Oromia-Somaliland: The Frustrating Situation of Refugees in Somaliland

November 13, 2011 at 3:07 pm · The following statement is the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA).


HRLHA Appeal and Urgent Action

Your Excellency, Mr. Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud,
President of the Republic of Somaliland.

Dear Honorable President,

First of all, the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) would like to express its appreciation to the people of the Republic of Somaliland, and to its government for their hospitality and kindness towards thousands of refugees who have fled their homes to escaped government persecutions in Ethiopia, Eritrea and other neighboring countries, and now living in Somaliland.

However, what has been happening to refugees in Somaliland over the past two and three weeks is contrary to the expectations of the HRLHA and those of international communities.

According to information obtained by HRLHA through its correspondents in Hargeisa, Somaliland, the refugees in the country, most of whom are from Ethiopia, have been subjected to different kinds of harassment and intimidation in a very unsafe situation. According those reports, the refugees have been (and are being) indiscriminately evicted from their rented temporary shelters; and, as a result, more than 700 refugees have been forced to live on the streets. They are temporarily gathered at a place known as the Social Welfare Centre near the UNHCR office in Hargeisa. At this place, only those who could afford to buy, are using tents while those, who could not, are living in open air. Confiscations of properties, documents in particular, take place along with kidnappings at their temporary shelters on the streets.

The refugees uniformly claim that their tenants told them that the evictions were on the order of the government of the Somaliland. Making their situations worse, those refugees have been denied any kind of accommodation and help from the local UNHCR office. The refugees add that they were told by the local UNHCR office that they will not get any help or support from the office unless and until they go back to their shelters (rented place), which is where they have been evicted from, and have been told they were not welcome back. The refugees also say that the local UNHCR office is aware of this situation. However, it has been difficult for the HRLHA to confirm this complaint with the local UNHCR office.

A very young child has died as a result of this unfriendly situation in which the refugees are; and, according to those refugees, more lives might have been lost especially due to lack of basic needs, such as food and water, had it not been for the some kinds of humanitarian gestures from local people.

The other frustrating situation is that there have been two very recent cases of kidnappings and disappearances by whom were described as armed agents of the Ethiopian Government. HRLHA has confirmed that, in the first case of kidnapping, which took place during the first week of this month (November 3 – 4, 2011), four refugees (all of whom were Oromo nationals from Ethiopia), have been kidnapped and taken away to currently unknown destination, but believed to be taken back to Ethiopia. They were Shek Abdurrahman Qabatoo, Mr. Riyaad Kamal, Mr. Ali Dabbal, and another refugee who was with Shek Abdurrahman at the moment. In the second case of kidnapping and disappearance, which happened on the 10th of November 2011, two other refugees, namely, Mr. Abdushukuur Mahammad (RF/06/055), and Mr. Hassan-nuur Mahammad Suleeyman (REC /361/08) have become victims of this illegal action; while a refugee named Mohammed Bushura Gurrachaa escaped the kidnapping by running away from the site. The hunting and attempts of kidnapping the refugees have continued even while this urgent action is being compiled. Originally, the refugees were targeted at their rented places of stay; and now (after evictions) at the Social welfare Centre near the UNHCR office in Hargeisa.

According to eye witnesses, the armed team/group that is engaged in hunting and kidnapping the refugees drives around in a truck, approaches specific individuals it has targeted, or picks randomly, forces them onto the track, and drive away without any interference from the local government, or any other party. The fact that the vehicles were supplied by the local government makes the whole operation look like a joint work of the governments of Ethiopian and the Somaliland. It is important, here, to remind each other that such incidents and experiences of refugees are happening repeatedly; and that, in most cases, (as hinted at above through the UNHCR reference numbers provided) the victims of such illegal actions are refugees who are already under the UNHCR mandate.

Mr. President, even if those refugees are not protected by the UN mandate, what is happening to them is blatantly in breach of the 1951 International Refugee Convention. In this (1951) document, it is stated that:

“No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers where his/her life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”

The overall situations taken into consideration, the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) is highly concerned about the safety and well-being of hundreds of those refugees who are now in a socially, economically, and politically unfriendly environment in Somaliland.

So, the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) requests the government of the Somaliland to make efforts to honour both its local and international obligations, and ensure the safety of people within its jurisdiction. We specifically request that the Somaliland Government prevent such illegal actions as kidnapping from happening to innocent and defenseless people, and refrain from sending refugees back to a country that they fled because their lives were at risk.

Also, the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) calls upon regional and international humanitarian and diplomatic communities to join us in making and sending these requests to the government of Somaliland.

The HRLHA is a non-political organization which attempts to challenge abuses of human rights of the people of various nations and nationalities in the Horn of Africa. It works on defending fundamental human rights, including freedoms of thought, expression, movement and association. It also works on raising the awareness of individuals about their own basic human rights and that of others. It encourages the observances as well as due processes of law. It promotes the growth and development of free and vigorous civil societies.


Please send appeals to the Somaliland Government officials as swiftly as possible, in English, Somali, or your own language:

Urging the Somaliland Government to reverse its decision of expelling refugee from Somaliland

Your concerns at the apprehension and fear of torture if they return to their home country

Urging the authorities of Somaliland to ensure that these refugees are protected depending on the 1951 refugee convention.

His Excellency, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud
President of the Republic of Somaliland
TEL/FAX: 252-225-3871

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Fax: + 41 22 917 9022
(particularly for urgent matters) E-mail:

International Committee of the Red Cross
19 Avenue de la paix CH 1202 Geneva
Tel: +41 22 734 60 01
Fax: +41 22 733 20 57

African Commission on Human and Peoples‘ Rights (ACHPR)
48 Kairaba Avenue
P.O.Box 673, Banjul, The Gambia.
Tel: (220) 4392 962 , 4372070, 4377721 – 23 Fax: (220) 4390 764

U.S. Department of State
Tom Ofcansky – Foreign Affairs Officer
Washington, D.C. 20037
Tel: +1-202-261-8009
Fax: +1-202-261-8197

Amnesty International – London
Tom Gibson
Telephone: +44-20-74135500
Fax number: +44-20-79561157

Human Rights Watch – New York,
Leslie Lefkow

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