Somalia’s trade unions have today called for the swift implementation of the electoral political agreement by the Federal Government of Somalia and all 5 regional administrations to ensure timely elections.

The workers’ umbrella body, the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU), has expressed serious concerns over the rising tensions as a result of the upcoming election process, and warned that the “current and ongoing political arguments are contributing to social deterioration and resulting in deeper polarisation”.

In a public statement published on Thursday, the labour unions denounced “any insinuation or assertion that violence or bloodshed will result because of a particular or undesired political outcome. The very nature of elections indicates that there will be winners and losers, that some political dreams will not materialise”, whilst adding that “our country cannot be allowed to descend into violence because of this. We welcome robust political debates and accept the diversity of views that come with this. However, these debates must not contain inflammatory hate speech that ultimately spurs Somalis towards violence. We reject measures that exploit differences and incite hostilities among communities or clans.”

Labour stated their preferred electoral model has been “direct elections in the form of one person one vote” in order to “place Somalia on the road to democracy as the outcome would have reflected the will of the people for the first time in 50 years, resulted in more inclusive representation and set the stage for greater political accountability”. But the unions said “politicians, including current presidential candidates, have unfortunately resisted such a system and opted for parliamentary and presidential elections, similar to the model implemented in 2016.”

“Organised labour is sending a clear and stern warning that any election-related violence and/or incitement of clans to commit violence will be held accountable,” says Omar Faruk Osman, FESTU’s General Secretary. “Politicians who publicly or privately threaten to bring the country to the brink of violence by using forces must be held accountable.”

Indicating the impact of violence on the working people, FESTU said “whilst political wars are waged for power and position, workers and their families remain the biggest victims and the collateral damage in any election violence. They risk losing their income, livelihood and ability to support and protect their families. This is not only deeply disturbing at the personal and community level, but contributes to a weakening of Somali society in general. Having suffered through a difficult year brought on by a global health pandemic where workers bore the brunt of the impact, having 2020 culminate in election violence is inhumane and unacceptable.”