By Mark Baber
October 13 – A regional football match between Awdal and Marodi Jeh at Haji Dahir stadium in Borama, Somaliland, quickly descended into violence on Sunday as a dispute over a penalty decision led to a small-scale crowd invasion and police responded with automatic weapons fire, reportedly killing one and injuring others, one of whom died of his wounds.
Shocking scenes were caught on mobile phones as players and spectators threw themselves on the ground with fans then picking up those who were injured to rush them to hospital.
On Monday, Somaliland’s Deputy Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Yusuf Osman Garas expressed his sorrow over the death of a young boy and demanded police and security forces to stop using live bullets when it comes to dispersing crowds of people during riots or once violence breaks out.
According to Garas, an immediate investigation will be carried out concerning on the circumstances of incident, whilst accusing the Marodi Jeh regional squad of violating the soccer rules for the tournament after the team protested a penalty decision.
Somaliland is a de facto independent state with its own relatively stable government, security services, defined territory and political system which for various political reasons is only recognised by other countries (and FIFA) as an “autonomous region of Somalia” – who continue to officially support the “territorial integrity” of Somalia – a country with few of the attributes of a functioning state.
Whilst commentary In Somaliland media decried the shootings and the “heavy handed response from the local security forces” the question was also posed as to whether “sinister forces,” opposed to Somaliland’s push for independence were using the games “to foster hostility in the area.”
Whilst Somaliland continues to suffer from various human rights abuses, since achieving de facto independence it has escaped the violence and total disorder of the south of Somalia. In this context it is unsurprising that commentary in Somaliland media emphasises; “All Somalilanders, irrespective of their regional or communal ties abhor the events in Borama, and the loss of life at a sporting event, lest we forget, it was only a few decades ago that hundreds were massacred at the Mogadishu National Stadium. We do not want a repeat of that kind of thing, and Somaliland is hopefully beyond such despicable actions.”
Whilst Somaliland’s progress in implementing the rule of law, stability and democracy has yet to lead to statehood, it is notable that the response of local media to the tragedy in Borama is a call to; “Let us all return to our tried and true formula of dialogue, discussion and consensus and resolve the ills affecting the nation.”
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