Somaliland to Mogadishu Travel Ban Receives Criticism from Human Rights Groups

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By: Jennifer Lewis

Since the introduction of the ban, there have been several high profile arrests of those attempting to travel to Mogadishu, including that of Rabi Yusuf Abdullah in February. The official has been in jail for the past three weeks while he awaits a court hearing; he had been in Mogadishu last August attempting to form the Somali Federal Government.

Infringement of human rights
Advocates of human and civil rights have been angered by these recent arrests, stating that it should be the basic human right of any Somaliland citizen to travel wherever he or she wishes to. Ahmed Yusuf Hussein, director of the Hargeisa-based Horn Human Rights Umbrella, pointed out that there are many reasons why people would want to travel between Hargeisa and Mogadishu, including for business. “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 said. The human rights advocate also claimed that Somaliland’s laws did not promote freedom of thought and expression – a move that should be discouraged in a sovereign state that is seeking to achieve peace and democracy for its population.

Political disputes
Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo’s administration has said that the reasons behind the ban lie with deep political disagreements between it and the Mogadishu leadership. “[Mogadishu] is a place we disagree with on politics and with an administration that is claiming [Somaliland],” Somaliland Minister of Interior Mohamed Nur Arrale said at the end of last year.

Other industries affected
There have been several other high profile arrests, which have extended beyond politicians. Last October, Ahmed Mohamud Sheikh Muhumed, chairman of the Somaliland Football Federation, was arrested along with Mohamed Hussein Dhabeye, an athletic association official, after it was discovered they had been on a business trip in Mogadishu.

Perhaps in reaction to the arrests of sports industry personnel, human rights campaigners say that the travel ban could be affecting the development of Somaliland in other sectors. Education is a prime example; many Somaliland students could have reason to travel to and from their homeland to Mogadishu, including looking for available jobs.

Educational development
As a growing city that already has a population of one million citizens, Hargeisa of course still has a long way to go in terms of providing satisfactory levels of employment and education. However, the city has shown great signs of improvement in recent years and now enjoys several good schools and other educational establishments. Thanks to a recent influx of new public sector jobs Hargeisa’s schools, which were once devoid of adequate textbooks and literature, have the funds that are necessary to equip themselves with necessary learning materials. A symbol of the Somaliland government’s commitment to equipping schools and developing education, it was reported yesterday that President H.E Ahmed gave one-to-one briefings to secondary school students. This was the first time that anything like this had happened in the country’s history, and took place after the teenage students had requested a meeting with the President in order to discuss the country’s educational aspirations and opportunities.

Focus on public sector jobs
Throughout both Somalia and Somaliland, government jobs have been increasing and candidates are now reporting that they feel they can apply for these jobs safely and without fear from al-Shabaab. Both the Somaliland and the Somali government are currently working towards stimulating job growth across both countries, in partnership with the private sector. It hopes that in the long term, its plans will provide young people with a much better alternative to choosing a life of extremism or piracy. Currently, students in educational establishments across Somaliland are working towards being hired by the public sector. The government is currently looking to hire university graduates to fill a number of ministry positions.

Although there is no law that prevents Somalilanders from travelling to Mogadishu, human rights groups worry that the arrests of these high profile business people may be sending out the wrong message to the people of Somaliland during a time when the country’s development is so crucial.

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