Police forces in the capital of Somalia’s separatist state of Somaliland clashed with hundreds of angry rioters on Sunday, prompting opposition parties to condemn the government for using « excessive force » against civilians.
In a joint press communiqué, Somaliland opposition parties Kulmiye and UCID condemned the breakaway region’s government for the « ugly and excessive use of force against civilians, » adding that the episode showed the residents of Hargeisa that the « current government is more merciless than that of [former Somali President] Siad Barre. »
The harsh criticism from the opposition parties was issued a day after Hargeisa police opened gunfire on rioters, who were reportedly burning tires and throwing stones at officers.
At least two civilians were confirmed dead and more than 10 police officers wounded, sources told Garowe Online.
Local newspapers reported that the protestors initially began their demonstration in opposition to the Hargeisa city council’s decision to add three new districts to the Somaliland capital and rename one district in the southern quarter of the city.
But as more protestors joined the demonstration, rioting began and protestors expressed their dissatisfaction with a range of issues, from President Dahir Riyale’s controversial one-year term extension to the sky-high prices for food and gas.
The rioters were eventually convinced to return to their homes after Air Transport Minister Ali Waranadde read aloud an official document signed by Interior Minister Abdullahi « Irro » Ismail.
According to the Interior Minister’s letter, the Hargeisa city council’s decision to create three new districts was « illegal, » citing that the Interior Ministry was not informed before the decision was taken.
But growing dissatisfaction with the Riyale administration is not limited to the public.
On Monday, Hargeisa-based independent newspaper Jamhuuriya reported that lawmakers in the Somaliland parliament’s upper chamber, the House of Guurti, had « threatened each other with pistols. »
A group of dissident House of Guurti legislators wanted to introduce a motion rescinding President Riyale’s one-year term extension, which was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Guurti earlier this month.
But the acting chairman of the Guurti, Sheikh Ahmed Sheikh Nuh, told the dissident lawmakers that the motion will first have to be studied and approved by the House’s legal counsel before being debated on the parliament floor.
His comment immediately sparked anger inside the parliament and eventually led to legislators throwing fists at each other.
Outside parliament, legislators continued to exchange heated words regarding President Riyale’s term extension, a development that has generated public anger and condemnation from the opposition parties.
One dissident legislator, MP Awil Hussein Ahmed, told Jamhuuriya that Second Deputy Speaker Said Jama Ali pulled a gun on him while at a hotel.
« The parliament leaders are acting in such a way today that they pull a gun out on anyone who speaks [his mind], » MP Awil told Jamhuuriya.
Somaliland, composed of Somalia’s northwestern regions, unilaterally declared independence from the rest of the country in 1991 after a decade of armed struggle against the government of Somali dictator Siad Barre.
No country has recognized Somaliland as an independent state, although the separatist republic has its own government, currency, flag and security forces.