topic in the elections. Kulmiye promises voters to "use effective diplomatic tools" to achieve international recognition, wowing to engage "African states, America and Europe." But these priorities do not differ from President Riyale's policies and his limited tools.
Somaliland's elections so far have been deemed both free and fair by international observers. This year, observers from the African parliament are to oversee the presidential polls.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.