A broad reconciliation conference was held in Galmudug to prepare for upcoming statewide elections.
During September, the federal government actively participated in a much-delayed reconciliation conference in Galmudug in advance of planned (but still not scheduled) elections. On 3 September, Somalia’s Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheyre met with the leaders of the Sufi paramilitary group Ahlu Suna Waljama’a (ASWJ) to request that they play a constructive role in building an inclusive Galmudug State administration. On the same day, IGAD Special Envoy for Somalia, Amb. Mohamed Ali Guyo, issued a statement commending the conference and calling for a “peaceful, orderly and inclusive reconciliation process to enable the people to amicably harmonise their views and perspectives” in advance of a “democratic, peaceful, free, fair, transparent and inclusive election.” On 7 September, a group of major international partners issued a statement welcoming the opening of the conference in Dhusamareb as “an essential step towards the holding of state elections in Galmudug” and expressed the hope that the conference would provide a “foundation for a unified and stable Galmudug state.”
The conference was attended by more than 500 delegates from Galmadug’s clans, who ultimately agreed to jointly participate in the formation of an inclusive state government. On 17 September, Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo traveld to Dhusamareb to oversee the closing of the conference, which he emphasized would “lead us to the second phase of selection and the establishment of a strong Galmudug administration.” While in Galmudug, the President held further talks with ASWJ leaders, thanking them for their “exemplary role and hard work towards a unified and inclusive administration.”
Despite the positive outcomes of this conference, The East African noted on 21 September that disagreements remained over key issues in Galmudug’s state formation. Notably, President Farmajo has endorsed a proposal for Galmudug’s ongoing state formation to be overseen by a technical committee that would, among other things, draft rules and procedures for the planned elections. The Union for Peace and Development Party (UPD) of former Somalia president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud released a statement opposing this plan, and arguing that it “clearly contravenes the federal system in the country, the provisional constitution and the Galmudug constitution, both of which make it clear that the Galmudug State shall independently lead its own regional elections.” It remains unclear when these elections will be held, as federal and state leaders have so far failed to produce a clear plan and timeline.
Somaliland and Puntland journalists raised concerns about freedom of the press.
A series of incidents in Somaliland and Puntland during September 2019 indicates rapidly tightening space for media outlets to hold government authorities accountable through their reporting.
On 6 and 7 September in Hargeisa, the Somaliland police from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) moved to close down the Horyaa24 TV station and arrest its chairman, Mohamed Osman Mire. The station’s Deputy Chairman, Said Farah Muse (Cagjar), told the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) that the police action was a response to Horyaal24’s series of programmes on growing drug use among women in Somaliland, which aggravated the authorities. Human rights lawyer Guleid Ahmed Jama argued that the police had violated the Somaliland Media Law, “which clearly outlaws the criminalization of media and journalists due to their reporting.” The SJS publicly condemned the move and demanded that the station be allowed to resume broadcasting and that its chairman be released.
On 9 September, the Somaliland Standard reported that Somaliland’s Ministry of Information had introduced new restrictions for media outlets, requiring them to prioritise Somaliland news over events in Somalia. Somaliland media associations denounced the new rules as an unnecessary limit on freedom of the press.
On 11 September, the Somaliland journalists Association (SOLJA) released a statement expressing “grave concerns” over the perceived stifling of the press by Somaliland authorities. In addition to the Horyaal case and the new media rules, SOLJA pointed out that on 3 September a regional court had issued a letter banning the popular HadhwanaagNews website following its publication of several articles accusing the chairman of the Somaliland Central Bank of corrupt uses of public funds. SOLJA demanded that all detained journalists be released and that both Horyaal24 and HadhwanaagNews be allowed to resume operations. The statement warned that these restrictive actions could “lead to possible rights violations and denial of access to independent news and information…which will undermine the democratic practice that Somaliland citizens and media practitioners enjoyed.”
Meanwhile, on 24 September the international organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released a statement highlighting the “harassment and intimidation of independent media and journalists” in Puntland. It pointed out that on 22 September, Puntland Information Minister Ali Hassan Ahmed “Sabareey” had announced that henceforth all private media outlets would have to register with the ministry so that it could “monitor their daily activity” and potentially revoke jounalists’ or media outlets’ accreditations if they were found to act “unprofessionally.” The statement also highlighted two other incidents: first, the Puntland police’s 14 September raid on Puntland’s main independent radio station, Radio Daljir, and the arrest of one of its journalists as a result of the station’s reporting on the death by torture of a police detainee in Bosaso; second, the 3 September suspension of Puntlandtimes.com due to its reporting on a demonstration by ministry employees demanding their back pay. Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk, urged the Puntland government to “end this harassment and to abandon their plan to vet journalists with the sole aim of silencing those who fully perform their fourth estate role.”
Jubaland Security Minister Abdirashid Janan was arrested by federal forces.
On 1 September, Halbeeg reported that Jubaland state security minister Abdirashid Janan had been arrested by federal security forces in Mogadishu. Federal government officials noted that Janan had been sought by Interpol for crimes against the people of Gedo Region, where he remains a powerful political figure. The UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG), in its 2016 and 2017 reports, had accused Janan of significant human rights violations including the obstruction of humanitarian assistance.
Critics of the federal government in Jubaland speculated that Janan’s arrest was a form of retribution against Jubaland for re-election President Ahmed Madobe rather than a more Mogadishu-friendly candidate. Nonetheless, Amnesty International Deputy Director for East Africa Seif Magango welcomed the arrest, calling it a “significant step towards accountability for the serious human rights violations committed with impunity for years by powerful individuals in Somalia” and noted that Janan is suspected of “horrific crimes including killings, torture, unlawful detention and illegal renditions between 2014 and 2015.”
Kenya sought to postpone the ICJ hearing of its maritime border dispute with Somalia.
On 3 September, according to the East African, Kenya officially requested a year-long delay of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) hearing to resolve its maritime dispute with Somalia, in order to replace its defence team. At that time, the ICJ had been scheduled to make a decision on the issue by 19 September. This dispute involves the maritime boundary between the two countries, which Kenya considers to continue directly eastward from the coastal border point at Kiunga. Somalia considers this maritime border to follow the diagonal direction of the land border, which would significantly reduce Kenya’s maritime territory and remove four oil blocks from Kenya’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Somalia had earlier denied Kenya’s proposal to resolve the disagreement through the African Union. On 6 September, Capital News reported that The African Union Peace and Security Council (AU-PSC) had called for the AU Commission to seek again to mediate between the two countries.
A 30 September commentary by Ken Opala in the Daily Nation accused the Kenyan government of having “bungled negotiations that would have led to an amicable solution,” asserting that Kenya’s bloated negotiating team had “slept on the job” and stalled or failed to show up for bilateral talks in 2014, allowing for Somalia to take the case up with the ICJ, where it is being heard by a Somali judge. “Were Kenya to lose the case,” Opala wrote, “it won’t be because Somalia will have put up a splendid show at The Hague; it will be because Kenya undermined its own effort through greed, naivety, and sheer incompetence.”
Puntland’s army chief provoked tensions with Somaliland over Eastern Sanaag.
On 7 September, SomTribune reported that Major General Yassin Omar Dheere, Puntland’s army chief, had toured the Eastern Sanaag region, which is disputed between Puntland and Somaliland. The General made a series of provocative speeches in which he pushed Puntland’s clan-based claims to the region and exhorted armed militias to “get prepared to defend our land and hit back hard.” Somaliland Army Operations Commander Abdirizak Saeed Burale denounced this tour, stating that “Claiming jurisdiction over another country’s land because people one was related with those who lived there is a well-beaten track that did not work with other African countries.” On 9 September, SomTribune reported that Puntland General Yassin Dheere had claimed in a press conference that the Somaliland army was collaborating with Al Shabaab forces and that Shabaab members had been detained while attempting to smuggle supplies across the border into Puntland for Islamist fighters in the Galgala area.