Somalia’s first female presidential candidate says she may not run again

Fadumo Dayib, Somalia’s first female presidential candidate, is so dismayed by the decision this week by Somali’s electoral body to postpone the country’s presidential elections for the third time that she thinks she will not run for president again, even if a new date is set.

“I think I am not going to run … because the level of corruption, the shocking level of corruption, it is all very, very disheartening, and I don’t want to legitimize something that is that bad by running in it,” Dayib said via Skype from Nairobi.

The elections in Somalia have been billed by Western countries as the first democratic polls in decades, and as an important stepping stone to fairer elections in 2020. However, the process is more of a clan-based selection process than an election process: The president is selected by a national assembly of more than 14,000 delegates chosen by tribal elders, as it was determined that Somalia was not ready for a one-person, one-vote election system. The official reason for the postponement was that the election process for the delegates had not occurred in all parts of the country. The United States and the European Union are major donors to Somalia.

Dayib said she would run again “in a democratic, one person-one vote system,” but not in a clan-based, “apartheid” system “that segregates clans based on their ethnicity and their race.”

“For the past 26 years, the international community has said this was a stepping stone to democracy, but how long will we keep this monster on life support?”

Dayib, who is the only woman out of 18 presidential candidates in Somalia, fled with her family to Finland after the collapse of the Siad Barre regime 25 years ago, as a teenager. She learned to read and write at age 14. Dayib eventually got a master’s degree from Harvard and has earned multiple degrees in public health. She worked as a health-care specialist for the United Nations and for UNICEF and is pursuing a PhD.

The 44-year-old was stunned by the blatant corruption in Somali politics. “Of course I knew the selections were very corrupt,” she said. “Seeing people paying 1.3 million U.S. dollars for a senatorial seat, [and] many other corrupt instances, in a country where 73 percent of the population is living on less than 2 dollars a day shook me to my core. It’s just so — unjust.”

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