UN calls for free, fair elections in Somali regional state

A senior UN envoy in Somalia has called on presidential candidates in the country’s South West State to promote a free, fair and transparent vote in the state’s regional assembly.

Raisedon Zenenga, UN secretary general’s deputy special representative for Somalia, stressed the world body’s stance of impartiality in the elections which are very crucial for stability of the Horn of Africa nation.

“We are there to support the process and make it more transparent and more credible so that the result is not contentious and is accepted widely,” said Zenenga in a statement released by the UN mission in Somalia on Tuesday evening.

“We have a stake in the election in the sense that we want to see a credible one, (but) we don’t support any particular candidate,” the UN official said in Baidoa, the interim capital of South West State.

South West State elections are the first in a series to be held around the country – both at the regional level next year and national level in 2020 and the UN says there is a real need to set the precedent for credible and peaceful electoral processes.

The election is scheduled to take place in the state’s 149-seat regional assembly on Saturday, but the resignation of most of the members of the election’s organizing committee earlier this month has cast doubt on the timing of the vote.

“The date is not a priority for us – the priority is to ensure that a proper process is followed and that all stakeholders are consulted,” Zenenga emphasized.

“Our role is to support the Somalis, who own and lead this process, to ensure that the election is free, fair and devoid of violence,” he added.

The state’s former president Sharif Hassan resigned on Nov. 7 and withdrew from the upcoming election, citing widespread interference in the poll.

Major contenders for the presidential election include former finance minister Mohamed Aden Fargeti and Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, a co-founder of the al-Shabab. Robow has since abandoned the terror group.

While in Baidoa, the UN official met with senior federal and state government officials, as well as a dozen presidential candidates. Zenenga also met with six clan elders from the Federal Member State.

During his meetings on Tuesday, Zenenga offered the resources of the UN to conduct capacity-building workshops for members of the election organizing committee, with a focus on their duties and responsibilities.