Former British officer votes in Somaliland election
HARGEISA: On Saturday, June 26th, more than a million Somalilanders including a former British officer queued for hours to cast their historical vote on the historical day.
People either camped over night or rocked to the polling station as early as 3a.m.
Among those people queuing up were former World War II British army officer and author, John Drysdale, who arrived in Somaliland in 1943 in his teen. He served along side Somaliland soldiers during WWII in Burma and Singapore. He returned back to Africa after the defeat of the Nazi regime in Germany and Japan to serve in the British Colonial Service and the Foreign Service where he carried out assignments in Ghana (then the Gold Coast) and in Mogadishu (now under British control with the defeat of Italy).
He became an advisor to three Somali Prime Ministers in post independence Somalia and to three successive UN special envoys to Somalia during the 1992-1993.
Mr Drysdale is regarded as an expert on Somalis including the Somali literature, history, culture and the people. He is an accomplished speaker of Somali.
His work on Somalia which includes The Somali Dispute (1964), Somali The Peninsula and Whatever Happened to Somalia (2002) has became a standard reference works on the Somali people and their politics.
During his long career as diplomat, businessman, and publisher, Drysdale has been a prolific writer and analyst of political events in Africa and Southeast Asia.
Mr Drysdale founded and edited the Africa Research Bulletin in Britain and the Asia Research Bulletin in Singapore in collaboration with the Straits Times Group.
He also founded the Asean Economic Quarterly in Singapore. His book Singapore: Struggle for Success is a recommended reading for all young Singaporeans. Returning to Somaliland in mid 1990s, Mr Drysdale worked as an advisor to the Somaliland government under the late President Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal for sometime before setting up his own land survey NGO, Cadastral Surveys. Cadastral Surveys has been surveying and mapping hitherto non-existent farm boundaries in the Gabiley and Dilla districts of south-west Somaliland.
In 2009, Mr Drysdale Converted to Islam and pledge allegiance to the holy Qur’an in a ceremony held in Hargeisa’s main Mosque and changed his name completely to Abbas Idris when he Converted to Islam. He took Somaliland citizenship a short time later.
This year he made history by becoming the first British born to vote in Somaliland election which fell on the exact day when Somaliland gained it’s independence from Great Britain 50 years ago.
Mr Dyrsdale/Idris said he was happy to be part of Somaliland’s election. “Today I am here to be part of Somaliland’s democracy and to cast my vote freely. I am extremely happy to see so many of the public who came out to vote. This marks a turning point for Somaliland in the sense that it could make a great progress in the right direction. As a result, I have voted since I’m a citizen,” he told Haatuf newspaper while casting his vote in Hargeisa.
Mr Drysdale maintains strong contact with his family and friends back in UK and Singapore but is at peace with himself in Somaliland and might be his final home.
More than a million voted on Saturday’s historical vote and the National Electoral Commission is expected to announce the final result on Friday or Saturday.