PRESS STATEMENT: Street Vendors in Wajale, Somaliland

Wajale is a major hub city situated on the border between Ethiopia and Somaliland. It is currently the busiest city that links the two countries. All imports destined to Ethiopia from the major port of Berbera go through this strategic border city, with a twin Ethiopian sister city on the other side of the border.

The poor street vendors and informal business owners of Wajale city, dominated by women continue to be driven out, in efforts to plan the city better, by local government officials – complaining about the cruelty of the local authorities. Property has been destroyed and there have been forced evictions. Wajale comes second after Hargeisa as cities in Somaliland that the local government officials and police forces regularly assault the street vendors physically and verbally, destroy their property and confiscate their merchandise – sometimes throwing it away in dump-sites. The street vendors in most cases have to endure paying bribes and illegal fines to the authorities. In the clip, the vendors call out to the President – Mr. Muse Bihy Abdi, for justice for the crimes that have been committed against them by the city authorities.

The clip highlights the lack of recognition of the plight of street vendors in Wajale, especially the women confronted with layers of discrimination and violations against their rights on a daily basis. There is no legal protection or official recognition of the rights of street vendors and informal laborers. Cognizant of the fact that the vendors recurrently pay tax, the local government ought to work hard to match the new town planning systems and the wellbeing of the street vendors.

As highlighted in a recently-published research report – Women do not belong under the Acacia tree; women in the informal sector across the Horn of Africa continue to incessantly fight for the institutionalization and recognition of their economic contribution.