Just hours after Washington recognized the government of Somalia after nearly 22 years, a prominent radio broadcaster was shot dead by unidentified gunmen as he left home on his way to work today.
This first murder of a Somali journalist in 2013 follows 18 others in 2012. Abdihared Osman Adan was a newscaster at Radio Shabelle, which has lost nine other journalists to assassins since 2007.
The UN special envoy for Somalia said this was “the latest in the series of heinous killings targeting the Somali media”. The envoy Augustine Mahiga is an architect of the deal that persuaded the US to recognize Somalia’s government in place since late last year.
He pressed the new government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to move more quickly to guarantee press freedom and investigate the murders so far.
The Somali leader won plaudits from President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton at ceremonies on Thursday and Friday for helping to lead his war torn and desperately poor country towards a credible path to peace and growth.
But an independent expert of the UN Human Rights Council, Shamsul Bari, today condemned the impunity with which journalists are murdered in Somalia. He pressed for a “prompt, effective and thorough investigation” as promised earlier by the government.
He also condemned the execution on 16 January of two soldiers sentenced to death in September 2011 by a military court in Mogadishu. Most UN member countries are against the death penalty as undermining human dignity and about 150 have either abolished capital punishment or have instituted a moratorium.
Somalia was long known as the most failed state and 14 attempts to provide a stable government collapsed since it slid into internal wars in 1991. It now has a new constitution and a fragile president, prime minister and parliament.
The current optimism for its future stems from recent defeats of the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab rebels who have been pushed out of the capital Mogadishu and most other parts of the country. Hostage-taking by pirates in the seas near Somalia has also declined because of al-Shabab’s losses.
The US spent nearly $1.5 billion to help soldiers from the African Union, Ethiopia and the Somali government to oust the rebels. Eight years of inefficient transitional rule by a mostly corrupt government ended last year when Mohamud emerged on top. But the transitional government managed to persuade the previously warring Somali clans to come together against al-Shabab and Mohamud succeeded in building upon that for the final push.
However, international aid agencies remain reluctant to return fully to Somalia, leaving millions scattered across the country suffering from hunger, lack of health care and schooling. Somali infrastructure is almost non-existent and the economy is shattered.
An American journalist and two aid workers are still being held hostage somewhere in Somalia. Al-Shabab, which is threatening to return, remains capable of conducting assassinations and bombings in urban centers, including Mogadishu. On Thursday, it announced the execution of an alleged French spy kidnapped in 2009, following a failed rescue attempt by French commandos earlier this month.