Anti-election protest escalates and spreads in Somaliland
FURY over changes to the disputed Municipal Council election results spread across the Somaliland capital on Monday, raising concerns that disputes could drag on, creating a dangerous political vacuum.
Angry crowds mainly youth took to the streets in Hargeisa's central district of June 26th burning tires and blockading main roads with stones. Transport came to complete halt after commuters feared for their own safety. Drivers who feared the youth hauling rocks would break their windscreens detoured the hotspots.
The National Electoral Commission (NEC) on Friday published binding official results after recounting Hargeisa's 25 electoral districts, overriding complaints by some newly formed political associations that rejected earlier preliminary results.
The re-run of Hargeisa's main municipalities threw up some interesting results but directly affected four Councillors and two political associations. The new data showed a reduction of almost 7 percent to the 6th December 230,000 voters.
Two previously declared winners, Khadar Hussein Ali Ismail and Fuad Sahardid Abbi Yusuf, failed to retain their seats after the recounts and this sparked the fresh demonstrations on Sunday. On Monday it spread from Ida'ada and Togdher areas to most districts of June 26th including Abbaaye. It escalated when residents of the area where the two Councillors got elected learned the district court endorsed the results. The court also approved results for the constituencies of Gabiley, Salahley and Baligubadle despite vote-rigging claims by opposition groups. A number of opposition associates said they had evidence of fraud and stuffing by the ruling Kulmiye party that won all votes cast in almost all districts in near perfect scores unheard of in the country.
Security forces worked to rein in the anti-election crowds but appeared to struggle in doing so. They shot live rounds in the air but failed to disperse the angry crowds.
Political tensions have surged in Somaliland following the recent district and council elections that many rejected as fraud.
At least ten people have been killed by security forces since the Nov. 28th vote. At least two were killed in violence that broke-out in Lughaya district in Awdal region and six deaths were reported in Hudun district situated in the restive Sool region.
Last week security forces shot dead three supporters of Haqsoor in Ahmed Dagah, a neighbourhood in southern Hargeisa, and further eight were left seriously injured.
On Monday, Haqsoor faithful supporters and members of the Somali community in the United Kingdom held a series of vigils in North London to protest the police brutality and the election results. Many who spoke there including religious leaders said the recent slayings by the ruling Kulmiye government pale in comparison Israeli barbaric attacks against Palestinian civilians. Others said the violence brings flashbacks of "1982 upraise" against former Somali Dictator Mohamed Siad Bare that left more than 50,000 civilians dead in Somaliland by the fall of 1988.
A record number of 2,368 candidates are contesting the polls. Leaders and tribal elders in the country have appealed for calm and civility.
Similar protests also took place in Erigavo, the provincial capital of Sanaag region. Demonstrators rejected the election outcome and the re-election of the former town mayor and his deputy. Former politicians in the region described the vote as the worst election ever to occur in Somaliland's history. The city is now deeply divided and there are grave concerns that waring sides could violently clash.
Despite the looming political crisis President Ahmed Silanyo left the country on Monday for neighboring Djibouti. He is taking part of a convention commemorating the 40th anniversary of Somali language reforms.