EDITORIAL | Somalia’s persistent violation of civil liberties is a worrying trend. In the past, this platform has called on the security agencies and President Mohamed Farmajo’s administration, by and large, to make sure there is no unconstitutional collection.
It did not stop. Instead, reports coming in this week suggested that more of the same continued. On Monday, two senators Abdullahi Sheikh Ismail Fartaag and Iftiin Hassan Basto claimed they had been denied boarding a plane carrying Jubbaland’s Minister of Education body to Kismayo.
The minister, Maalim Mohamed Ibrahim Mohamed, had died in India, where he had gone for medical treatment. Senators say no more words were given than instructions that the body be shipped are being held at Mogadishu airport.
Both senators have accused the country’s aviation minister Mohamed Abdullahi Oomaar and intelligence chief Fahad Yasin of standing behind their trials and vowing to sue them for violating their right to travel.
It was not the first time politicians had been prevented from traveling 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 of Kismayo.
It is understood that there have been issues between Mogadishu and Kismayo over the legitimacy of Ahmed Madobe as Jubaland president. But it is no license to prevent Farmajo’s political opponents from exercising their God-given right to express themselves.
While Mogadishu ‘lifted’ its re-election in August last year, no new ballots were held in Jubbaland. This raises the question of whether a better choice than the one organized in August was possible, and whether, after all, that was actually the intention.
In fact, Madobe has since reached a key agreement with some of his former opponents for a coalition government. As one-dimensional as it may sound, continually reaching out to opponents of dialogue is the preferred option for Somalia, not tightening the screws on them.
There are bigger challenges for Somalia right now. But it seems that the fundamental of them would be to protect against human rights violations, which many agree are the basic principles of any democracy.
This year alone, President Farmajo’s government has been criticized several times for restricting freedoms. In April, a radio station in Lower Shabelle broadcasting in the Baravenese dialect was shut down after an overwhelming local administrator claimed that language was not legal in Somalia.
Article 5 of the Interim Constitution of Somalia states that the Somali language is the official language and lists Arabic as a second language. However, Somalia, where more than half of the population may not read or write, must provide access to more information.
In fact, Article 18 protects the freedom of expression of ideas in any form or language. We are glad that the radio station has since been sent back into the air, but the illegal incident woke up.
In Somalia, authorities, particularly the military and police, have been used to quell any discontent with the government. In April, three journalists were detained for broadcasting criticism of officials, according to a figure from Human Rights Watch.
On May 3, during World Press Freedom Day, President Farmaajo partially acknowledged the legal loopholes his security agencies used to harass journalists and promised to iron it out.
“Journalism is a noble profession and [the] The Penal Code of 1964 will be reformed to ensure that it is not used against journalists, “he wrote in a message to journalists on the day.
“My administration fully supports the decriminalization of journalism and freedom of expression through legal reform.”
We have said here before that, like most other professional media platforms, we abhor fake news or the use of journalism to incite. But when authorities accused of protecting civil liberties violate them in the name of undefined ‘national security’, it becomes unacceptable.
Somalia, a growing democracy, must build institutions through which useful members of society receive lawful rewards while punishing the misguided. President Farmaajo should vouch for this, so that the treatment of all is measured by the same standards, whether in his time or in the future.
With more than 1,000 cases of Covid-19 and 2.6 million people displaced by floods and insecurity; priority should not be to chase political opponents. When Wadajir party leader Abdishakur Abdirahman was attacked near his party offices in Mogadishu in December 2017; he accused the state of security of working to eliminate opponents of the president.
Now the election will be held in a few months [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 should be none.
A recent World Bank bulletin in March showed that Somalia’s most important challenge remains how to map a path to a comprehensive, economic and political development agenda.
This week, Jubaland’s Vice President Mohamud Sayid Aden claimed that planned loads of medical supplies to his region were blocked in Mogadishu and threatened emergencies. Officials in Mogadishu had not responded to the allegations when we announced.
Our call is for President Farmajo, his Prime Minister Hassan Khaire and their security agencies to come forward clearly on important issues to assure the public that harassment will not be targeted.
Somalia went through 21 terrible years by Mohamed Siad Barre, a former military regime that ruled the country from 1969 to 1991 with an iron fist, and then plunged into 30 years of conflict and insecurity. Another round of dictatorship is unwelcome.