On 29 December, anti-government protests led to multiple fatalities and injuries in Las Anod, Somaliland (a region of Somalia which claims independence). The demonstrations began after the assassination of a local political figure by unidentified assailants. The city saw a heavy presence of security forces and the authorities fired live ammunition as they attempted to break up the demonstrations. At least three people were killed and nine were injured. The leader of Puntland (a Somali state that has also claimed independence), President Said Abdullahi Deni, has released a statement regarding the events in Las Anod. He accuses the Somaliland army of committing brutal attacks on civilians. Puntland has also deployed troops to the area of Las Anod.
After announcing in August 2022 its intention to launch a “total war” against the militant group Al-Shabaab, Somalia’s new government has tightened restrictions on freedom of expression in the country. On 7 November its Ministry of Religious Affairs banned the use of the name ‘al-Shabaab’ and prohibited scholars from “having dealings” with the group. The ban comes less than a month after a vaguely-worded government directive banning “the dissemination of extremist and terrorist ideology”, which local media organisations criticised for being unduly restrictive of freedom of expression and the press. One of these critics, the Secretary General of the Somali Journalists Syndicate, was arrested on security charges shortly after speaking out. The Deputy Information Minister revealed last month that the government had launched a cyber operation in which it had closed more than 40 social media accounts in the space of 48 hours.
On 1 October Somaliland’s Guurti, the upper chamber of the self-governing region’s legislature, voted to extend President Muse Bihi Abdi’s term by two years. It came a month after the postponement of the presidential election from 13 November 2022 to July 2023, which pushed it beyond the end of the President’s current term, which expires in December 2022. The two-year term extension is longer than was required by the election postponement and raises questions about when the election will take place. While such term extensions are common, the Center for Policy Analysis, a think tank, has assessed it be unconstitutional and warns it may destabilize the country – in August 2022, tensions between the political opposition and government over the election calendar, which both sides regard as critical to their political fortunes, broke out into deadly opposition protests. The extension was rejected by the opposition, who have threatened not to recognize Bihi’s government.
The Somaliland National Electoral Commission (SLNEC) announced on 24 September that the self-governing region’s presidential election, scheduled for 13 November 2022, was to be postponed to July 2023 due to time, financial and technical constraints. This pushes the election date beyond the end of President Muse Bihi Abdi’s current term, which expires in December 2022. The postponement comes shortly after deadly protests last month broke out over opposition suspicions that President Abdi intended to delay the presidential election - both the government and opposition regard the electoral calendar as critical to their political fortunes. Election delays are a feature of Somaliland politics but the political tensions building around the election date have led commentators to warn of the destabilizing potential of this delay.