Somalia’s Lower House has been thrust in the spotlight, again, after President Mohamed Farmaajo announced he will ask the chamber to cancel an extension of his term.
It was a climb down from his previous stance in which he defended the decision to extend his term by two years, in spite of opposition from his rivals and key Western donors.
On Tuesday night, Farmaajo addressed the nation via the state-run Somali National Television (SNTV), focusing on four major issues including the holding of an election based on the September 17 Agreement, external interference by foreign interests, call for quick and unconditional meeting to discuss the elections, and himself facing the legislators.
“As a government, we have always been prepared to implement, without any preconditions, national elections purely based on the 17 September 2020 agreement, and the 16 February 2021 Baidoa Technical Committee recommendations,” the president said.
He said he will address the Lower House and ask the House to cancel the term extension.
Effectively, Farmaajo, who had been criticised by key opposition groups such as the National Salvation Forum, was passing the buck to the very MPs that backed him in the controversial term extension.
His announcement came after his ally federal states of Galmudug, Hirshabelle and South West decamped and demanded an immediate election to resolve the crisis.
Farmaajo’s term expired on February 8 but he and MPs [Lower House and Upper House] retained their seats under a law passed last year for incumbents to serve until new officials are elected.
The Lower House earlier this month extended MPs’ and Farmaajo’s term.
But with the officials operating under transition clauses of law, the debate was always whether the Lower House, let alone the bicameral legislature as a whole, can pass a law extending their own term, way beyond their mandate.
The tension had fractured the army, leading to a clash of various units from the same security agency, divided along clan lines.
In a speech he delivered on Tuesday night, Farmaajo agreed with the statements by Galmudug and Hirshabelle states plus the call by PM Mohamed Hussein Roble for the nation to go to elections. This clearly illustrated that the bid to extend the term of the parliament and the presidency for a maximum of 2 years was abandoned.
“I would like to firstly call on all parties in Somalia to refrain from any and all actions that could jeopardise stability in our country, including the politicisation of the security forces, creation of social divisions and the destruction of public property.
“I have decided to appear before the members of the House of the People of the Federal Parliament on Saturday to gain their endorsement for the electoral process that as agreed upon between the Federal Government, the Heads of Federal Member States and the Governor of BRA (Banadir Regional Authority),” he remarked.
Early signs of this climb down appeared on Tuesday afternoon after Galmudug and Hirshabelle states of Somalia, said they support the September 17, 2020 electoral model that Somali leaders had agreed on last year. The two states also urged the signatories of the landmark accord to go back to the negotiating table to resolve differences.
This revelation meant that the two state leaders, Ahmed Abdi Kariye Qoorqoor of Galmudug and Ali Hussein Gudlawe, no longer support the position taken by Somalia’s Lower House of the parliament on April 12, when 149 MPs voted in favour of a direct election to be held in not more than 2 years.
Gudlawe and Qoorqoor’s position was quickly hailed by PM Roble, stating that his welcoming gesture is motivated by the current situation in the country and the need for urgent need for an electoral agreement.
“I would like to welcome the press statements made by Galmudug and Hirshabelle Federal Member States and call on the other Federal Member States of Puntland, Jubbaland, Southwest and Banadir region, to fully commit to a peaceful process in our efforts to hold a free and inclusive election,” PM Roble said.
Soon after the prime minister’s welcoming statement, the states of Jubbaland and Puntland, the two opponents of the term extension by the Lower House of the parliament, sent approving remarks to the position taken by the leaders of Hirshabelle and Galmudug states.
“The Government of Jubbaland State welcomes the decision by Galmudug and Hirshabelle States to reject the unconstitutional term extension by the Federal Government and support the September 17th electoral agreement,” partly read the statement by the city of Kismayu-based authority.
Ex-Presidents Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and Sharif Sheikh voiced their relief that things are moving in a better direction, especially after the prime minister’s statement in support of Galmudug and Hirshabelle states.
Positive remarks from all sides appeared to neutralise the violent situation in which Mogadishu found itself since Sunday. Forces loyal to the opposition, especially the Coalition of (opposition) Presidential Candidates led by former president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed confronted the security forces of the government in parts of the city.
In a gesture to clear the air of uncertainty over the Mogadishu’s population, PM Roble ordered the security forces to restore order.
He also urged “opposition leaders to cease all hostilities” and actions that can lead to escalating conflict.
In a text circulated by the Speaker of the Lower House Mohamed Mursal on Tuesday night, he urged all legislators, especially those who travelled outside the country and to other regions, to come back to Mogadishu to attend a special session with President Farmaajo on Saturday.
Farmaajo is expected to ask the legislators to reverse the law that extended his term and brought a lot of tension in the country, especially in Mogadishu.
The president insisted that in the best interest of the Somali people, the parties should unconditionally come back to the negotiating table to clear the way for election to take place as soon as possible.
On Wednesday, Mogadishu was calm with business picking up again after a few days of uncertainty following the weekend violence.