Somaliland MPs scuffle over impeachment motion

Tue Sep 8, 2009 11:56am EDT

* Punch-up in parliament, lawmaker pulls out pistol

* Dispute over motion to impeach president



By Husein Ali Noor

HARGEISA, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Politicians traded blows in Somaliland's parliament on Tuesday after officials agreed to debate a motion to impeach the president of the breakaway enclave over election delays.

Two members of parliament started fighting, then the mayhem spread to other parts of the floor and one lawmaker pulled a pistol before police burst in and ordered the rowdy politicians out of the chamber, eyewitnesses said.

Lawmakers have immunity and are not searched on their way into the building. The pistol was quickly grabbed by other legislators and not fired.

Somaliland has enjoyed relative peace compared with other parts of Somalia since the Horn of Africa nation plunged into anarchy in 1991. But persistent delays to presidential elections have worried rights groups and angered opposition politicians.

A poll set for July was put back to Sept. 27. But the electoral commission postponed the election again this week due to worries about whether a vote could be held in the current political climate amid disputes over new electoral lists.

The motion to impeach President Dahir Riyale Kahin was presented on Saturday and the legal advisor to the lower house told lawmakers on Tuesday the move was legal -- sparking an angry response from ruling party politicians.

Somaliland is governed by an opposition-led house of representatives elected by the people and an upper house made up of clan elders. The House of Elders has twice extended President Kahin's mandate and it is now due to expire on October 29.

The polls are seen as a test for the former British protectorate, which has been clamouring for international recognition since declaring independence after dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown.

Human Rights Watch said in July that all the gains made by Somaliland to build stability and democracy risked being lost if the government continued to undermine the law.

It said then that if the Sept. 27 elections were delayed it could prove disastrous for democratic rule in Somaliland.

The government has called the report, "Hostages to Peace", an unfair slur and said this week it was not afraid of the impeachment motion, nor of holding an election.

"We know that the election is near and that the impeachment motion is aimed to obstruct elections, destroy the country and encourage Somaliland's enemies," Finance Minister Husein Ali Duale, a close ally of the president, said on Monday.

The chairman of the house said the lawmaker who took out his pistol would be disciplined and parliamentarians would resume their duties on Saturday. (Editing by David Clarke)





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