- Pro-democratic Somalilanders are outraged by the five-year prison sentence against 17-year old Zamzam Ahmed Dualeh for "espionage". The teenage girl allegedly was raped and mistreated while in custody and her four defence lawyers had been imprisoned during the "unfair trial".
Zamzam is accused of visiting the residence of the Vice President of Somaliland on 15 August, in order to meet with him, and gather intelligence about his family and security arrangements. She was, argues the prosecution, sent by a certain Mohamed Ali Farah, said to be a member of Al Itihaad based in Bosasso, who paid her a modest amount and promised her considerably more money on completion of her mission.
The conspiracy presented by the prosecution has been rejected as a total fabrication by independent media and rights groups in Somaliland. Indeed, the case had an odd start as Zamzam was accused of plotting to assassinate the Vice President, Ahmed Yusuf Yassin, as the girl first was arrested.
The irregularities went on as her detention and case were hidden by Somalilander authorities. The first media reports about her case came through rights groups and were only published outside the country. It immediately became clear that Zamzam claimed to be held detained on no legal grounds and that she was systematically abused by police officers.
When the case came up for the regional court of Hargeisa, there was no more talk of an assassination attempt. Instead, an intricate conspiracy of espionage was presented. The human rights group African Rights got involved and provided Zamzam with a team of four lawyers as it suspected that the accusations against her were fabricated to cover up for police abuse.
In end-November, the case against Zamzam experienced yet another surprising turn as her team of lawyers were sent to jail for protesting the prosecutor's behaviour and asking the judge "to take charge of his court." In an impulsive act, the judge announced that he had sentenced the lawyers to three years imprisonment.
In the absence of her lawyers - who were released on bail on Saturday - Zamzam's case was taken to an end this week. Without producing any evidence linking the 17-year-old girl to Mr Farah or other "foreign spies", the Hargeisa court on Wednesday sentenced her to five years in prison for "espionage" and for allegedly lying about her name, identity and clan.
The rape and torture allegations made by Zamzam and her lawyers where never heard and the defence was not allowed to call any witnesses to the stand. Instead, the prosecutor produced testimonies by doctors in government service, unknown to the teenager, claiming that she had neither been raped nor tortured.
- From the first day Zamzam was brought to court, on 4 October, to the judgement yesterday, the trial has been characterised by a profound lack of fairness, justice and professionalism, African Rights yesterday said in a statement. The group says it is "shocked and saddened" about the "unfair trial and harsh judgement."
According to human rights groups and parts of the opposition, the trial against Zamzam is yet another example of the steadily deteriorating human rights standards in Somaliland. In particular the judiciary and the increasingly brutal police service are becoming under close political control.
Also in the Somalilander press, the case of Zamzam has found large coverage. Pro-government publications have spread nationalist viewpoints against the assumed spy serving the hostile neighbour Puntland. Independent publications such as the Hargeisa daily 'Jamhuuriya' have warned about the country's deteriorating human rights record.
Also the independent web-based news service 'Awdal News', which first reported the case, has repeatedly stated its outrage over the treatment of Zamzam. In an editorial, the publication urges President Dahir Riyale Kahin to pardon Zamzam "to reclaim country's lost reputation." The whole case had "defied common sense and went against the social and cultural values of the great people of Somaliland," it added.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.