Former Al-Shabab Commander barred from elections, supporters clash with police

Association

As previously reported on the Monitor, Mukhtar Robow, defected founder and commander of militant Islamist group Al-Shabab, was barred from running for public office in October 2018. Despite the federal government’s intention to bar Robow from elections in the South West State, the electoral commission later granted him the permission he needed.

Despite this, on 13th December 2018, Robow was arrested and detained. Unconfirmed reports indicated that the arrest was made by Ethiopian security forces working with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), in Baidoa and later transported to Mogadishu. The arrest was based on suspicions that the former militant was involved in the smuggling of Islamic militants and weapons into Baidoa.

Subsequently, on 19th December 2018, law makers in the South West State elected a new president. Mukhtar Robows’ name was excluded from the ballot, despite protests in Baidoa. 

Peaceful Assembly

On 13th December 2018, Mukhtar Robow’s arrest (reported above in Association section) sparked protests in Baidoa, the South West State’s administrative headquarters, where at least 11 people including civilians and soldiers were killed. Photos of the protests showed burnt tires and stones scattered on the roads. At least 200 civilians were arrested following the protests.

Separately, on 11th December 2018, security forces opened fire on peaceful protesters in Baidoa, who were demonstrating in support of the Lower House Speaker Mohamed Mursal who hails from the region, and who has been under immense pressure to stop the impeachment motion against president Mohamed Abdullahi. Mursal has however stood his grounds despite the pressure. Two demonstrators were seriously injured while police officers seized cameras of journalists covering the demonstrations. 

Expression

On 4th December 2018, Ismael Sheikh Khalifa, journalist and chairman of Human Rights Journalists, a rights based NGO in Somalia, suffered serious injuries after an explosive device which was planted in his vehicle exploded at Maka Murramah road in Mogadishu's Waberi district. Security forces arrived at the scene to investigate the location from where the device was planted to the car. The reason for the attack remains unclear. 

The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) said:

"AFEX is seriously concerned about the deteriorating safety of journalists’ situation in Somalia….The use of explosives to target journalists in Somalia is not new…..AFEX calls on the government of Somalia to ensure that attacks against journalists are investigated to a logical conclusion and perpetrators severely punished".

As previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, violence against journalists in Somalia remains high, with Somalia topping the Committee to Protect Journalist's 2018 Global Impunity Index for the fourth time in a row in 2018.