AMISOM and FEIT meet with Civil Society Organizations over peaceful poll

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The AU Mission in Somalia in conjunction with the Federal Electoral Implementation Team (FEIT) on Saturday held a meeting with representatives of Civil Society Organizations (CSO) to explore ways of deepening the role of CSOs in ensuring peaceful elections, and in countering hate speech and incitement to violence during the upcoming elections.

Organized by FEIT and the political unit of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the meeting deliberated on ways of fostering democracy, ensuring equal representation of women, youth and persons with disabilities; promotion of human rights and democratic governance, as well as promotion of media freedom and free speech ahead of the elections.

FEIT Chairperson, Mohamed Hassan Irro, on the sidelines of the symposium recognized the importance of CSOs in ensuring peaceful elections and noted that the electoral body has put in place mechanisms to ensure that the rights of women and other groups are safeguarded in the upcoming elections.

“Civil society organizations are playing a critical role in the 2020/2021 elections. Unlike the 2016 elections, the civil society will select delegates just like clan elders, who will in turn elect their representatives. We have put in place mechanisms that give and safeguard their interests” said the Chairperson.

The meeting is part of wider efforts to ensure that Somalia holds credible and violence free elections.

At the meeting, representatives of CSOs hailed the FEIT for its commitment to accommodate views of different groups by reaching out to various groups and stakeholders ahead of the elections.

Mohammed Abdisalam Dirie, a visually impaired activist, praised the electoral body for its efforts but urged FEIT to consider producing ballot boxes that cater for the needs of persons with disabilities, especially the blind.

“Persons with disabilities should be given the platform that allows them to elect and be elected as the representatives of the people, taking into consideration their special needs” said Dirie.

The Secretary General of the National Union for Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), Omar Faruk, while participating in one of the sessions, called for collaboration between stakeholders, including the electoral body and security agencies, to ensure the safety of journalists and free access to information.

He also emphasized the need for all stakeholders to implement the declaration to peaceful elections, adopted at the recently concluded national conference on peaceful elections and freedom of expression, held in Mogadishu.

“We must ensure the safety of journalists and their freedom to access information during the elections. We all know how important the media is in preserving the integrity of elections” said the Secretary General.

“Sessions like this are very important as the country gears towards having a democratic process. Civil society organizations represent different groups and ideologies in our society and engaging them enhances the freedom and fairness of voting processes” Kafia Abdullahi, a woman and human rights activist said.

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