Somalia’s presidential official suspended over allegations of serious human rights abuses, including sexual harassment – Sources

MOGADISHU (AXADLE) The deputy chief of staff of Somalia’s presidency, Villa Somalia, has been suspended on charges of aggravated assault and sexual harassment by female employees and threats against journalists, two presidential sources told the Horn Observer.

Abdinur Mohamed Ahmed was informed of leaving President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo’s office two weeks ago when Villa Somalia’s department heads were informed that Mr Abdinur’s role had been terminated so far.

This comes amid growing political pressure facing President Farmajo, who is seeking re-election due to delays in the country’s indirect election of lawmakers and attempts to extend the incumbent’s term, which further revealed a number of scandals, including allegations of human rights violations by key government and security officials.

At a recent rally in Villa Somalia, Farmajo’s election campaign team convened supporters – mostly women and young people popular on social media – who complained of abuse by Mr Abdinur, according to two senior presidential officials. It included allegations of sexual harassment, bribery and abuse of power.

“The president has decided to suspend him due to serious misconduct,” said an official working at the president’s protocol unit. “He tarnished the president’s image by abusing power, sexually abusing women and harassment and threatening journalists.”

The first allegations of sexual harassment in Villa Somalia surfaced in December when a former Villa Somalia employee sharply revealed sexual harassment in the president’s office and publicly demanded the president intervene in the situation. It followed an outcry on social media that even attracted a derogatory hashtag online. President Farmajo also learned that Abdinur, then Villa Somalia’s communications director, on April 8, 2019, planned a plan to suspend the only free ambulance service in Mogadishu – which denied more than two million people in Mogadishu and suburbs access to emergency health care – following a secret meeting between Aamin Ambulance Administration and police officers. The perpetrators included Benadir Regional Police Chief Sadaq John, Salah Hassan Omar, a spokesman for the Benadir Regional Administration, and General Sakia Hussein, Deputy Chief of Police. Violence against local journalists is one of the serious offenses that Abdinur allegedly committed with impunity, as officials told the Horn Observer. On May 4, 2020, a female journalist, Safa Osman, was attacked in Mogadishu while reporting on the protest of displaced women whose food rations were stolen in the Waberi district. Police and district administrators punched her in the head and sent her to the hospital with critically bleeding injuries. But following Mr Abdinur’s instructions, she was pulled from the hospital and taken to the police station, where she was forced to sign a police statement that would prevent her from suing her attackers, as shown by a police statement seen by Horn Observer. The details were confirmed by a human rights lawyer, Abdirahman Omar, who was working on a female journalist’s case. “Police officers acting under the instructions of the then communications director of Villa Somalia, Abdinur Mohamed Ahmed, summoned Safiya to Waberi police station on Tuesday, May 5, forcing her to sign a police letter to” withdraw the case and forgive the officers who assaulted ” her. . “It was almost 24 hours after Mr Abdinur wrote on his Facebook page that officers who attacked the journalist were arrested for luring the victim before they later deleted the post from his account,” the lawyer confirms. In May last year, Mustaqbal Media, an independent local radio station, filed a lawsuit against the then director of the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA), Mr. Fahad Yasin, and his cousin Abdinur Mohamed Ahmed over a raid on April 27, 2021 at Mustaqbal Media’s studio. and Mogadishu. The case is still pending due to Yasin’s influence on court officials, lawyers and Mustaqbal Media officials said. According to documentation from the Somali Journalist Syndicate and Somali Media Association, twelve journalists have been killed since President Farmaajo took office in February 2017. In its 2020 report entitled ‘We live in perpetual fear’, Amnesty International also documented media censorship and allegations. bribery by the Somali government. Officials at the president’s office have reportedly paid monthly bribes to some media owners and directors to keep “unfavorable” reporting out. Those who refused bribes were threatened and forced into exile.

Journalists and activists say the Farmajo administration uses al-Shabab as a scapegoat, while politicians and other influential people pay private weapons for rent to suppress what they believe should remain hidden. In a complex climate where anyone can be the killer, the perpetrators go free, but the facts remain bound.

The move to suspend the president’s chief of staff has been hailed by local press freedom. The general secretary of the Somali Journalists Syndicate, Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, says “this step is just a drop in the ocean,” but praised the decision to hold this official and others responsible for possible crimes against journalists in Somalia.

“Officials working in the president’s office have been the source of a number of serious human rights violations. These individuals have previously threatened journalists, attacked them physically and online. Suspension of Abdinur is a step towards accountability and could lead to an end to impunity. We pray authorities to investigate the crimes he has committed against journalists over the past five years and put him on trial, Moomin told the Horn Observer.

Much worse, as Mr Moomin describes, the perpetrators of crimes against journalists and other human rights violations tend to leave the country and disappear into peaceful countries of Europe, the United States and Asia, leaving victims with little hope of justice.

“Such officials must not flee the country. They must be held accountable for the victory of justice,” he added.

Abdinur Mohamed Ahmed did not respond to a request for comment. The Attorney General’s office did not respond either.

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