Somalia: Somaliland opposition suspends protests as political tensions escalate
HARGEISA, Somaliland - The Businesses activities have resumed in Somaliland's capital Hargeisa after two days of running battles between the police and opposition supporters, Garowe Online reports.
Waddani party had staged protests on Monday to 'push' for reforms and elections but their quest was met with brutal police intervention.
The party's Secretary-General Khadar Abdi and spokesman Barkhad Jama were arrested on Sunday hours after party leader Abdirahman Abdullahi 'Irro' announced intentions to hold protests on Monday.
Irro confirmed on Monday that the two leaders were transferred to Mandera town by authorities and 'imprisoned illegally' by the authorities.
"They were sneaked out of Hargeisa and we have reported that they are currently detained in Mandera," Irro said, adding that the opposition will continue holding rallies to push for their release.
The opposition chief further said, "They used live bullets to disperse our people. Their actions are unconstitutional. We shall fight for our rights."
But a meeting convened by elders and former Vice Presidents on Tuesday resolved to suspend opposition protests and use 'negotiations' to pursue political agitation.
In an exclusive interview with Garowe Online on Tuesday, Irro said the new approach should not be mistaken for 'cowardice' by anti-government proponents.
"We had a meeting with former Vice Presidents and elders. As an opposition, we have agreed to suspend protests and use negotiations which is brokered by them (elders)," he said.
Irro added: "This isn't cowardice. We have demanded the immediate release of our colleagues. We shall also engage the government in our pursuit of credible reforms."
Regional President Muse Bihi Abdi has been at loggerheads with opposition leaders over the delay of polls. The opposition accuses him of intentionally delaying elections contrary to the law.
On Monday, Police chief Mohamed Aden blamed the opposition for the ugly confrontations, adding that one police officer was shot and fatally wounded by Irro's security.
"We banned those protests but they went ahead to hold them. The demos were unconstitutional and illegal. One of our officers was fatally wounded," he told reporters.
But Irro insisted that the regional government had breached the law by delaying polls, insisting that Waddani party 'will push for electoral reforms'.
"We just want them to call for elections. But for this to happen, we want the current commission to exit. It's opaque and untrustworthy," he said.
He had also rubbished claims that the Waddani party is funded by the Federal Government of Somalia as 'nonsense and baseless', adding that nothing will stop them from pushing for radical changes.
The opposition leader had on Monday decried persistent violation of human rights in Somaliland, adding that the party will 'work with like-minded people' to push for change.
The arrest of the three leaders could further escalate political tensions in Hargeisa, should the elders fail to broker a peace deal in the near future.
Somaliland seceded from the larger Somalia in 1992 but the United Nations rejected attempts to have it recognized as a sovereign state. It's one of the most stable states in Somalia.
The standoff comes at the time Somalia is also preparing to hold a national poll in 2020 when the term of the current parliament comes to an end. The country is formulating election laws.