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Voter-Registration Campaign In The Awdal Region Proceeding Well
Borama, Somaliland, October 25, 2008 (SL Times) – A voter-registration campaign that was launched in Somaliland 's Awdal region on Friday is reportedly proceeding well.
The voter-registration drive was to be conducted from 6am to 6pm for 5 days at 150 stations that the National Electoral Commission has earmarked for that purpose.
A territorial dispute between Awdal and the neighboring Gabiley district of Hargeysa has led to the withdrawal of registration teams from 4 localities.
Voter-registration is a mandatory exercise which is required to be carried out before the next presidential elections which is scheduled to take place in March 2009.
The voter-registration program which started off in the Sahil region on last week, was planned to engulf all Somaliland 's 6 regions.
The NEC estimates the number of people it has registered in Sahil at 50,000.
The registration drive in the Sahil region was marred by equipment failure and lack of adequate skills on the part of computer operators. The NEC had to extend the 5-day registration period by one more day.
The registration teams were unable to meet the target of having one voter registered for every 3 minutes. Their best score ranged from 10-20 minutes per voter, thereby slowing down the registration drive.
However from yesterday's results, the registration progressed at a faster pace. The improvement in the registration teams' performance was attributed to a better planning this time round in addition to the lessons learned from the Sahil experience.
Meanwhile it wasn't yet known why the NEC Chairman Kabaweyne and his deputy Bikalo took the decision of relieving the head and deputy head of the Awdal electoral commission of their jobs on Thursday or less than 24 hours before the registration drive in the region was about to be launched.
The action has already prompted voices within the NEC to demand removal of Kabaweyne and Bikalo from their current posts. The 2 men have been widely accused of corruption.
On last week alone, Kabaweyne pocketed at least $17,000 for himself as perdium and expenses incurred during the Sahil registration campaign.
According to a Somaliland Times ' investigation, no such expenses were spent and paid by Kabaweyne.
In the last several months the NEC has been busy trying to put in place the necessary technical and administrative infrastructure for the implementation of the voter registration program.
In early this month, the NEC mobilized the Somaliland media and the local NGOs sector to carryout the preliminary task of educating the public on the registration drive that was to be conducted throughout the country.
According to the law all Somaliland citizens at the age of 16 and above can vote and hence are deemed eligible to register for voting.
Over 900 registration stations were to be established at rural and urban centers across the country with each one of them to be manned by NEC officers assisted by representatives of the ministry of Interior, the regional court of appeals and the 3 political parties.
The staffs from the ministry of Interior and the courts are responsible for verifying and certifying whether applicants are Somaliland citizens or not. Non-Somaliland citizens are not allowed to register.
Besides the voter-registration card, every registrant will be issued a citizenship identification card.