In December 2017, Muse Bihi Abdi was sworn in as president of Somaliland. The Somaliland government arbitrarily arrested numerous journalists and critics—targeting people who spoke out on “controversial issues,” notably the ongoing border tensions with Puntland and unity with Somalia.
In April, Naima Ahmed Ibrahim, a popular poet; Mohamed Kayse Mohamud, a blogger; and Boqor Osman Aw-Mohamud, an outspoken traditional elder, were convicted under vague and overly broad criminal provisions for public criticism of government policies and public officials. Police officials and judges violated due process rights during their detention and trials. All three subsequently received a presidential pardon. According to the independent nongovernmental organization, Human Rights Centre, since the inauguration of Somaliland’s new president, 18 journalists have been arrested and five convicted under similar provisions. In four cases, prison terms were later converted into fines.
Positively, in July the Somaliland House of Representatives rejected problematic amendments made by the Upper House (Guurti) to the Rape and Sexual Offences Bill that defined an adult as 15 years of age and above,
and removed criminal responsibility of close male relatives for forced marriage. In August, the president signed the bill into law.
Key International Actors
International support focused on building Somalia’s security sector, including the integration of regional forces, including through implementation of the government’s transition plan; attention to ensuring accountability for abuses remained limited.
AMISOM troop-contributing countries expressed concern over the capacity of Somali government forces to assume key security responsibilities. In July the UN Security Council heeded African Union calls to delay the withdrawal of 1,000 AMISOM troops by several months.
The United States Defence Department continued to conduct airstrikes and joint operations with an increase in strikes in the Jubaland region. The department concluded without substantiation that there were no civilian casualties in its operations in 2018. However, in May, media and the UN reported five civilians casualties during a joint US-Somali raid in Afgooye district; the Pentagon announced in June that it found the allegations “not credible.” After media reported the alleged killings of 10 civilians in Barire, the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service committed to a second
investigation into the August 2017 incident, but results have not been made public at time of writing.
The diplomatic crisis between Qatar and other Gulf countries continued to exacerbate tensions in Somalia, between Mogadishu and federal states, with Somaliland, as well as among Mogadishu’s political elite, over a United Arab Emirate company’s development of key ports.
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH