Somalia’s Federal Government says it will stick to the decision of the country’s Parliament to extend the mandate of the President and legislators, in spite of global condemnations.
A statement issued on Wednesday night indicated that Mogadishu will defy threats from its main donors. Somalia called for support rather than criticism after President Mohamed Farmaajo on Tuesday assented to a bill to effectively delay elections by two years.
President Farmaajo said it “restored power to the people” and warned against outside manipulation.
Somalia’s Foreign Affairs ministry said, “The decision was broadly supported by key stakeholders in the country, including the Federal Government, Benadir Regional Administration and three out of five federal member states, namely Hirshabelle, Galmudug and South West. We urge our friends and allies to continue their constructive support.”
“The FG [Federal Government of Somalia] stands by the decisions made by the Federal Parliament and remain committed to implementing free and fair elections in the country within the stipulated timeframe,” it said in a statement.
The position was an open defiance to a call by main donors who rejected the extension of President Farmaajo and MPs’ terms, saying the move that could undermine the country’s stability.
In a series of coordinated statements, the US, UK and the European Union said they will consider “changing” the nature of relations with Somalia, falling short of threatening sanctions.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States will “re-evaluate” bilateral relations with Somalia if the President forces through the extension.
“We have also made it clear that the United States does not support mandate extensions without broad support from Somalia’s political stakeholders, nor does the United States support parallel or partial electoral processes.
“Implementation of this bill will pose serious obstacles to dialogue and further undermine peace and security in Somalia. It will compel the United States to re-evaluate our bilateral relations with the Federal Government of Somalia, to include diplomatic engagement and assistance, and to consider all available tools, including sanctions and visa restrictions, to respond to efforts to undermine peace and stability.”
The motion to extend the President and legislators’ mandate was endorsed by 149 MPs in a House of 275. It was not tabled before the Senate as is tradition and President Farmaajo promptly endorsed its passage. It went against the call by donors, partners and opposition groups; all of who opposed term extension.
“The European Union believes that the passage and signing of this resolution will divide Somalia, impose additional delays and constitute a grave threat to the peace and stability of Somalia and its neighbours. It certainly does not serve the interests of the people of Somalia,” said Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative.
“We call for an immediate return to talks on the holding of elections without delay based on the September 17 agreement. Failing this, the EU will consider further concrete measures.”
Earlier, donors seemed to face a dilemma on how to react to the move by the country’s Parliament to extend Farmaajo’s mandate.
The immediate question on Tuesday was whether the decision of the Lower House alone could extend the mandate of a President elected in a joint bicameral sitting in 2017.
The motion also effectively shut down talks on how to conduct indirect elections as agreed on earlier, crossing one of the red lines established by donors on the electoral model.
“This is not a solution to the ongoing impasse on the electoral process, but instead a move that undermines the credibility of Somalia’s leadership and risks the safety and future of the Somali people,” said James Duddridge, UK’s Minister for Africa.
“In the absence of consensus leading to inclusive and credible elections being held without further delay, the international community’s relationship with Somalia’s leadership will change. The UK will work with its international partners on a common approach to re-evaluate our relationship and the nature of our assistance to Somalia.”
Opposition group, the National Salvation Forum, warned on Tuesday evening that the term extension was a threat to Somalia’s peace and security.
“The Forum, in consultation with various sections of the Somali society, will take necessary steps against unconstitutional term extension and take measures to find a solution for the transitional period,” the Forum, which brings together 15 presidential aspirants and leaders of Jubbaland and Puntland states, said in a statement.
In two years, the legislators say Somalia should be ready to hold universal suffrage, a type of elections the country hasn’t held in 50 years.