- Chief editor Hassan Said Yusuf of Somaliland's leading independent newspaper, 'Jamhuuriya', yesterday was released on bail despite his protests. Meanwhile, 'Jamhuuriya' editors express concern over the "repressive tendencies" that mark the regime of democratically elected President Dahir Riyale Kahin. Many see Somaliland slipping into repression.
'Jamhuuriya' correspondent in Oslo, Ahmed Awed Ismail, told afrol News that his newspaper's chief editor, Mr Yusuf, had been released on bail by Hargeisa police. Mr Yusuf had protested the decision and demanded an unconditional release as charges against him were "unconstitutional".
New information released by 'Jamhuuriya' about the midnight arrest of Mr Yusuf from his office also holds that the police action was "extremely heavy-handed and violent." Members of the police force that brought him to court had "stopped him in the middle of the dry-bed river and threatened him saying, 'We can cut your throat and leave you here'," according to the daily newspaper.
Somaliland authorities cited a first-page article on 'Jamhuuriya' some days earlier as the reason for Mr Yusuf's arrest, claiming that the article was not balanced. Quoting a Somali freelance journalist in Nairobi, 'Jamhuuriya' had published an interview with some of the warlords that are attending the Somali Peace Conference, where Somaliland refuses to participate due to its secession from Somalia.
In the published interview, Hussein Aideed - one of the warlords from Mogadishu - is quoted to be worrying about the Somaliland opposition party's hard stand towards the yet-to-be-established Somali government. The same is reported to have been said by Abdillahi Yusuf, the strongman of Somalia's autonomous region Puntland. The two faction leaders are said to be especially worrying about the tough stand of Kulmiye's Chairman, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud's, leading Somaliland's main opposition party.
According to the interview published in 'Jamhuuriya', these two Somali warlords said that the Somaliland government's position regarding the Somali Peace Conference is soft; meaning they are in favour and cooperative. It is the Kulmiye opposition they fear, the freelance journalist in Nairobi reported. Puntland leader Yusuf goes as far as saying that Somaliland's stand will ultimately depend on the decisions of Mr Mohamoud and his Kulmiye party.
Somaliland's Interior Minister Ismail Adan earlier this week confirmed to afrol News that the 'Jamhuuriya' editor indeed had been arrested over this report, further indicating that the arrest orders had come from government. The Somaliland government had considered the story as "inciting people against the government," he said, further commenting the story was all "a blatant lie and the truth is quite the opposite."
As Mr Yusuf is now freed on bail, 'Jamhuuriya' and many Somlilanders are concerned about the "repressive tendencies" the regime of President Kahin has been developing ever since he was democratically elected by the general public on April last year. Mr Yusuf, for example, has now been arrested 15 times by Hargeisa police. The government is not only attacking the press, but also other democratic institutions.
- Earlier in July this year, public meetings by the opposition parties and the civil society have been outlawed, the Oslo representative of 'Jamhuuriya' told afrol News. "The press and speech freedom are increasingly being curbed and controlled. The government is particularly itchy about the Nairobi meetings, allegedly because some elements in the Somaliland government have clandestine contacts with the Southern Somali warlords in Nairobi," Mr Ismail adds.
Also the Hargeisa police is becoming increasing heavy-handed and violent, the 'Jamhuuriya' correspondent said. "The mid-night operation of the police is well-known terror inflicting tactics which the present regime inherited from the despot Siyad Barre, who drove Somalia to the gutter after some 30 years of dictatorial rule."
The concerns of the 'Jamhuuriya' editorial team are shared by wide parts of the Somaliland society, including government representatives. Hargeisa officials afrol News have been in contact with regret the "negative tendencies threatening democracy in Somaliland" and wish to remain anonymous.
The Kulmiye opposition party however clearly protests these developments. "After the presidential election, it has become the usual trend to take steps towards dictatorship and the destruction of democracy, instead of selling our achievements to the international community," the party said in a statement released earlier this week, referring to Somaliland's efforts to sell its democratic gains to achieve recognition of its independence.
'Jamhuuriya' also quotes strong statements from all parts of civil society condemning the arrest of Mr Yusuf in a recently published article. The Somaliland Journalists Association saw the arrest as "undemocratic and a violation of the individual right." The National Human Rights Network said it had observed that rights violation had been on the increase for the last six months and warned that if such practice continues, "it will be doubtful that fair elections will be held next year."
Next year's parliamentary elections are meant to finalise the establishment of democratic institutions in Somaliland. The yet-to-be-recognised country hopes that its peace, stability, democracy and respect of human rights will lead to recognition by the international society. Many fear that the Hargeisa government is increasingly running out of such arguments, however.
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