Support Haatuf and Save Somaliland Democracy

The Somaliland government imprisoned Mr. Yusuf Abdi Gabobe, the managing editor of the daily newspaper Haatuf in Hargeisa and Mr. Ali Abdi Dini, the Editor of the same newspaper and Mr. Hussein Kh. Abdillahi, staff at Haatuf newspaper. This is not the first time Somaliland government have used despicable tactics to subject harassment, intimidation, and jail time against the media for exercising their right to publish newspapers. This is not a matter of whether Haatuf's work is factual or whether Haatuf made a mistake; needless to say there are laws that provide recourse to the government and to the citizens at large against the media, when they believe to have a legitimate grievances against media. The Somaliland government action to imprison the staff of Haatuf Newspaper is violation of the constitution, violation of citizen's rights, and a direct attack on Somaliland democracy; and must be condemned strongly.

The Haatuf Newspaper published articles that accused President's Rayale's family corruption; the paper provided detailed information about cars, houses, and public property that were misappropriated by the first family. It is public knowledge and there are significant amount of evidence that shows corruption in President Rayale's administration; corruption is one of the biggest problems that is hindering progress in Somaliland and the press has a responsibility and duty to report it. Haatuf must be commended for its reporting and the public should support its reporting and also must protest unlawful imprisonment of Mr. Gabobe, Mr. Dini, and Mr. Abdillahi.
Chapter 3 articles 21-36 of the Somaliland Constitution deals with the rights of the individuals and fundamental freedoms of the citizens of the Somaliland. The Constitution prohibits under article 21.1 from all branches of the government (Executive, Parliament and Judicial department) to infringe on the fundamental freedoms of the citizens. These articles essentially prohibit all branches of government from passing legislation, regulation, or court order that will infringe on the rights of the citizens. This is one of the most important chapters of the Constitution of Somaliland because it provides the citizens a set of rights that no one can take away from them without a due process. One of these rights is the freedom of press and right of the people to express their opinion in writing.

Chapter 3; Article 32 of the Somaliland constitution says "The press and other media are part of the fundamental freedoms of expression and are independent. All acts to subjugate them are prohibited, and a law shall determine their regulation". At the same time the Media law number 27/2004, chapter 3, article 8.1 says "A journalist shall not be imprisoned for undertaking press activities unless otherwise ordered by a competent court". This means the only way a journalist (media) can be imprisoned is by the order of the court. This requires the administration to present its case to the relevant court and there is no legal basis for the police to imprison the Managing editor, and Editor of Haatuf Newspaper. The government action violated every law in the book and it is complete disregard for the Constitution, the law of the land, violations of the individual rights, and above all significant damage in the eyes of the international community to Somaliland government's commitment to democratic principles.

The young Somaliland democracy has seen many challenges in the last few years; there were police raids in the offices of the political opposition parties, there were police attacks on the elected members of the parliament on the floor of the Parliament, and there has been numerous instances where members of the media have been imprisoned. You can say these were growing and painful learning experiences and it may be so, but these incidents and others gross violations committed by the Somaliland police underscore the influence of the political establishment on the police force, political establishment that disregards the Constitution and rights of the citizens. Obviously these actions warrant condemnation and outrage from all of us, it is also important to remind the people they will have an opportunity to make a change and vote these leaders out of the office, who so blatantly disregarded their fundamental freedoms and violated their rights.

President Rayale's administration have repeatedly imprisoned media personalities, the latest government action to imprison Mr. Gabobe, Mr. Dini, and Mr. Abdillahi; for publishing an article that accused corruption by President Rayale's family and government officials is one of long list of violations. President Rayale has claimed in the past that he introduced democracy and elections in Somaliland, and that may be true, but he also institutionalized violations of the constitution by his government, and that will ultimately bring his downfall unless he quickly takes actions that will restore the confidence of the people in his administration. He can release these men from Jail and fire the Police Commissioner, and the Minister of Interior who gave the order to arrest.

The people of Somaliland and the Somaliland Diaspora must express their outrage and must condemn the actions of the government to intimidate the media, which amount to gross violations of the Constitutions, the fundamental freedoms of citizens, and misuse of power by Rayale's administration. It is not possible for Police commissioner to order the arrest of the Managing Editor of Haatuf daily newspaper without direct order or request from his political leaders (Rayale's office or his cabinet). If you support or are sympathetic to Rayale's administration you must feel betrayed and frustrated with the incompetent leaders who show no respect for the rights of the citizens.

The equivalent of the government action is if a citizen takes the law on his own hands by committing acts of revenge against another citizen. This despicable government action will undoubtedly undermine the confidence of the people in their own government and in the democratic process that brought these corrupt leaders to power. It is difficult to respect and believe in a government that willy-nilly violates the national laws. If the government leaders refuse to go to court as permitted and would rather take the law on their own hands by imprisoning citizens at whim, how could they expect the people to respect the law? I call on all Somaliland people to support Haatuf, save the Somaliland democratic values, and protect the rights of citizens by expressing their outrage against the government actions. I call on the Parliament to step in and protect the rights of the citizens. The Parliament must call the Police commissioner to testify and asked him to explain his actions; that will make sure this sort of behavior never happens any where in Somaliland again. The people need their elected leaders in the Parliament to protect them from corrupt police officers who failed to do their duties. The Parliament acted and expressed outrage when the Police entered their house, the people are expecting from their elected Parliament members to act and protect them from the same police attacks.


Rashid Nur 
Herndon, VA - USA