Suicide Bomber Interrupts Graduation in Somalia

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009: 52 students were set to graduate in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, an unprecedented number for this country which has been ravaged by conflict for decades. But the graduation ceremony was interrupted by a suicide bomber.

The death toll? 23 people. Dozens more were injured. Three members of the Transitional Federal Government were also killed, including the Ministers of Higher Education, Education and Health, indicating that the attack was most likely politically motivated.

One of the students who was graduating that day, a 23 year old future doctor, tells IRIN what happened:

I was extremely happy that after six years I was finally getting my degree; it was the happiest day of my life. I was one of the first graduates to get to the venue for the ceremony. I was there at 8am. You have no idea how hard we worked to get our degrees. There were days we could not go class because of the security situation. I had to cross roadblocks to get to the university and brave gunfire many times; therefore graduation day was an emotional day for all of us. But then, just as we were about to receive our diplomas, a huge explosion ripped through the place. For a minute I was so dazed I could not understand what was happening. Then I realized my leg was bleeding and when I looked at where my colleagues had been sitting, there was nothing but death and destruction. – Sakhaudin Ahmed

Al-Shabaab, Somalia’s most active militant group, has denied responsibility for the attack. But Somalis disagree. In the past few days, hundreds of Somalis have marched down the streets of Mogadishu to rally against al-Shabaab, in what the BBC says is an “unprecedented show of anger at the militants.” And today, residents of a town close to Mogadishu fired back at Hizbul Islam rebels, one of Somalia’s other main rebel groups, to protest the arrest of a school headmaster who had a raised a Somali flag over the school.

Regardless of who is responsible for the attack, deliberately targeting civilians constitutes a war crime and is always prohibited under international law.

The TFG has now set up an inquiry into the attack. The rest of us have to wait and see if anyone is ever brought to justice for this heinous crime.

Human Rights Flashpoints – July 28, 2009


Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya attempted to return to Honduras for the second time on Friday, July 24, 2009.  After a brief moment in his home country, Zelaya retreated back into Nicaragua, setting up camp on Saturday to demand his return home and to power.

Since then, Zelaya has refrained from making another attempt to enter the country for fear of attacks against his supporters, as reported by the BBC.  Curfews remain in place in southern Honduras, while supporters of Mr. Zelaya have blocked main roads.

The Honduran armed forces endorsed the San José Accord, an agreement that was forged in Costa Rica between delegates representing President Zelaya and Roberto Micheletti, the leader of the de facto government.  According to the New York Times, the accord is supported by most governments in the hemisphere and it would allow the return of Mr. Zelaya as president with limited powers.

There are currently no further talks scheduled to take place between the de facto government and Zelaya.

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was detained by Honduran military personnel and forced into exile at the end of June.  Several government ministers are also reported to have been detained.  Roberto Micheletti, Congress speaker, has been sworn in as “Interim President.”  Micheletti has imposed a curfew.

Recent reports also suggest that journalists who have published news stories on the crisis or covering the issue of protests and scores of detentions have been intimidated.  Prosecutors have also reported threats on account of their attempts to verify human rights abuses during protests.

Must Reads


“President Zelaya’s effort to reach the border is reckless.”  Hilary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, July 24, 2009.

“The United States should be helping me, not criticizing.”  Manuel Zelaya, Ousted Honduras President, July 25, 2009. 


The worsening security situation in Somalia was exemplified by Al-Shabab raids on two UN compounds in Baidoa and Wajid last week, which severely hindered the UN’s humanitarian work in Somalia.  Al-Shabab has also threatened to shut down 3 UN operations in Somalia, accusing the UNDP, UNDSS, and UNPOS offices of working against Somali Muslims.  Ongoing fighting in Mogadishu has already led to the closure of many feeding centers throughout the city, putting pressure on already crowded IDP camps and straining the capacity of aid agencies all over Somalia.

Meanwhile, newly appointed Somali Security Minister Abdullahi Mohamed Ali vowed Friday to reform the security forces, telling Reuters by telephone that his “main priority is to gradually re-establish capable security forces that can defeat the terrorists.”

Must Reads


“Such acts target the whole gamut of UN peace and humanitarian operations in Somalia.  The UN is providing life-saving support to people in need throughout Somalia, and will continue to do all it can to help the country emerge from decades of violence.”  Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General, July 21, 2009.

“We again appeal to the warring parties in Somalia to respect basic international humanitarian and human rights principles and to guarantee the safety and security of the civilian population as well as for the humanitarian workers trying to help the victims.”  Ron Redmon, UNHCR Spokesperson, July 21, 2009.

Coming This Week

  • July 27: Obama begins economic talks with Chinese leaders
  • July 28: Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to arrive in Washington, DC for further discussions
  • July 30: Senate hearing on US strategy on Sudan
  • July 31: Renewal of UNAMID mandate
  • July 27 –  July 31: George Mitchell, Dennis Ross, and Robert Gates in Jerusalem for talks regarding West Bank settlements

Juliette Rousselot and Jacki Mowery contributed to this post.

Human Rights Flashpoints is a weekly column about countries at risk of escalating human rights violations and is brought to you by AIUSA’s Crisis Prevention and Response team.