Huge Fire Destroys Somaliland Market

A massive fire tore through the main market in the city of Hargeisa in northern Somalia.

 

 

A massive fire tore through the main market in the city of Hargeisa in northern Somalia overnight, injuring about two dozen people and destroying hundreds of businesses, officials said on Saturday.

Images posted on social media showed flames and huge billowing clouds of smoke in the night sky over the city, the capital of the breakaway region of Somaliland.

The cause of the blaze that gutted the sprawling Waheen market — the lifeblood of the city and home to an estimated 2,000 shops and stalls — is not yet known.

Officials said it started on Friday evening but was largely brought under control by dawn on Saturday, although some small areas were still burning.

“The town has never witnessed such a massive calamity,” Hargeisa’s mayor Abdikarim Ahmed Moge told reporters at the scene.

“This place was the economic centre of Hargeisa and even though the firefighters did their best to contain the fire, the market is destroyed.”

He said the blaze could have been brought under control before causing such extensive damage but that the firefighters’ efforts were hampered by access problems.

The vast market is a crowded warren of shops and makeshift stalls, with no proper streets, only narrow pathways.

Somaliland president Muse Bihi Abdi said during a visit to Waheen that about 28 people, nine of them women, were injured, but that so far no loss of life had been reported.

He said the government would be releasing one million dollars to help with the emergency response to the disaster.

Hargeisa Chamber of Commerce chairman Jamal Aideed said the loss of the market was immense as it accounted for 40 to 50 percent of the city’s economy.

“I have lost everything tonight, this fire was the biggest I have ever seen in my life,” said market trader Bashi Ali.

“I had several businesses in the market and all of them burned to ashes. All we can learn from this disaster is to plan the market well,” he added.

Somaliland Launches Representative Office In Taiwan

Mohamed Hagi (R), Somaliland’s Taiwan representative, bumps elbows while posing with Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu during the opening ceremony of the Somaliland representative office in Taipei on September 9, 2020. (Photo by Sam Yeh / AFP)

 

Somaliland opened a representative office in Taiwan Wednesday as the unrecognised but de facto sovereign territories deepen a relationship that has sparked angry rebukes from both China and Somalia.

Taiwan and Somaliland have grown closer in recent years, finding common ground in their peculiar and isolated international status.

Both are thriving self-run democracies that remain mostly unrecognised by the wider world.

“The bilateral accord between Somaliland and Taiwan is based on common values of freedom and democracy,” Somaliland representative Mohamed Hagi said at a ceremony in Taipei.

Beijing views Taiwan as its own territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if needed. Only 15 countries diplomatically recognise Taiwan over Beijing, although many nations maintain embassy equivalent trade offices in Taipei.

Somaliland, meanwhile, declared independence from Somalia during the 1991 civil war and has thrived as a comparative beacon of stability. While some nations maintain informal ties with Hargeisa, Somaliland is not diplomatically recognised by any other nation.

Last month Taiwan opened an office in Somaliland.

Somalia described the move as a “reckless attempt” to infringe on its sovereignty, while Beijing accused Taipei of separatism and acting with “desperation”.

Hagi pushed back at that criticism on Wednesday.

“From Somaliland’s perspective we are independent,” he told reporters.

“We are happy to make relations with Taiwan and other countries, to build economic relations. There is not any threat to China.”

Taiwan has been engaged in a diplomatic tug-of-war with Beijing for decades in which each side tries to woo the other’s allies with financial and other incentives.

Since the election of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, Beijing has poached seven allies as part of a wider campaign to isolate Taipei.

Beijing loathes Tsai because she regards Taiwan as “already independent” and not part of one China.

AFP

Breakaway Northern Somalia To Elect New President

This file photo taken on May 18, 2016 shows a woman waving a flag as soldiers and other military personnel of Somalia’s breakaway territory of Somaliland march past during an Independence day celebration parade in the capital, Hargeisa. PHOTO: MOHAMED ABDIWAHAB / AFP

The self-proclaimed state of Somaliland will vote for a new president on Monday, hoping to continue a series of democratic transitions of power that sets it apart from its troubled neighbour Somalia.

The northern territory, which is more tribally homogenous and stable than the rest of Somalia, broke away in 1991 and has been striving to attain international recognition ever since.

Three candidates are running for the state’s top office, seasoned politicians Muse Bihi of the ruling Kulmiye party and opposition candidates Abdirahman Iro and Faysal Ali Warabe, who was defeated in previous elections in 2010.

Elections are meant to be held every five years, however the poll was delayed for two years due to drought and other technical issues.

Incumbent Ahmed Mohamud Silaanyo is not seeking re-election.

Campaigning wrapped up on Friday after weeks of rallies around the region for Somaliland’s third democratic election.

The vote is set to be the most sophisticated yet with some 700,000 voters registered using biometric eye scanners which will identify them before they cast their ballots.

“The sophisticated equipment which was used to register voters reads the eye of the individual and it’s the first time such equipment is used in elections,” said Yonis Ali Nur, spokesman for the national electoral commission.

He said social media will be suspended during the counting of votes amid concerns of interference from outside the borders of the semi-autonomous state and speculation over results.

“It is very difficult to control social media and the overall media but we have requested the communication companies to temporarily suspend the social media platforms,” said Nur.

The ban will go into effect after polls close at 6:00 pm (1500 GMT).

Human Rights Watch bemoaned the move to curb social media in a statement Friday, saying that if Somaliland authorities were concerned about fake news and social unrest they should “disseminate accurate information and discourage violence”.

Somaliland writer and activist Barkhad Dahir, said the election was crucial to proving the state’s democratic credentials.

“It is not only the election itself and the leader but the process and the fairness, the international community is looking at us and if we are smart enough, we will vote smoothly to show we are a democracy,” he told AFP.

Somaliland, a former British protectorate, won independence in 1960 but days later joined with Somalia. In 1991, after years of bitter war with the government in Mogadishu, it declared independence from the rest of the country.

While anarchic southern Somalia has been riven by years of fighting between multiple militia forces and Islamist violence, Somaliland has enjoyed relative peace.

The one-person-one-vote democratic election process in Somaliland stands in stark contrast to that in Somalia, which elected a president earlier this year in a limited electoral process that saw handpicked clan elders choosing delegates who were allowed to vote.

AFP