Monday, April 14, 2003

Thousands vote in first Somali presidential polls
HARGEISA, 14 APRIL 2003-- Thousands of voters cast ballots Monday in the first multiparty presidential election since the Somaliland republic broke away from Somalia in 1991 to escape the violence and chaos that has beset the rest of the nation.The polls opened at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT) and were to close at 6 p.m. (1500 GMT) as voters chose between incumbent President Dahir Riyaleh Kahin and veteran politicians Faysal Ali Warabeh and Ahmed Mohamud Mohamed Silanyo.

The former British Somaliland, which joined with the Italian colony of Somalia in 1960 to form the Republic of Somalia, declared its independence in 1991 as civil war raged across much of the southern part of the country following the ouster of longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since then.

In contrast to much of southern Somalia, which is ruled by heavily armed, clan-based factions that have carved the country into a patchwork of fiefdoms, Somaliland, with an estimated population of 2.5 million, has enjoyed relative peace, although it has failed to gain international recognition.

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