Public service vehicle drivers operating between Mogadishu and Baidoa went on strike in protest against an escalation of incidents of robbery, rape, killing and extortion of money by armed men dressed in Somali government soldiers’ uniform.
In Baidoa on Tuesday, protestors displayed their vehicles with bullet holes and injured drivers, bringing business to a standstill.
Abdi Hassan, a driver, said they lost all the money they earned as fares and sometimes met violence, robbery and rape of passengers by the militiamen manning roadblocks.
“I operate a seven-seater vehicle along the route and I spend 200,000 Somali shilling on each round trip,” he complained. “I believe these armed men are government soldiers as it wouldn’t be easy for others to get hold of the uniform.”
The areas most plagued by such roadblocks are the districts of Afgoye and Wanlaweyn in Lower Shabelle, he said.
Another driver, Hussein Ahmed Ali, was wounded when he tried to protect one of his passengers from the armed men on the highway.
“I told them to hurt me instead of abusing my female passengers, and then they tortured me and forcefully took 500,000 Somali shillings,” he said.
Abdirahman Abdi Hussein said he had been put out of the driving business by the extortion.
The drivers conveyed their grievances to the Southwestern administration authorities’ office in Baidoa and vowed to continue the strike until the roadblocks were ended.