Police take control of Somaliland parliament

Police in the breakaway state of Somaliland swarmed into parliament after lawmakers fought among themselves and one drew a pistol, a police officer said Wednesday.

The violence on Tuesday erupted over a motion to impeach the president brought by opposition lawmakers and contested by supporters of the president. Lawmakers backing the president in turn brought another motion calling for the removal of the speaker of parliament.

“What happened today in parliament was a tragic incident; one of the lawmakers drew a gun and tried to kill another lawmaker before the police took control of the situation,” Mohamed Adan Warfa, a Somaliland police officer told AFP by phone Wednesday.

Opposition parliamentarians accused the president’s supporters of starting the fight by punching opposition lawmakers.

“They started punching each other and disrupted the scheduled discussions so that the police forcefully closed the meeting hall and everyone went home,” said lawmaker Ibrahim Mahdi.

Police disarmed some lawmakers’ security guards who were outside the building “as a precautionary measure,” Mohamed Adan Warfa said.

The incident which came amid political tension in the breakaway Somali state shocked residents.

“I couldn’t believe how bad it was – I saw lawmakers shouting as they were pushed out of the parliament building by the police,” witness Osmail Ali Barqad told AFP.

On Wednesday all was quiet in the streets of Hargeysa, residents said. Lawmakers are set to resume their debate on Saturday.

Tension has mounted in Somaliland after the postponement of the presidential election scheduled for September 27.

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

President Dahir Riyale Kahin, 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.



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