Gardo shooting victims are speaking out for the first time:Sahra and Farah were among the wounded after Presidential guards fired on unarmed protesters during a peaceful demonstration in Gardo.
On Friday 23rd of November, hundreds of protesters, chanting slogans and carrying banners with different messages streamed onto the streets of Gardo, Karkaar region of Puntland State.
The demonstration began hours before the arrival of a delegation led by Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole.
“We were near the bridge, on the road to Hotel Salama, when the troops started shooting. We did nothing wrong, it was a peaceful march for change, we were carrying banners and chanting slogans,” says Sahra Ayah, a 14-year-old girl, who was shot on her left leg by a bullet fired from an ak-47 assault rifle.
“We were chanting “No five years”, it was a peaceful demonstration, there was no rioting when the forces fired on us…for me it was the first time that I got shot, the bullet went through my left leg breaking the bone,” says Farah Ahmed Gurey, a 16-year-old boy. He added, “after we were wounded, the government did nothing for us, I would like to know, who shot me and why?”
Both teenagers are now recovering from their wounds at Galkaio’s GMC hospital.
The demonstrations turned violent after the Presidential guards and police officers fired on unarmed protestors, wounding Sahra, Farah and two other people.Almost one hour later, more protestors gathered in the town center and the main roads, setting fire to tires while chanting “No More Farole – No five years.”
The forces that began the assault on the protestors were led by none other than the President’s nephew Omar Abdullahi Farole, the head of Puntland’s elite presidential guards.
Adding insult to injury
Col.Khalif Isse Mudan, the Security Minister of Puntland said, “the demonstrators were blocking the road with rocks, the troops were shooting in the air, but some people were wounded.”
For almost a week President Farole refused to comment on the shooting by his bodyguards of the unarmed protestors.
One week after the incident during a press conference in Bosaso city, President Abdirahman Farole said, “Some individuals instigated a small riot in Gardo, they are against the democratization process in Puntland,” He added,” We will not stop for these few individuals.”
The president blamed the demonstrators themselves for protesting against his plan to postpone the Presidential elections of January 9th 2013. He calls his decision legitimate.
This is no consolation for Sahra and Farah who believed in peaceful protests, but, instead, they were shot and are now scarred for life. Indeed, this was not the new democracy that they had in mind.
Though still in the hospital, both Farah and Sahra are expected to make a full recovery.
The families of the seriously injured protesters are calling for justice for the victims, but no one has been arrested and no investigation of the shooting is being conducted.
Arbitrary detentions and impunity to abusive security services are quite common in Somalia.