Police open fire on protesters in Mogadishu
by Mohamed Abdi Nour
General Secretary, Somali Public Trade Union
Gunfire erupted in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, Friday morning after security forces cut off a planned opposition protest. The opposition is in a standoff with President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo over the election process and has been calling for him to leave office since February 8, when they say his term officially expired.
Opposition leaders have accused the government of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo of using disproportionate force to halt a peaceful protest that was planned for Friday.
Heavily armed Somali military police, popularly known as Harmacad or Cheetah, cordoned off all the roads leading to the demonstration site Friday morning.
They then exchanged gunfire with guards of opposition candidates in a hotel near the location of the planned rally.
Former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire, who is a main candidate in upcoming presidential elections, witnessed the gunfire.
He said security agencies fired live bullets at opposition leaders and protesters. He said that the heavy arsenal used resulted in unspecified loss of life and damages to property including some from a mortar that hit the main airport.
Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble described the incident as unfortunate but reiterated his administration will not tolerate armed protesters in the streets.
He said the government is ready to address the disputes holding up the polls. Roble says his government is ready to listen to grievances from all sides regarding the delayed elections. He added that while peaceful demonstrations are guaranteed by the constitution, the role of security agencies in maintaining law and order must also be respected.
Parliamentary and presidential elections were supposed to begin late last year but have been delayed by disputes over the electoral committee tasked with overseeing the polls.
While the two sides remain at loggerheads, analysts warn of a possible escalation unless the sides sit down and negotiate an end to the standoff.
The international community, including United States, has also called for calm and restraint by all parties involved.
In Solidarity Greetings
Mohamed Abdi Nour
General Secretary of SPTU
Oaklandsocialist Notes: We have published other material from Brother Nour, including this appeal for support for health care workers. We urge readers to send messages of support to the working class of Somalia and to the labor movement there. They can be sent to the SPTU for them to publicize. Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org