News24

Somaliland leader urges calm

2009-09-13 17:08

Hargeysa - The president of breakaway Somaliland called on the opposition on Sunday to show restraint after violent demonstrations killed at least three people in the capital Hargeysa.

"I call upon you to show restraint by ending the protests on Hargeysa. We know that undermining existing peace is very simple, but regaining a lost peace will not be a simple task," Dahir Riyale Kahin told a news conference.

Deadly clashes erupted on Saturday when opposition demonstrators chanting anti-government slogans sought to break into the parliament building after police tried to stop a scheduled debate on a motion to impeach the president, officials said.

Journalists arrested

Witnesses said the riot police opened fire on the crowd and police arrested three journalists. Police said armed protesters wounded four officers.

Faced with increased violence in the tiny self-styled state, Riyale pointed to the unrest in south Somalia with a radical Islamist insurgency as an example of what happens when peace is lost and a state fails.

"Today we know the lack of stability created by the Shebab (radical Islamists) in south Somalia, and we cannot rule out they could also be operational in our region since some of our children are among them, so don't allow yourselves to spill your blood for the sake of someone's interest," he told reporters at the presidential palace.

He also called on the opposition parties to come to the negotiation table without preconditions in order to avoid more violence.

Election delayed

Tension rose in the breakaway state after the postponement of the presidential election scheduled for September 27.

The poll has already been delayed twice, notably over a disagreement concerning the voters' register.

Riyale, in power since May 2002, is seeking re-election but faces a stiff challenge from Faisal Ali Warabe, of the Justice and Welfare Party, and Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud, of the Development and Solidarity Party.

A former British protectorate, Somaliland broke away from the rump Somalia 10 months after Somali strongman Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991.

More stable and economically viable than central and southern Somalia in recent years, Somaliland is seeking international recognition as an independent state.