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Somaliland frees detained opposition leaders following elders intervention


HARGEISA- Elders and business community played a significant role in the release of two Waddani party officials who have been in detention cells for a couple of days, it has emerged.

Khadar Hussein Abdi, the secretary-general of Waddani, and the spokesperson of the party, Barkhad Jama Batun were arrested by the police on 17th November, a day before protests waged by the party.

After intensive negotiations between elders, business community and the two opposing sides, Somaliland authorities on Tuesday agreed to free the two.

“The president accepted our plea to release the officials of Waddani party and ordered the security officials to release them,” Ahmed Farah, the leader of the team said.

Police had transferred the detainees from the capital Hargeisa to Mandera, situated several kilometers North East of the secessionist state.

Abdirahman Abdullahi 'Irro', the leader of the party, said "this is a positive move and we shall not relent. Freedoms of expression and picketing are constitutional."

The Waddani party, he added, will not be cowed by the state in their bid to push for credible reforms 'that will positively transform the breakaway region'.

In an interview on Tuesday, Mr Irro said the Waddani party will only 'accept negotiations that will lead to establishment of impartial electoral commission'.

"We want honest reforms. The electoral commission must be agreeable," he said in reference to election standoff, adding that 'no amount of intimidation will thwart our efforts'.

Regional president Muse Bihi Abdi has been under pressure to pave way for electoral reforms, with the state failing to hold polls in as many years.

Bihi has been also under fire for violation of human rights, illegal detentions and suppression of the opposition in Somaliland.

Already, the internal squabbles have attracted interest from international community, with British Consul Stuart Brown calling for release of the politicians last week.

Last week, Brown said: "The UK is deeply concerned by the ongoing detention of oppositions politicians in Somaliland. We have called on the government to bring charges or release."

The diplamat further added, "We encourage all parties to renew dialogue and uphold their commitment to hold parliamentary and local elections without delay."

Authorities has been accusing Waddani party of having links with Somalia, a claim which Irro dismissed as 'outright nonsense and absurdity'.

The extension of the parliament term last week could also sabotage development in the region. The opposition has also accused Bihi of imposing his loyalists in the electoral commission.

Somaliland declared self-rule from Somalia in 1992 after the death of Siad Barre but the international community is yet to recognize her autonomy.