Riots erupt in Hargeisa as Somaliland yesterday decided to evict people from government housing. Young boys pelted stones at security forces, who responded with live fire. The protesters claimed President Muse Bihi’s administration intends to sell the properties to businessmen, displacing the residents.
Hargeisa, Somaliland, SOMALIA.
Somaliland’s police force owns the land in question, and the protesters are allegedly the children of police personnel who had resided there. Their parents’ association initially granted them the right to occupy the housing. However, the Somaliland government has decided to auction the land, a move that can be attributed to the disfavourable financial situation the self-declared state in Northern Somalia currently faces.
Faysal Ali Waraabe, the Justice and Development Party (UCID) Chairman and a presidential candidate for the self-proclaimed republic, condemned the government’s decision. He urged the government and the people of Somaliland to focus on other burning issues.
“The government and the people of Somaliland must work together to defend the country, prepare for elections, and deal with inflation. The government should not occupy itself with auctioning public land,” said Faysal Ali Waraabe.
Waraabe’s statement followed the circulation of videos showing teenagers and youth hurling stones at the police during the protests.
Somaliland’s financial struggles
The Somaliland government’s decision to sell government land is most likely responding to the financial strains caused by the loss of the Sool region to SSC-Khaatumo forces. The government has sought alternative means of generating funds, as the war severely impacted its revenue. However, the sale of government land comes at a cost and risks further dividing society. It brings against each other the displaced low-income residents and the elites benefitting from these sales.
These developments will likely provoke more backlash against President Muse Bihi’s government and demoralise a significant portion of the public, potentially eroding support for the administration during this critical period.
The riots in Hargeisa are taking place only three days after violent clashes erupted between the SSC-Khaatumo forces and Somaliland clan militias in the Ayn (Cayn) region and Erigavo (Ceerigaabo) in the Sanaag region. Although relatively local, the clashes raised concerns about the potential outbreak of a renewed full-scale war between SSC-Khaatumo and Somaliland.
The fighting in Ayn revolved around land disputes between Habar Je’lo and Dhulbahante clans and spread to various towns, including Kalshaale, Hagoogane, Maskah Buqle, and the outskirts of Megasagle. At least ten people have lost their lives in the fighting, primarily in the Maskah Bugle area, with several others sustaining injuries.
One of the videos circulating on social media allegedly displayed the arrest of a member of the Habar Je’lo militia, captured by the SSC-Khaatumo forces in Qorilugud.
The clashes marked the first outbreak of violence since 25 August, when SSC-Khaatumo defeated Somaliland forces in Gooja’adde and reclaimed territories in Sool, Sanaag, and Ayn. Reports indicate that Somaliland has been mobilising armed clan militias in the past six weeks and preparing to attack the SSC regions.
In Erigavo, the conflict occurred between Somaliland forces and civilians sympathising with SSC-Khaatumo. It was a skirmish, with Somaliland’s security forces claiming they were combatting the influx of illegal substances (such as alcohol) into the city as their reason for the attack. However, many believe Somaliland intended to expand the conflict with SSC-Khaatumo by engaging the city’s residents.