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|Again Opposition Party Member Goes to Jail in Borama: How Sad!|
By: Adan H Iman
Again, a member of the opposition KULMIYE party, this time the party chief in the Region, is under detention in Borama allegedly because he provided written statement to the press accusing the Mayor, Mr. Abdirahman Sh Omar, inter alia, of misusing public funds in the amount of $15,000. In an interview with the Jumhuuriya newspaper, the mayor, who is an honorable man, is obviously hurt and offended by the allegation.
Much as we sympathize with the mayor, the question is what law has the police citied in detaining this gentleman? Do the mayor and the city council members have the legal authority, or in collusion with the police, in incarcerating anybody they wish?
The answer as far as I know is there is no law under which the regional opposition party chief can be charged under these circumstances. The constitution mandates that “every citizen shall have the freedom, in accordance with the law, to express his/her opinions orally, visually, artistically or in writing or in any other way”. The problem is the Somaliland Parliament has been derelict in their duty since the constitution was approved to enact a law that provides a reasonable and balanced standard that on the one hand guarantees individual freedom of expression and on the other hand protects public officials and private citizens from willfully manufactured slanderous statements. Remember, the constitution superseded preexisting laws and in the absence of a new law that complies both with the letter and spirit of the constitution people can say or write whatever they want and the government can do nothing to stop.
The mayor and the city council members can put pressure on the Awdal parliamentary delegation to push for a new press bill that will be satisfactory to all the different parties affected by any proposed law. The old version, which was twice rejected by the whole legislature, contained a vague test - violation of national security- designed to force journalists into a self-censorship mentality and in effect drive them to stay clear of any controversial issues for fear of prosecution.
Instead of taking the matter to a court of justice, which in Somaliland does not have that much of a credibility anyway, it is better if the mayor takes the matter to the court of public opinion. The mayor has all the media outlets at his disposal to tell his side of the story. That is the most effective way to repudiate and ridicule, right in front of the eyes of the people, those who spread false rumors about public officials.
When members of the opposition raise concerns about the conduct of elected officials of the ruling party, their goal is to win the hearts and minds of the voters. Officials of the ruling party must also try to win the hearts and minds of the voters and the last thing in the world to do so is to throw oppositions members into the jail.
It is now clear that even in a democratic system, politics is bloody, brutal game. Those who choose politics as their career in life ought to develop a skin as thick as that of a camel. Let us all hope that now and all the following years, this administration and all the future administrations, let them use the media and not the jail system as the vehicle of competition for political power.