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Somalia’s continual violation of civil liberties worrying


EDITORIAL | Somalia’s continual violation of civil liberties is a worrying trend. Previously, this platform has called out the security agencies and President Mohamed Farmaajo’s administration at large to assure of no extra-constitutional overtures.

It didn’t stop. Instead, reports coming in this week suggested more of the same continued. On Monday two senators Abdullahi Sheikh Ismail Fartaag and Iftiin Hassan Basto claimed they had been refused to board a plane carrying the body of Jubbaland education minister to Kismayo.

The Minister, Maalim Mohamed Ibrahim Mohamed, had died in India where he had gone for medical treatment. The senators say no more word was given other than instructions to disembark of the body is held at Mogadishu airport.

Both Senate members have accused the country's aviation minister Mohamed Abdullahi Oomaar and the Intelligence chief Fahad Yasin of being behind their ordeal and vowed to lodge a lawsuit against them at court for violating their right to travel.

It wasn’t the first time politicians had been barred from travelling to other cities from Mogadishu. Last year, a number of leaders including ex-Presidents Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed were initially barred from attending the inauguration of Ahmed Madobe, the Jubaland President in Kismayo.

It's understood that there have been problems between the Mogadishu and Kismayo on the legitimacy of Ahmed Madobe as Jubaland President. But that is no licence to prevent Farmajo’s political opponents from exercising their God-given right to express themselves.

While Mogadishu ‘nullified’ his re-election last August, no new polls were arranged in Jubbaland. This raises questions on whether a better election than that organised in August was possible and whether it was actually intended after all.

In fact, Madobe has since reached a key deal with some of his erstwhile opponents for a coalition government. As one-dimensional as it may sound, continuously reaching out to opponents for dialogue is the preferred option for Somalia, not tightening screws on them.

There are bigger challenges for Somalia right now. But it appears the basic one of them would be to guard against violation of human rights, which many would agree are the basic tenets for any democracy.

This year alone, President Farmajo’s government has been criticised several times for limiting freedoms. In April, a radio station in Lower Shabelle, broadcasting in Baravenese dialect was shut down after an overreaching local administrator claimed that language was not legal in Somalia.

Article 5 of the Provisional Constitution of Somalia says the Somali language is the official language and lists Arabic as the second language. However, Somalia where more than half of the population may not read or write needs to allow multiple access to information.

In fact, Article 18 protects freedoms of expression for ideas in any form or language. We are glad that the radio station has since been allowed back on the air, but the illegal incident was awakening.

In Somalia, authorities, especially the military and the police, have been used to quell any displeasure against the government. In April, three journalists were detained for posting criticisms against officials, according to a tally by the Human Rights Watch.

On May 3, during the World Press Freedom Day, President Farmaajo did partially acknowledge the legal loopholes his security agencies were using to harass journalists and promised to iron it out.

“Journalism is a noble profession and [the] Penal Code of 1964 will be reformed to ensure it is not used against journalists,” he wrote in a message to reporters on the Day.

“My administration fully supports the decriminalisation of journalism and free expression through legal reform.”

We have said here before that we, like most other professional media platforms, loathe fake news or use of journalism to incite. However, when authorities charged with protecting civil liberties violate them in the name of undefined ‘national security’, it becomes unacceptable.

Somalia being a nascent democracy must build institutions through which useful members of the society get legal rewards while errant ones get punished. President Farmaajo should vouch for this so that the treatment for all is measured by the same standards whether during his time or in future.

With more than 1,000 cases of Covid-19 and 2.6 million people displaced by floods and insecurity; priority should not be on hunting political opponents. When Wadajir party leader Abdishakur Abdirahman was attacked near his party offices in Mogadishu in December 2017; he accused the state security of working to eliminate opponents of the President.

Now elections are due in a few months’ time [we will know the actual at end month according to the electoral body]. Will there be more attacks to silence opponents? Our call is that there shouldn’t be any.

A recent bulletin by the World Bank in March indicated that Somalia’s key challenge remains how to chart a path for an all-inclusive, economic and political development agenda.

Yet this week, Jubaland Vice-President Mohamud Sayid Aden claimed planeloads of medical supplies to his region were being blocked in Mogadishu, threatening emergency steps. Officials in Mogadishu had not responded to the allegations by the time we published.

Our call is for President Farmajo, his Prime Minister Hassan Khaire and their security agencies to come clear on important issues to assure the public that there won’t be targeted harassments.

Somalia went through 21 horrid years of Mohamed Siad Barre, former military regime who ruled the country from 1969 to 1991 with iron fist, then plunged into 30 years of conflict and lack of security. Another round of dictatorship is unwelcome.


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