Somalia’s unions will not be cowed by violence
UPDATE (3 January): Omar has been in contact, thanking us for our solidarity, and updating us on investigations into the attack. Islamists extremists Al-Shabab have denied responsibility, making unions in Somalia conclude that it was a political move by elements within the government. Both the journalists’ union in Somalia and the International Federation of Journalists have issued supportive statements since the attack.
Omar told us:
“Intelligence advised us to move our office from where we are at the moment to more safer zone in Mogadishu and this is a discussions we are having. We were also advised to beef up our security and this is details that I am discussing with our executive. I was supposed to go to Somaliland but I decided to cancel because our enemy will think that they succeeded with their intimidation and that I left the city. So I decided to be with my colleagues, follow through the investigations and be in the office. My bullet ridden car is with intelligence for investigations but I don’t think I will use even if it is repaired because they know the car and I may be followed/attacked again. Struggle continues, victory is certain.”
Yesterday, Omar Faruk Osman, the leader of our sister organisation in Somalia – the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) – was the subject of an assassination attempt (thankfully unsuccessful.) It’s just the latest in a series of violent attacks aimed either at the trade union movement there, or at others, where trade unionists have been caught in the crossfire.
This attack took place at around 2pm, when Omar was coming back from the centre of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, and his vehicle was standing at the gate of headquarters of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), of which he is General Secretary. He was waiting for the gate to be opened, when a passing white sedan with three armed men sprayed Omar’s vehicle with bullets. Omar’s bodyguards exchanged fire with assailants, until the attackers were overpowered and ran away from the scene. One of Omar’s bodyguards and two other civilians were seriously wounded in this attack.
Ahmed Osman Said President of FESTU, said:
“FESTU is here to stay and no amount of attacks and attempts at the lives of our leaders will stop us from fulfilling our historic mission, which is to liberate workers from exploitation, oppression and subjugation. We demand from the federal government the security necessary to conduct union work and real protections for union members and leaders.”
We send our solidarity to our colleagues in Somalia, doing vital work – like organising informal sector workers – in the most challenging of circumstances.