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Farmaajo to address anxious Somalia public as allies flee his camp

Wednesday April 28 2021
Somalia protests

People hold posters of Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed during the protest against him in Mogadishu, Somalia, on April 25, 2021. PHOTO | AFP

By AGGREY MUTAMBO

Somalia’s President Mohamed Farmaajo was on Tuesday evening expected to deliver a national address, as more of his closest allies fled his camp over a simmering electoral dispute.

A statement from his official residence, Villa Somalia, said the President will address the public on national TV, to “brief them on the latest development in the country and the upcoming elections.”

The announcement followed two days of tensions in Mogadishu after the military fractured along clan lines with soldiers fighting one another, and divided on sides supporting a two-year extension for Farmaajo and those opposed.

It also came just minutes after leaders of Hirshabelle and Galmudug, which had backed him all through the controversy withdrew their support, and demanded an “immediate” election and termed any extension as “illegal.”

State Presidents Abdi Karie Qoorqoor of Galmudug and Ali Abdullahi Hussein of Hirshabelle decamped on Tuesday, joining a growing voice against President Farmaajo’s recent extension of his term by two years.

South West joined the camp later in the day. Led by, Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed Laftagareen, South West issued a statement renouncing support for term extension and demanding immediate elections.

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The three joined Said Abdullahi Deni of Puntland and Ahmed Madobe of Jubbaland in voicing their opposition to a decision two weeks ago by the Lower House of Parliament to extend their term and that of Farmaajo, ostensibly to allow time for universal suffrage.

South West, Hirshabelle, Galmudug had all stuck with Farmaajo, especially since their recent respective elections are perceived to have been influenced by Villa Somalia.

Elections standoff

But as an impasse on the electoral calendar grew, their decamping is thought to be a direct impact of can politics in Somalia.

The leaders’ respective clans have recently voiced opposition to Farmaajo staying longer without elections. Qoorqoor (from Habar-Gidir sub-clan) and Hussein (of Abigaal sub-clan) belong to the larger Hawiye clan which has produced some influential personalities like ex-Presidents Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sheikh Sharif Ahmed as well as Prime Minister Hussein Roble, former Planning Minister and opposition leader Abdulrahman Abdishakur.

Last week, the clan’s professionals and politicians gathered in Mogadishu and announced they had withdrawn support for Farmaajo as President.

On Sunday and Monday, a number of roads were barricaded in the city as soldiers loyal to opposition leaders under the National Salvation Forum guarded neighbourhoods hosting opposition supporters.

Government termed the soldiers as “militia” although the groups were mainly composed of soldiers trained under the Somalia National Army.

“Somalia can achieve peaceful elections if Farmaajo wanted it,” said Senator Ilyas Ali Hassan, Secretary for Foreign Affairs for opposition party Himilo-Qaran.

“It is unfortunate that, in the Holy Month of Ramadhan, people in Mogadishu are fleeing for their dear lives because of one person’s interests and who is refusing to hold an immediate election.”

President's options

With the decamping of his two main allies, Farmaajo could on Tuesday decide to return to dialogue for an indirect election as demanded by the opposition. Or, he could stay put and create more turmoil.

“I welcome their call for return to the September 17 Agreement, which is the only prelude to a general election in this country,” said Senator Abshir Ahmad, one of Farmaajo’s vocal opponents on term extension.

Earlier, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was concerned with the violence, and called on stakeholders to resume dialogue.

Farmaajo argued Parliament took the decision after Federal state leaders disagreed with him on venues, dates of elections and composition of the electoral management bodies. His rivals say he wanted to front his men to manage the vote, ensuring rigging.

The African Union, European Union, US and UK have all voiced their opposition to the two-term extension.

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