Breaking the Cycle of Gender Exclusion in Puntland

By: Samsam Said Mohamed

Gender Advisor-MOWDAFA


Puntland state of Somalia was established in August 1998 as an autonomous regional government and part of the future federal state of Somalia. The consultative formation process was comprehensive with traditional elders and local leaders laying the foundation of the state. A clan based political structure emerged with the administrative body of the government consisting of the legislature, judiciary and executive arms. Since then, five Presidential elections have been held – 1998, 2005, 2009, 2014 and 2019, all characterized by relatively peaceful transfer of power and continuity of state functions. However, these elections have been conducted through clan-based system where traditional elders “Isimo” select sixty-six (66) members of parliament who later elect the President, vice president and speaker of the parliament. This is not only un democratic but also a complex power sharing arrangement among the clans.

The process of constitutionalizing democratic elections in Puntland began in 2008 under President Adde Muse’s through a draft constitution which was later adopted following a constituent assembly vote during President Farole’s administration. The draft constitution received an overwhelming acceptance in 2012 with 472 votes from 480 delegates. This resulted in the introduction of a multi-party system for the first time in Puntland’s history.

The government enacted the new electoral law that culminated in the establishment of a nine-member of Transitional Puntland Electoral Commission. The commission conducted public awareness campaigns from September 2012, and later registered only five political parties, although they have worked well and put their best efforts but they did not succeed to hold an election due to many challenges they face that resulting in the indefinite postponement of the elections, which were to be the first democratic election in Puntland since 1969. Consequently, clan elders treaded in and resorted back to clan-based system in selecting members of parliament who then elected the current President, Vice President and the Speaker of the Parliament.

In the beginning of current administration of Puntland led by president Seid Abdullahi Deni , was nominated members of Transitional Puntland electoral commission, which has the profound mandate to manage and conduct local government elections (LGE), the commission was started early for the realization of democratization process and it has done an extraordinary work on the first phases of this process which was registered ten official political organizations who filled the required procedures. Later on, two of the organizations were joined together, and later 8 of the political organizations were planned to attend local government elections and three districts were piloted the elections.

As the transitional Puntland Electoral Commission has computed out of 46,839 registered voters, 37,578 voters have received their voting cards. This is huge indication of the level of engagement for the public and the yearning to participate in the electoral process in a democratic way. The commission were prepared 55 polling stations at the three districts and 350 trained working staff. In all the 55 polling stations there were local and international observers aiming to witness the accuracy of the procedures and the fairness of the process. representatives from the each competing political associations were present at each polling station.

There were 449 candidates from Eight political organizations running for Eighty -Seven (87) seats in the three districts, Kardo(33 Seats) , Eyl ( 27 Seats) and Ufeyn (27 Seats) , a total of 142 women candidates were included. For the weeks political organizations were strengthened their campaign using poets, stickers, megaphones, messages, debates, songs, door-to door campaigning in preparation for this great historic day.

Democracy Day

On Monday 25 October,2021 marked a great milestone for the people of Puntland, especially residents of Ufeyn, Eyl, and Kardo districts which stood long lines to nightfall to cast their votes for the first time in local government elections ever held in Puntland after 23 years of government. The voting was started at 6Am in the morning and closed to 6Pm. This day was great and historic day for all Puntland people it appeared that all the people have equal rights to participate in the process, old, young, women and men, able and disabled all were equals to that day, as they should be in exercising their rights of self-determination and participation in the administration of public life.

The transition of Puntland electoral commission(TPEC) were announced a preliminary results after completing counting votes from all the three districts for the second day 26 October, 2021 , the most interesting stories was that two brothers become part of the council for one district but different political organizations , a man and his wife joined the council in one district with same political organization, a displaced man who joined the council of kardo who lived only five years, the main attractive issue was that women found 26.4% (23 seats ) from the three districts, and the percentage of each district was also something very good and hopeful, in kardo the seats were 33 and 9 of them were elected by women (27%) , Ufeyn, was 27 where 8 of the seats elected by women ( 29.6%) and Eyl was 27 seats and 6 of them elected by women (22%) . this shows that this process is helping women’ s political participation and leadership, and political transitions are moments to break patterns of exclusion.

In conclusion the transitions can be openings to transform the broader political, legal, and social barriers to an inclusive kind of politics, however to support gender inclusion within newly formed political organizations during and following political transitions, coalition building and women’s broad-based mobilization is important for the remaining 47 districts in Puntland. It is also critical that parties include principles of gender equality in their foundational documents, as these commitments can provide anchors for sustained internal advocacy for women inclusion. I hope that Puntland government will complete the remaining districts for local government elections, I am confident enough that people of Puntland are committed to elect their representatives and they aspire to free and fair elections.


  1. Puntland Development and Research Center (PDRC)
  2. Transitional Puntland Electoral Commission (TPEC)

Written by: Samsam Said Mohamed

Gender Advisor-MOWDAFA