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Eighteen butchers get six months in prison for demonstrating against Mayor Ji'ir
Hargeysa, Somaliland, March 17, 2007 (SL Times) – The Hargeysa regional security committee last night sentenced 18 butchers and meat stall traders, who took part in Thursday's demonstration against the mayor of Hargeysa, to six months in prison and one protestor was fined Sl/sh 1 million ($160). Ten of the protestors were women.
The regional security committee was declared by Somaliland’s previous and current parliaments as an illegal committee that should not have the legal authority or discretion to sentence a person to prison. Parliament has affirmed that only the judiciary has the authority to send someone to prison. The opposition and human right workers have stated on many occasions that the constitution specifically states 'no citizen can be sentenced to prison without having a fair and lawful trial before a court of law'.
The arrests were made on Thursday and Friday daytime, when angry meat traders took to the streets to protest the recent doubling of Hargeysa abattoir fees by the city authority. In Friday's demostration the traders brought their animals in to the town centre and tried to march their way to the presidential palace with their animals but were blocked by the police from reaching the presidential palace which was a short distance away.
Large groups of police dispersed angry crowds of Hargeysa meat stall traders and abattoir butchers demonstrating, on Thursday, outside the office of the mayor of Hargeysa Hussien Muhammad Ji'ir. In order to break up the demonstration, the police fired live ammunition in the air in the direction of the protestors. One protestor was hit by a police live round, and many protestors sustained wounds and bruises caused by the batons and sticks that the police used to break up the angry traders.
Many protestors were thrown in the back of police vans and taken to Hargeysa central police station. By Friday night, 18 protestors were sentenced by the regional security committee to six months prison and one protestor was fined $160.
Many of the meat stall traders and abattoir butchers had taken part in a meeting with mayor Ji'ir inside the city hall. When the traders failed to get a pledge from the mayor to look into the decision to double the fees charged by Mandeeq the private company leased by the local authority to operate the main and only abattoir in Hargeysa, the angry and frustrated traders took to the streets shouting 'down with Ji'ir' and 'down with Mandeeq' and 'we will not be bled to death by Ji'ir and his company Mandeeq'.
The meeting with the mayor was intended to end the two-month long dispute that the abattoir butchers and the meat stall traders have had with Mandeeq company, the perators of the local abattoir in Hargeysa. For some time Mandeeq company has been complaining to the local authority that the company was not making a profit due to 'the low fees charged for the abattoir services it provides'. It was then that the company in a press conference threatened to terminate their contract with the local authority by February 15th of this year, if their complaints were not addressed by the local authority. Soon after, the local authority decided to increase the abattoir fees to double what they were, and Mandeeq agreed to these changes.
The following day after this announcement was made by the mayor and Mandeeq, abattoir butchers and meat traders staged a strike and no animals were culled that day. The traders were furious about not being consulted regarding the increase of abattoir fees.
Last Thursday, Mayor Ji'ir said to a local television station that the people who staged the demonstration were not meat traders but people posing as meat traders, and that the real meat traders and their representatives have endorsed this increase on many occasions in the media. In addition, he said all parties have been consulted on this matter, and even the central government is aware and has acknowledged this increase as reasonable.
One meat trader complained to Somaliland Times that the mayor has created a group of bogus committees who hold press conferences, state that they represent the butchers and meat stall traders, and say that the local authority consulted them, and that they endorse this price hike.
The current abattoir has been operating for the past one year and was awarded to Mandeeq company to run and manage its facilities on behalf of the local government.
Since its opening, this is the third time fees charged by Mandeeq has been increased. Before moving to this new abattoir in early 2006, the local government used to charge 500 Sl/shilling ($0.08) per goat/sheep slaughtered in the old abattoir. When the new abattoir was opened by the local authority and Mandeeq, the fee was increased per goat/sheep slaughtered to 3, 300 Sl/sh ($0.51). For the third time, in less than 13 months, the fee was increased to 6,300 Sl/sh ($1.03) last month.
Yusuf Kirih, a member of the local authority assembly, who also chairs the committee for the city's social affairs told the local media that the local authority's assembly, the governing body responsible for the authority, is not in agreement with the way the mayor has single-handedly given the tender to Mandeeq to manage the city's abattoir. Moreover, Kirih said this increase was not endorsed by the assembly and it is illegal to increase the abattoir fees without the assembly's endorsement.
Source: Somaliland Times