Elections in Hargeisa

There are swathes of colour everywhere, from the hotel lobby to the streets to the market place to the campaign trail. The dirac dress flows and sways, boasting its kaleidoscopic colours. I have seen about two ugly Somali women. Only. No wonder they have to hide their beauty under the hijab. The party flags waving and walls painted yellow and green do their best to camouflage the greyish beige sandy dust. Everyone I’ve talked to is excited about the vote. “We need change.” If that was enough for Obama then, it would be enough here. The other chorus is “We need recognition.” Statehood is the pie in the sky, or should I say the camel meat in the sky. The election results are not out yet, but already the ruling party says it won’t accept them; the opposition has rigged. That sounds strange; I’m used to ruling parties doing the rigging. But then again, this is a stateless country holding peaceful and orderly elections, so go figure.

The ruling party’s complaints are just talk, I’m told, and talk is the favourite pastime, in tea shops and khat-eating joints all over town. Men talk, women work, Fatuma Said, a gender activist, tells me. I’m doing a lot of listening.

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