Recent deadly protests in Somaliland were incited by opposition leaders influenced by events in other foreign countries, authorities have said.
Addressing the public on national TV on Friday, Somaliland President Muse Bihi said the Thursday street protests that shook the three Somaliland cities of Hargeisa, Burao and Erigavo, were masterminded by the leaders of Wadani and UCID parties, after learning from the recent events in Sri Lanka where protesters forced their leaders out of office.
“Five people died, 3 in Hargeisa, 1 in Burao and 1 in Erigavo, as a result of violent protests instigated by Chairman of Waddani Party Hersi Haji Hassan, Chairman of UCID Party Faysal Ali Warabe and the Former Chairman of Waddani Party-cum- Somaliland Presidential Candidate Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi Irro,” said Bihi.
He said almost 100 others were wounded, most of them members of security forces.
“Abdirahman Irro has watched films depicting popular protests in Sri Lanka, thinking that public disorder can win him the leadership (of Somaliland).”
Protesters in Sri Lanka recently forced their President and Prime Minister to quit, accusing the leadership of the Asian country of running down the economy.
The president also said that until further notice, anyone trying to hold violent protests and organize violence will be stopped and confronted. He said Thursday’s protest was the first in 30 years that the government authorized, and that protesters were told where to go when demonstrating but they didn’t recognize that, and it is national treason to protest.
In Somaliland, the epicenter of the squabble between the government led by Bihi and the leaders of the opposition parties involves the presidential election scheduled for November 13.
The opposition parties believe the president is going to seek term extension by creating circumstances to extend his term. They said they will continue the street protests.
“We are going to continue the demonstrations until we ascertain that Bihi declares that the election is going to be held on 13th of November,” said UCID Chairman Warabe on Friday.
Bihi said protesters were violent and even attacked police.
“The protest instigators allowed the demonstrators to use stones, daggers, batons, etc. against the law enforcement agents,” he said. “That is why most of those wounded were police officers.”
But the opposition leaders who led the marches, including a number of members of the House of Representatives, accused the police of using live ammunition to disperse protesters, leading to the death of at least 6 people with several others injured.
Every ten years Somaliland organizes a competition for existing political parties and new political associations. The goal is to renew the political landscape and show complacent political leaders the door.
In 2012 more than four political associations and two political parties contested for the privilege to retain party status or become a political party. Waddani, the main opposition party, emerged as a winner and filled a lacuna vacated by UDUB, a one-time ruling party that disintegrated following disagreements over a successor party leader.
Waddani came second in the 2017 presidential elections with 41 percent of the total votes. During the 2021 parliamentary elections, the party won regional seats enough to win the parliamentary speakership. This political progress masked the threat Waddani could face if the once-in-a-decade contest for party status gets underway in 2022. Waddani leadership proposes that presidential elections ought to take place in November 2022 without the three major parties and the newly registered political associations vying for political party status.
President Muse Bihi Abdi and his ruling party, Kulmiye, argue that the government’s mandate includes the responsibility to organize the contest for party status and diversify the staid party politics dominated by politicians from one social group. The Somaliland electoral law is on the side of President Bihi.
Presidential elections can only take place when political stakeholders have honored the decade-old practice of reinvigorating the political process. Waddani and UCID, fear that their chances of winning enough votes to retain party status could be undercut by contestant political associations.
Twenty-nine years ago the late President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal was elected in Borama where a conference was taking place. In 2001, a year before his passing, Egal introduced the multiparty system in Somaliland. This initiative culminated in the 2003 presidential elections. Since then two more presidential elections were conducted in 2010 and 2017, and two parliamentary elections in 2005 and 2021.
President Bihi claims to be preserving the legacy of Egal, who revolutionized politics in Somaliland by forming an alliance made up of different social groups. Unless Waddani’s leadership crafts a popular strategy aimed at diversifying the political landscape, President Bihi’s argument — that new diverse political parties can lead to timely political renewal — will remain both appealing and legally defensible.
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