Somalia: Govt Bans Street Protests to Curb Covid-19

23 February 2021

Somalia on Tuesday banned street protests citing Covid-19, in what could raise another possibility of confrontations with opposition groups.

The announcement by the Ministry of Security indicated the rising number of infections had forced authorities to shut the door on any street marches.

But it came a day after opposition presidential contenders announced they will hold protests in Mogadishu on Friday to criticise President Mohamed Farmaajo for delaying elections.

Somalia, facing an electoral impasse, has seen cases of Covid-19 rise significantly this month, forcing the Ministry of Health to order wearing of masks in public as well as ban public gatherings. The country had reported 6,246 cases by Monday, with 208 deaths and 3778 recoveries.

A statement issued by the Security Ministry said "appropriate measures" will be taken against those who defy the ban including arrests.

"In the last 24 hours, 229 news cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed, bringing the total positive cases recorded in the country to 6246," the ministry said.

Politics

Politically though, the ban apparently targeted a group of opposition presidential contenders known as the Council of Presidential Candidates.

Last week, their protest was disrupted after security forces shot at protesters. The government later said the opposition had utilised an armed militia to attack security forces, while the group claimed there was an assassination attempt on their members.

Senator Ilyas Ali Hassn said on Tuesday that the planned "peaceful" protests will be held as announced.

"We will continue to fight for our constitutional rights until timely, peaceful, transparent and inclusive elections are held," he said.

Mr Hassan is Secretary of Himilo-Qaran party, the party of ex-President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the chairman of the Council of Presidential Candidates

Security assured

Addressing the UN Security Council on Monday, Somalia's Foreign and International Cooperation Minister Mohamed Abdirazak said his government will respect individuals' rights to protest, as long as there is peace.

"Rest assured, the prospective presidential candidates have and will continue to be provided the freedom and political space to express their views and government bodies. Security forces will fulfil their statutory duty to protect the public against the dark forces of extremism and the silent enemy of the pandemic while they express their views openly," he told a session of the UNSC on Monday night.

"However, the security and wellbeing of the Somali people will remain paramount and no armed insurrection under the guise of a political demonstration will be accepted."

Elections plan

The opposition group as well as Jubbaland and Puntland federal states have refused to engage with President Farmaajo, accusing him of overstaying in power and deliberately delaying elections.

The two sides disagreed on implementing an agreement signed on September 17 last year between the federal government and five federal states; Hirshabelle, South West, Puntland, Jubbaland and Galmudug.

One point of contention was the membership of electoral management bodies as well as venues for elections in Jubbaland.

On Tuesday, the US said both sides must implement a report filed by a technical committee created to help bridge the differences on February 16.

"The recommendations provide a clear framework for resolving the political impasse that threatens Somalia's future.

"A timely and peaceful political transition, and renewed commitment between the Somali Federal Government and Federal Member States to work together, are needed for Somalia to urgently address the many tasks it faces."

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