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Somaliland Parliament Passes First Bill Criminalizing Rape



WASHINGTON / HARGEISA — The parliament in the self-declared republic of Somaliland has approved a bill criminalizing rape for the first time, and requiring prison terms for individuals convicted of the crime.

The bill, passed Saturday, is the first of its kind in Somaliland criminalizing not only rape but all gender-based violations against women. It lays out a process to investigate the cases and prosecute perpetrators.

The bill now goes to the upper house of parliament and could be the first major legislation signed by President Muse Bihi Abdi who was elected in November.

Women’s organizations and human rights activists in Somaliland welcomed the passage of the bill, which was approved by 46 of the 51 MPs present.

Among those praising the parliamentary approval was Nafisa Yusuf Mohamed, the executive director of Nagaad, a women’s organization based in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland.

“We have been working on this bill since 2011. It has gone through different processes, but we are very happy that it has been adopted,” she told VOA Somali. “The people of Somaliland have welcomed it, we congratulate the parliament for discharging their duties.”

Under the bill, an attempted rape conviction would carry a four to seven-year jail sentence. An individual who rapes a victim using force or threats would get 15 to 20 years. If the victim is under the age of 15, the perpetrator gets 20 to 25 years.

Attackers who cause bodily harm or infect their victim with HIV in addition to committing rape would receive life in prison.

An increasing number of reported rape cases are related to gang rape. Gang rape was not mentioned in the existing penal code, but the new bill has a specific provision for gang rape which carries 20 to 25 years imprisonment.

Recently, the Somaliland Human Rights Center said rape is one of the least reported crimes in Somaliland. It said that in 2017, 81 rape cases were prosecuted, a small number compared to the number of alleged victims.

No more mediation by elders

In the past, elders have mediated between the families of the rapist and the victim, often leading to a lack of justice for the victim. In few cases, a victim ended up marrying her rapist under pressure from her family or the elders.

Mohamed Hersi Farah is an elder who performed mediations but says he stopped it in 2006.

“Before we intervened in individual cases and we dealt with clans, and there were no laws. But now there are gang rapes with more than 10 people involved [in a case]. We didn’t know where to start,” Farah said.

The new bill criminalizes mediation and other attempts to solve rape cases outside the courts.

“Anyone who attempts or mediate a rape case in this way could go to jail. We hope this will scare those who performed this outside the court who will now realize the government will jail them,” says the chairman of the human rights center, lawyer Guled Ahmed Jama.

Jama says he welcomes the fact the bill specifically focuses on rape and gender based violations and empowers law enforcement agencies powers to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators.

“This is a modern bill specifically on rape, previously rape was just an article under the penal code; this is a comprehensive bill,” he said.

Somaliland declared secession from rest of Somalia in May 1991 but so far failed to gain international recognition.

Barkhad Mohamud Kariye contributed to this report.


Anglo-Turkish Genel Energy might starting drilling in Somaliland in 2019 -CEO



LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) – Kurdistan-focused Genel Energy might start drilling in Somaliland next year, Chief Executive Murat Ozgul said on Thursday, as the group reported 2017 results broadly in line with expectations.

“For the long term, I really like (our) Somaliland exploration assets. It’s giving me a sense of Kurdistan 15 years ago,” Ozgul said in a phone interview. “In 2019 we may be (starting) the drilling activities.”

Chief Financial Officer Esa Ikaheimonen said Genel will focus spending money from its $162 million cash pile on its existing assets in Kurdistan but added: “You might see us finding opportunities… somewhere outside Kurdistan.”

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UAE to train Somaliland forces under military base deal: Somaliland president



ABU DHABI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will train Somaliland security forces as part of a deal to establish a military base in the semi-autonomous region, Somaliland’s president said on Thursday.

UAE government officials could not immediately be reached for comment – but the UAE has committed to invest hundreds of million dollars in recent years in the territory on a strategically important stretch of coastline on the Gulf of Aden.

The UAE began construction last year of a base on a site at the airport of the Somaliland port city Berbera, and will be allowed to maintain a presence for 30 years. Berbera is less than 300 km (190 miles) south of war-torn Yemen, where UAE troops are fighting rebels as part of a Saudi-backed coalition.

President Muse Bihi Abdi said the UAE would train police and military in Somaliland, which wants independence from war-torn Somalia but is not recognized internationally. He said he expected the agreement to be finalised within two months.

“They have the resources and the knowledge,” Abdi told Reuters in an interview in Abu Dhabi.

UAE has become more assertive in its foreign policy in recent years. The UAE Armed Forces have been fighting in the Yemen conflict since 2015 and in the past deployed in international operations including Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Abdi said the military base, which he expects will be completed this year, will guarantee economic development and security for Somaliland and act as a deterrent to extremist groups in the region.

Somaliland’s Foreign Minister, Saad Ali Shire, who was present during the interview, declined to disclose how many UAE soldiers would be stationed at the base.


Several regional powers have set up military bases along the Horn of Africa coastline, including Turkey in Somalia’s capital. The United States, China, Japan and France all have bases in neighboring Djibouti.

“It’s safer to have a lot of military in the area,” Abdi said.

Abdi said he hoped UAE investments, including a new civilian airport and a road connecting Berbera to landlocked Ethiopia, will lead to a “huge creation of employment” in Somaliland where unemployment is rampant.

“The biggest threat to Somaliland is poverty,” he said.

Dubai’s DP World is also developing Berbera port and building a free trade zone nearby.

This week, Somalia’s parliament voted to ban DP World from the country, an act that it said had nullified the agreement.

Abdi said the vote was a “joke” and a “political mistake” that would have no impact on the DP World agreement that includes the government of Ethiopia.

Somaliland broke away from Somalia in 1991 and has acted as a de-facto state since then..

Abdi also said he expected the UAE would make a hard currency deposit into Somaliland’s central bank but added that there had been no agreement between the two sides.

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Somalia bans Dubai ports World from operating in Somaliland



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