The IRI Statement on Somaliland Referendum – On behalf of the American, Swiss and British observation team members assembled by the Initiative & Referendum Institute, we wish to express our deepest appreciation to the Somaliland Government and people for their help and support during our visit.

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Our purpose in being in Somaliland was to witness the historic election held on May 31, 2001, that was intended to give the citizens of Somaliland the opportunity to freely cast their vote in support of or in opposition to the nation’s proposed constitution. Even though it is too early to definitively state whether or not this goal was achieved, we can state that we were impressed by the level of effort in which the Government and the people put forth in seeing that the election was conducted in a fair and open manner. We must also commend the Somaliland Government and the citizens for conducting this election free of violence and must also commend the neighboring governments for not interfering with Somaliland’s efforts at becoming a true Democracy. This election demonstrated the Somaliland Government’s understanding that no government can be considered legitimate without allowing the citizens the opportunity to freely show their support or opposition to the proposed constitution and the rules and procedures in which the government will operate.

Our role in Somaliland was not to comment on the contents of the Constitution, but to ascertain whether or not the citizens of Somaliland were allowed to participate fully in a fair and open election. Our final report, which will be issued over the coming weeks, will hopefully help the Government and the people learn valuable lessons from this election and prepare them for future elections. No election is problem-free and this election was no exception, but based on our initial observations, the election seems to have been conducted in a manner that was consistent with recognized international practices for referendum elections.

Again, we would like to express our sincere appreciation to the Somaliland Government and the Somaliland people. We are honored that they would allow us the opportunity to help them in their struggle for international recognition and wish them well. We hope that when our report is issued that it will help in their struggle.

The IRI Observation Team Statement

June 7, 2001

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