MOGADISHU: Historically, persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Somalia have rarely participated in elections either as candidates or voters due to prevailing cultural stigmatization against PWDs, the absence of political will to recognize PWDs’ participation to the political process and a lack of awareness on their rights to participate in the electoral process. Somali Provisional Constitution recognizes citizens’ right to participate in free and fair elections. With all means and measures possible, the Federal Government of Somalia requires to guarantee persons with disabilities’ political rights and the opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others. One of the ways that people with disabilities take part in politics is guaranteeing the free expression of the will of persons with disabilities as electors and to this end, where necessary, allowing assistance in bringing them into the voting process by a person of their own choice.
Recognizing the barriers for PWD’s right to participate in the political process such as lack of political will by the Somali leadership and stigma and negative social attitudes, the government and other actors involved in Somalia’s electoral process can help people with disabilities to take part in politics through various means: provision of training about politics to people with disabilities and disability organizations, encourage the governments and people working in elections process to develop roadmaps, policies and partnerships with Somali stakeholders during election planning and preparations that will help more people with disabilities take part in politics, involve disability organizations for people with disabilities in developing education campaigns about their rights to vote by a person of their own choice.
Voting gives people with disabilities a stronger political voice. People with disabilities who vote in elections show the public that they are equal citizens. In the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, the Federal Government of Somalia needs to recognize mutual respect of all citizens and equal representation of all communities in Somalia. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities underscores the equal right of persons with disabilities to participate in political life. It is unfortunate for the people of Somalia, in particular for persons with disabilities who represent 15% of the population lack their political representation in the government.
Somali Disability Empowerment Network (SODEN) is deeply saddened about the unconstitutional political exclusion of persons with disabilities from the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. SODEN, as a representative organization of the people living with disabilities (PWDs) in Somalia, we are appealing to the Federal Government of Somalia, International Partners, and all Somali stakeholders to recognize that persons with disabilities have equal rights with other citizens and realize their participation to the parliamentary and presidential elections process.