Deadly Protests Erupt in Somalia
Last Saturday, seven civilians were killed when violent demonstrations broke out in Mogadishu, Somalia. Hundreds of drivers and young people took to the streets to protest road blockages and the recent death of a driver of a tuk tuk, or motorized rickshaw. Both the young tuk tuk driver and his passenger were shot dead by a police officer manning a checkpoint in Halwadag junction.
Opposition lawmaker Mahad Mohamed Salad lamented the deaths and accused security forces of killing innocent civilians, saying that “they were shot by the same security personnel who were meant to protect them.”
The motive behind this particular shooting is unclear, though government security officials have previously accused tuk tuk drivers of ignoring soldiers’ warnings and aiding in the escape of al-Shabaab members from the city.
Following the deaths of the driver and his passenger, youths reportedly began protesting by burning tires, blocking roads, and throwing stones at police and buildings. Videos have shown protesters “carrying the two dead bodies and chanting anti-government slogans in protest against the police.”
In a bid to end the disorder, some police began firing at protesters. A teenage girl and a young man from Hodan district are among the dead.
Security forces in Mogadishu have reportedly killed over 20 tuk tuk drivers in the last three years. According to one driver, tuk tuk drivers “constantly face soldiers holding their guns improperly, and sometimes they aim their guns at us. In several cases, they pull the trigger as they conduct security checks, killing an innocent tuk tuk driver.”
Tuk tuks have recently become one of the most reliable forms of transportation in Mogadishu due to their mobility and the fact that the threat of continued al-Shabaab car bombs have caused the city’s major roads to be shut down. Tens of thousands of people, particularly young people, rely on the tuk tuk business, which underscores the importance of keeping it safe and the fervor of the protests.
One 19-year-old tuk tuk driver had this to say about the tuk tuk business: ”If the government does not solve the challenges we face, our last resort might be forcing it in some way or another.”
Members of Parliament have begun to speak out against the violence being used by security forces. MP Dahir Amin Jesow stated that he is “saddened that this city [Mogadishu] buries more deaths by the hands of the police. I want to send my condolences to the families affected by today’s incidents.” He added that he is “worried that a civilian revolution against the government will be triggered if the violence against unarmed civilians does not stop.”
Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo addressed these protests with a sort of stern caution, reminding civilians that their “grievances must be expressed within the framework of the law and respect to the justice system in the country.”
A number of security officers have been detained or arrested in connection with the clashes during the protests.