Cablegate: Somalia - Peaceful Protests Across Somaliland

DE RUEHNR #1772/01 2321503
O 201503Z AUG 09




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: SOMALIA - Peaceful Protests Across Somaliland

REF: Nairobi 1729


1. (SBU) As Somaliland's political crisis continues, on August 20
the two opposition parties protested peacefully in all six regions
of the self-declared republic. Although police tried to block
demonstrations in public areas, thousands of protestors took to the
streets. Opposition party leaders condemned recent events and
called for freedom of speech during the election period. There were
few arrests, and although shots were reportedly fired into the air
in an attempt to disburse the protestors, there were no casualties.
Days before the protest, opposition leaders turned down President
Riyale's invitation to meet, pending the NEC withdrawal of its
decision to hold elections without the voter list. On August 19,
the Guurti resolved to remain neutral in the political disputes and
to help solve the election crisis. Also on August 19, an Ethiopian
delegation arrived in Hargeisa raising hopes that international
mediation might be able to help break the impasse. End Summary.

Peaceful Protests by Thousands
in All Six Provinces

2. (SBU) On August 20 thousands of opposition supporters protested
in all six of Somaliland's provinces. Opposition parties Kulmiye
and UCID organized the demonstrations to protest the decision by the
National Electoral Commission (NEC) and the government to hold
elections on September 27 without a voter registration list, despite
a parliamentary ruling to the contrary. In Hargeisa, by
approximately 8:00 a.m. local time in on August 20, protestors began
to assemble in the town's Freedom Garden park, according to our
contacts. Police blocked major intersections and access points to
this area, but protestors still converged in front of Kulmiye
headquarters. In their speeches to the Hargeisa gathering,
opposition leaders "Silanyo" and Warabe condemned the recent actions
of the government and called for freedom of speech during the
election period. At least one media report suggests that security
forces fired numerous shots into the air in an attempt to disperse
the demonstrators. There were no reports of casualties.

3. (SBU) There were similar peaceful demonstrations in all of
Somaliland's major cities. In Burao and Erigavo, police blocked
protestors from converging in major public areas, but demonstrations
took place in the streets. Reports indicate that one police officer
was injured and three opposition party supporters were arrested
after fights broke out in the town of Las Anod. Leaders of both
parties were buoyant as the turnout was much greater than they had
hoped or expected.

Opposition Places Condition
on Riyale Meeting

4. (SBU) In an apparent effort to forestall the protests, President
Riyale invited opposition presidential candidates Faisal Ali (UCID)
and Ahmed Mohamed "Silanyo" (Kulmiye) to discuss on August 19 an end
to the political crisis. Our contacts interpret the invitation as a
sign Riyale is becoming sensitive to internal and international
pressure to resume talks with the opposition. In their joint
response, Ali and "Silanyo" agreed to meet, with the precondition
that the National Electoral Committee (NEC) should obey Parliament's
ruling to rescind its July 27 decision that the elections should
proceed on September 27 without a previously agreed to voter
registration list.

5. (SBU) Faisal Waarabe, Chairman of the UCID, told us that UCID
and Kulmiye representatives will meet with the NEC August 20 to ask
that it withdraw its "unilateral" and "illegal" determination, and
that it endorse stakeholder consensus as a way forward. Faisal
insisted that they did not put any direct preconditions for Riyale
to meet. Prior to the meetings, the opposition parties also plan to
formally ask for international mediation of the talks with Riyale to
ensure that all parties honor their word. They thought that perhaps
Ethiopia could play that role.

House of Elders Votes to
Maintain Neutrality in

NAIROBI 00001772 002 OF 002

Political Disputes

6. (SBU) On August 19, Somaliland's Guurti (House of Elders) passed
a resolution designed to end its internal differences. The
resolution was passed by a vote of 63 for, one against, with the
Speaker abstaining. The articles of the resolution state that the
members of the Guurti should be united and remain neutral in the
political disputes in the country. Another article of the
resolution held that it is the Guurti's role to help find a
sustainable solution to Somaliland's political crisis.

Ethiopian Delegation
Engages Stakeholders

7. (SBU) On August 19, an Ethiopian delegation led by Minister of
State for Foreign Affairs Tekeda Alemu, arrived in Hargeisa. At
their meeting, Kulmiye and UCID presented Alemu with a position
paper which included the following points:

-- The President must state publicly that he is willing to walk back
his irrational decision to be the jury, the judge and the
executioner on the conduct of the elections. Unless the rules of
conduct are respected by all, including the President, a solution to
the problem will not be found.

-- All the necessary tools required to conduct this election in a
timely fashion are ready and should be used. The current voter list
should be accepted.

-- Interpeace must be allowed to resume its role.

-- The NEC has lost credibility and must be replaced.

-- A new body (comprising the three parties) must be created to
administer the country until a date for a new election can be set.
The six presidential and vice presidential candidates will not be
permitted to participate in this body.

US Media Engagement Receives
Positive Response

8. (SBU) On August 18, AF PDAS Phil Carter was interviewed by Horn
Cable TV. Excerpts were broadcast the same evening. The interview
was translated into Somali and re-broadcast on August 19. We have
received extremely positive feedback on the interview. A government
representative told us, "Ambassador Carter expressed the same
sentiments as the majority of Somalilanders." He encouraged us to
keep up the pressure as the wider public appreciates the continued
engagement by the United States. We understand that the Foreign
Minister has requested an interview with Horn Cable to respond to
PDAS Carter's points.


© Scoop Media

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