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Somaliland Sun Editorial Team, May 20, 2013
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|Somaliland: Minority Clans urged to Unite Electorally|
|Thursday, 10 May 2012 17:52|
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers". --Article 19. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
By: Yusuf M Hasan
BORAME (Somalilandsun) - Minority clan grievances can only be addressed through active participation in various organs of decision making at all levels.
This was said by M/s Nimo Eid Salan, the chairperson of the Voluntary Somaliland Minority Women Organization-VOSOMWO during a Civic Education Seminar for Minority Clans in Borame town where Participants included the Awdal deputy regional governor, Traditional leaders, Youth and women from minority clans.
The objective of seminar was to empower minority clans with knowledge civic education and human rights as a precursor to their active participation in the electoral process. The workshop was implemented by VOSOMWO with funds from the National Endowment for Democracy-NED
M/s Nimo Eid urged for minority clan unity during elections thus vote as block for candidates from their ranks who not only understand social discrimination but share them as well. She informed that the long held minority clan's grievances can only be addressed through active participation in various organs of decision making at all levels.
The VOSOMWO leader said that the minority clan must aspire to elect a representative in each of the country's local councils in order for their voices to be heard and grievances addressed. She asked participants to ensure that that knowledge acquire in the workshop is to other members of the community
The Awdal region deputy governor Mr. Abdi Nuur Sugal, revealed that Borame is the only local government in the country to have an elected councilor sit in its council, courtesy of the ruling Kulmiye party. He added that because of Kulmiye's equal citizen's policy members of the minority clans have been appointed to offices at all levels nationally.
Governor Sugal who stressed on the importance of placing representatives within decision making organs, advised minority clans to unite politically thus vote as a block. This will have your voices heard through your representatives and within the political parties you support as well "said the governor
Both Sultan Abdirahman J Dawal and Sultan Ibrahim Da'ar asked the government to explore ways of establishing technical schools thus tap on the abundant skills of the minority clans. The sultans said that social discrimination which relegates minority clans to the Menial professions as barbers; blacksmiths and garbage collectors should be discarded.
The ministry of Religion and endowment regional coordinators for Salal and Awdal regions Sh. Ibrahim aw Kaariye and Sh. Hamud Ahmed Nadif informed that social discrimination practices were cultural and not religious. They said that all sectors of society should unite and stop these practices
Below are excerpts from a report on minority clans by Martin Hill, Minority Rights Group International 2010 as originally published at www.SomalilandCyberspace.com
This report is part of an MRG project to secure protection and promote fundamental freedoms of vulnerable minorities in Somalia, funded by the European Union under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, and by Irish Aid. The objective of the project is to strengthen the monitoring and advocacy capacity of Somali civil society organizations and human rights activists representing vulnerable minorities, and promote their public participation at local, national and international levels. The contents of this report are the sole responsibility of MRG, and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union or Irish Aid.
MRG's local implementation partner is the Somali Minority Rights and Aid Forum (SOMRAF), a Somali not-for-profit human rights, aid and development organization based in Nairobi with presence in Somalia, Somaliland, Djibouti and Ethiopia.
The situation for minorities varies in terms of geographical areas – between the de facto state of internationally recognized); Puntland, in the north-east, which declared autonomy as a federal or regional state of Somalia in 1998; and south-central Somalia, a region in dramatic and sustained humanitarian crisis, containing the country's official capital, Mogadishu. Given the contrasts in terms of the contexts for human rights between these three territories, this report analyses the conditions for minorities on a regional basis.
Awareness and action for minority rights have advanced further and faster in Somaliland (particularly in the last few years) than in south-central Somalia and Puntland. The region has been characterized by peace, democratic development including multi-party elections, and civil society activism. Minority rights organizations such as VOSOMWO and Ubah Social Welfare Organization (USWO), have developed gradually alongside the traditional minority community structures headed by sultans and elders.
The Somaliland Constitution of May 2001 in article 8.1 states that 'all citizens of Somaliland shall enjoy equal rights and obligations before the law, and shall not be accorded precedence on grounds of colour, clan, birth, language, gender, property, status, opinion, etc'. Under article 8.2, 'precedence and discrimination on grounds of ethnicity, clan affiliation, birth and residence is prohibited; and at the same time, programmes aimed at eradicating long lasting bad practices shall be a national obligation'. Somaliland legal expert Ibrahim Hashi Jama believes that this article 'relates to traditional practices that lead to discrimination and/or precedence on the prohibited grounds listed in the clause' and 'certainly covers the treatment of minority groups, such as Gabooye, etc.' There is, however, no specific anti-discrimination legislation.
Progress, however, has been limited by government inaction, failures of the judicial system, limited action by the Somaliland National Human Rights Commission, negative government attitudes towards human rights defenders generally,74 and persistence of prejudicial social attitudes among members of the majority clans.
In addition, Somaliland has defined Somaliland citizenship primarily through membership of clans considered to originate from Somaliland territory; officially, the government treats persons from Puntland or south-central Somalia as 'foreigners'.75
For the 2005 parliamentary elections, the House of Representatives voted to remove the previously established reserved quota of five minority seats on the grounds that it was incompatible with the Constitution, which guaranteed equality of all citizens (that is, it allegedly created an inequality violating article 8 stating that no social group should 'take precedence' over another). The Gurti (a non-elected upper house of traditional elders of clans) rejected this vote in 2007 but accepted it in a second vote in 2009.76 Due to their lack of political representation, low educational levels and poor employment opportunities, very few minority members are in positions of prominence or leadership.
Very few minority children (and far fewer girls than boys) are in the educational system. VOSOMWO's 2006 minority rights survey found that only 20 per cent of children of the families interviewed had education or went to school. When parents were asked why they did not send their children to school, 39 per cent blamed the 'segregating environment existing among young students and in the schools'; 47 per cent cited poverty and the discrimination their children were exposed to at school; while 13 per cent felt that there was no point in sending their children to school as they were denied employment other than traditional jobs even when qualified. The study found that for many minority students and teachers, discrimination was part of their daily lives.
Though attitudes are changing, the legacy of historical discriminatory treatment at school remains with some minority adults, as reflected in the following testimony to MRG in Hargeisa:
"When I was at school my teacher did not know that he had a Midgan in the class, so he went on with his lesson on minority clan culture and tradition. He said that the Midgan are different from the rest of the society, they belong to an inferior culture...They lack language skills and eat different bad quality food. I did not react at all but all my schoolmates were shocked. I just waited till the end of the lesson and then ran home. I told my mother and sister. The teacher did not realize the moral damage that his speech had on me. He probably never thought he could have a minority student in his class."
However, the same person added, Jokes and sayings about minorities are there, but one has to go beyond that and rise above them. I never let discrimination put me down. I continued and succeeded in my studies.
Gaboye students at Hargeisa University have taken a lead in organizing themselves, with NGO support, to improve educational opportunities for minorities. In recent years, they have established a (gender-balanced) committee to coordinate financial support for their studies and to be positive role models for other minorities. The popular singer Mariam Mursal, who comes from the Gaboye minority and is internationally famous among Somalis, has been working with well-known Somali poet 'Hadrawi' (a majority clan member from Somaliland) to build a primary school in Dami shanty-town in Hargeisa.
Objections to inter-marriage
A small number of inter-marriages between members of 'noble' clans and occupational groups have occurred in the main towns of Somaliland in recent years, but they face hostility and violence from clan relatives.
In Hargeisa, MRG interviewed a 20-year-old Issaq woman from the Ogaden clan married to a Gaboye man. She had bruises all over her body as a result of continued assault and beatings from her family members. Her brothers had assaulted her a week before. She and her husband were both very depressed and in a state of anguish.
"I married my husband four months ago. I knew about the risk I was getting into but destiny is more important than anything else. We got married in a small town near Hargeisa and we came back to our respective families without informing them about our marriage. My life became unbearable when my family got to know about my marriage. I was beaten up by my [Issaq] family who had my husband imprisoned.
The police officers tried their best to mediate and explained to my family that our religion did not forbid inter-marriages. But there was no way to convince them. The police decided to keep my husband in jail as a way to protect him from further retaliation. At last, he was freed after the intervention of others of his [Madhiban] relatives...He does not
have a stable job. If he manages to get work, he brings food and I cook. If not, we sleep without eating. I live in a constant state of panic and tension. I am afraid that my family members will kill me because they have already done all that they could. Sometimes they attack me in public places and people of goodwill have rescued me. I do not know when this nonsense will end, only Allah the Almighty knows."
A 17-year-old Madhiban told MRG of how she got shot when gunmen arrived at the scene of a contested mixed marriage
wedding celebration in Hargeisa:
"I was shot about a year ago. I was going home from school when I stopped to look at a wedding celebration. I knew there was a wedding of a Musse Deriyo man and an Issaq woman. As I was watching the celebration outside the gate of the house, armed men approached me. They came out of big cars. I got scared and ran away, they shouted at me to stop but I did not listen to them. They shot me in my arm. That was the last time I went to school. I am now afraid of going out. My arm still hurts and it is not functioning properly. All I remember is that I fainted. I do not know what happened after that. I heard that other people were also wounded."
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