Canadian couple weds in Somaliland

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The capital city of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, Hargeisa, has captured the hearts of a Canadian couple who tied the knot there in a colourful ceremony.

Nicole and Alan Lebeoff said they decided to have two weddings because they wanted their friends in both Somaliland and Canada to be part of their celebration.

The two have been together for four years, two of which Mrs Lebeoff, née Audette, spent living in Hargeisa.

"We decided to have one wedding here because our Somaliland friends wouldn't be able to come to our Canadian wedding in July.

"Everybody who is here is just as important to me as my friends back in Canada," Mrs Lebeoff told BBC Somali.

The bride was wearing a white top and a flowing skirt made out of the traditional Somali fabric and had her hands decorated with henna. The groom was in a formal suit.

"I thought the wedding was beautiful [similar to] all the other ceremonies I have attended with my friends here.

"I also thought the fashion was super-beautiful and unique," said Mrs Lebeoff.

She added she wanted to honour the culture that she has "really grown to love".

'Disabled rape victim' spared flogging

Wahiba Ahmed

BBC Africa

An anonymous photo of a woman wearing a hijab

Both the victim and perpetrator of an alleged rape in the self-declared republic of Somaliland have had their sentences overturned by the Court of Appeal.

The alleged victim, who is disabled, had been sentenced to 100 lashes by a district judge last week and her alleged attacker had been sentenced to death by stoning.

But those decisions were reversed on Thursday by Judge Ali Suudi Diriye, who ordered the prosecutor’s office to investigate the initial allegations of rape and how such a verdict had been reached against the alleged victim. Her lawyer said:

This isn’t the final step. We want the prosecution to investigate the rape case and act accordingly. She came for justice and she is still fighting for it."

Guleid Ahmed JamaHuman rights lawyer

The alleged victim first reported the incident to local police in February 2018.

She said she had been raped by a taxi driver in September 2017 but did not report the incident immediately because she feared being stigmatised. She said she later went to the authorities after discovering that she was pregnant.

Somaliland made international headlines last year when a law criminalising rape and sexual offences was approved.

That was celebrated as a victory for women but the law remains under review and has yet to be implemented.

Somaliland rape victim sentenced to flogging

Wahiba Ahmed

BBC Somali service

Rape victim

A judge in the self-declared republic of Somaliland has sentenced a disabled woman, who had accused a man of rape, to be flogged 100 times.

Her perpetrator has been sentenced to death by stoning.

The victim first reported the incident to local police in February 2018. She said she had been raped by a taxi driver in September 2017.

She did not report the incident immediately after the rape happened as she feared being stigmatised, but later went to the authorities after discovering that she was pregnant, her representatives told the BBC.

They said the police didn’t believe her because of the delay in reporting the assault.

The judge ordered the alleged perpetrator to take a DNA test as he had denied all claims made against him.

“Victims are being harassed by the system. What kind of message does this send to women who want to report crimes?" said Somaliland human rights lawyer Guleid Ahmed Jama.

"Women still fear going to police stations, and now they might be punished for coming forward."

The victim’s lawyer and human rights groups in Somaliland have lodged an appeal and are hopeful the sentencing will be overturned.

Last year, the passing of the first rape and sexual offences law in Somaliland made headlines internationally and it was celebrated as a victory for women.

Mr Jama told the BBC that when the legislation was passed “we all celebrated but the law has since been suspended and is under review, nothing has changed since it made headlines".

Eritrea sends delegation to Somaliland

Abdihafid Ismail

BBC Somali

Yasiin Maxamud Faratoon Somaliland Foreign Minister Osman Salah Eretria Foreign Minister
Eritrea Foreign Minister Osman Salah (l) and Yasiin Maxamud Faratoon of Somaliland (r)

A high-profile delegation headed by Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Salah arrived in Hargeisa, the capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, this morning.

The delegation will remain in Somalialand for a few days, a staff from the Somaliland presidential office told the BBC.

Mr Salah said he was sent by the president of Eritrea to find more information on how the Somaliland government functions.

This is the first visit from the Eritrean government to Somaliland since it broke away from Somalia in 1991. Its independence has not been internationally recognised.

Somaliland has been allied to Ethiopia, which was a bitter enemy of Eritrea until last year when the two countries normalised relations.

Somali Muslim clerics condemn Valentine's Day

Bidhaan Dahir

BBC Somali service

Somaliland coat of arms
Somaliland's emblem has Islamic inscriptions on it

Some leading Muslim clerics in the self-declared republic of Somaliland have urged their followers not to celebrate Valentine's Day, saying it is contrary to the teachings of Islam.

The clerics made similar appeals in previous years, but have been more vocal in their opposition this year.

Some people disagree with them, arguing that celebrating love has always been part of the culture of Somalis - and one of their most celebrated poets, Elmi Bodheri, is said to have died of love.

But the Muslim clerics still object because the day gets its name from St Valentine, a Christian priest from Rome in the third century AD.

Somaliland delays parliamentary elections

Wahiba Ahmed

BBC Somali service

Woman lining up to vote in Hargeisa, Somaliland in 2010
Elections in Somaliland have been subject to delay in the past

Parliamentary elections due in the breakaway republic of Somaliland in March have been delayed until further notice.

Electoral Commissioner Abdiqadir Iman Warsame told the BBC there were several reasons for the delay, including a lack of funding from the international community.

Donors have been concerned about recurring delays with the electoral calendar.

He said the government had not provided any funds for the elections.

Registration for the election was behind because of these problems.

There was also disagreement over how many seats each region would be allocated in the next parliament, he said.

Opposition parties are demanding Mr Warsame's resignation and want the other members of the official election committee to be replaced.

Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991.

The move followed a secessionist struggle during which Siad Barre's forces pursued rebel guerrillas in the territory. Tens of thousands of people were killed and towns were flattened.

Though not internationally recognised, Somaliland has a working political system, government institutions, a police force and its own currency.

Read: Making a success of 'independence'

Kings attends Somaliland's book fair

Royalty have been showing up for this year’s Hargeisa International Book Fair in the self-declared state of Somaliland.

The BBC’s Mary Harper snapped this shot of a king and a chief attending the event, one of the largest celebrations of literature and the arts in East Africa:

L: Ahmed Iman Warsame, King of the Gaboye R: Chief Abakar Salatin from South Sudan
Mary Harper

The monarch in the headdress is Ahmed Iman Warsame, King of the Gaboye. Our reporter says the Gaboye are a much-despised minority clan in Somalia.

His business card says he is “King of the Horn of Africa” – which may be a bit of an exaggeration!

Next to him, wearing a sash, is Chief Abakar Salatin, from northern Bahr el Ghazal in South Sudan.

They have been invited to the literary gathering to compare and contrast South Sudanese and Somali royalty.