Thursday, March 07, 2013
The Somaliland administration's restrictions on people travelling to
Mogadishu, which have resulted in some high profile arrests, infringe on
the rights of citizens, human rights advocates say.
The February 12th arrest of well-known clan elder Rabi Yusuf
Abdullahi is one of the latest in a series of cases involving prominent
local citizens accused of violating the administration's Mogadishu
Abdullahi went to Mogadishu in August to participate in forming the
Somali Federal Government. He has remained in jail for more than three
weeks as prosecutors build a case against him.
Somaliland declared itself a sovereign state in 1991, however, its
secession from Somalia has not been recognised by the Somali Federal
Government or the international community.
"It is a fundamental right for a person to go anywhere he pleases
without having any restrictions imposed on him," said Ahmed Yusuf
Hussein, director of the Hargeisa-based Horn Human Rights Umbrella.
"Someone should not be arrested or charged for what he believes, and
it is wrong to jail him for his political ideas if he is not causing any
trouble," he told Sabahi, adding that international laws and the
Somaliland constitution protect citizens' freedom of political thought
Nonetheless, a government order restricts politicians, party leaders
and traditional leaders from travelling to and from Mogadishu, according
to Somaliland Minister of Interior Mohamed Nur Arrale.
"There is an order at the airport to prevent party leaders,
politicians and cultural leaders from travelling to or coming from
Mogadishu, which is a place we disagree with on politics and with an
administration that is claiming [Somaliland]," Arrale was quoted as
saying in an interview with independent newspaper Geeska Afrika on
The Somaliland administration is in talks with the Somali Federal
Government, which Arrale said could be undermined if prominent figures
from Somaliland also engage independently in that dialogue.
The interview appeared two days after Berbera airport police blocked
former deputy chairman of the ruling Kulmiye party Abdirahman Abdulkadir
Farah and former Somaliland Minister of Youth, Sports and Tourism
Mohamud Said Mohamed from boarding a flight to Mogadishu.
Farah and Mohamed said they were travelling to Mogadishu to sell property they owned there.
Incidents date to 2012
Politicians and other officials have been caught up in the travel ban
since last year, despite indications that the Somaliland administration
is willing to enter talks with the Somali Federal Government.
On October 19th, chairman of the Somaliland Football Federation Ahmed
Mohamud Sheikh Muhumed was arrested in Berbera with athletics
association official Mohamed Hussein Dhabeye after they returned from a
visit to Mogadishu.
The two were accused of going to Mogadishu to meet with the Somali Football Federation. They were released after a few days.
On February 13th, a member of the upper house of parliament, Ahmed
Hassan Salah, and his wife were stopped at airport on their way to
Mogadishu. Zamzam Abdi, Salah's wife, who spoke to independent newspaper
Hatuf about the incident, said she and her husband were going to
Mogadishu to sell their house.
Even though they were prevented from boarding one flight, Abdi said
the administration eventually gave them written permission to leave on
another flight after the family provided evidence that their trip was
On February 23rd, Somaliland deported Somali parliamentarian Jama
Mohamud after a regional court in Marodi-Jeh fined him 1 million
Somaliland shillings ($151) and ordered him to leave Somaliland within
24 hours. Mohamud, a Hargeisa native, was arrested earlier in February
on charges of treason for serving in the Somali Federal Government.
Rights advocates weigh in
People started travelling from Somaliland to other parts of Somalia
after Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo's administration held
its first formal direct talks in decades with the Somali Federal
Government in June, said Khadar Iid Kariye, editor of Hargeisa-based
independent newspaper Ogaal.
However, the administration does not want anyone with political clout
or anyone currently in office to travel to Mogadishu because it does
not want the relationship it established with Somalia to undermine its
bid for sovereignty, Kariye told Sabahi.
"[The administration] wants to show that its people have not been swayed by what is going on in southern Somalia," he said.
Hargeisa-based political analyst Abshir Askar said people must not be
stopped from travelling to Mogadishu for business, trade or political
"The [Somaliland] administration can engage in talks with the Somali
government, but people cannot be prevented from travelling to Mogadishu
because they have many reasons to go there," Askar told Sabahi.
The Somaliland administration this month signalled its willingness to
talk to the Somali government, as long as its independence is not up
There is no law in Somaliland that criminalises travelling to
Mogadishu, Mohamud Abdirahman, a lawyer with Hargeisa-based Watershed
Legal Services, told Sabahi.
"According to the Somaliland constitution, one can only be punished
for a crime that is forbidden by a law [passed by parliament].
Therefore, travelling to and from Mogadishu cannot be a crime or have a
punishment," Abdirahman said.
"If Jama Mohamud and Rabi Yusuf Abdullahi were held for that reason, then that is illegal," he said.