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Somalia: Chaos over term extension as Farmaajo blames opponents, foreign interest

By Mohamed Sheikh Nor
Posted on Friday, 30 April 2021 10:50

Somalia Gunfire
Civilians flee following gunfire between factions within Somalia's security forces near KM4 in Hodan district of Mogadishu, Somalia, Monday April 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

Somalia’s beleaguered President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed ‘Farmaajo’, says he will no longer pursue a two-year extension on his presidential term, giving into the ramped-up pressure on him both internally and externally. In doing so, he has also agreed to dialogue with the opposition and to reimplement the 17 September 2020 agreement to reform the national elections. But will he follow through?

After parliament voted in a proposal to extend Farmaajo’s term by two-years, chaos hit the streets of the capital Mogadishu.

Residents have been forced to seek refuge outside the city, fearing for their lives, as tensions escalate between pro-government forces and those opposed to Farmaajo’s bid to extend his term.

It is estimated that about 100,000 people in Mogadishu have fled their homes so far.

But on 27 April, the federal member states of Hirshabelle and Galmudug issued a joint press statement backtracking from their earlier support for the term extension.

The statement comes at a time when Mogadishu has been experiencing the largest migration from the city in ten years.

Endorsed by the presidents of the two states, the statement called for return to the 17 September agreement and implementation of the revised election model.

The statement was supported by the Prime Minister Mohamed Roble, who urged restraint from the opposing sides and prevailed on the armed forces to go back to their previous positions.

In his statement, Roble called on the international community to continue supporting the government.  He also urged cooperation from the other federal members: “I call on the other states of Puntland, Jubaland and Southwest and Banadir region to fully commit to a peace process in our efforts to hold a free and inclusive election.”

Nearly destroyed the gains made

April 2021 will forever be etched in the minds of Mogadishu residents with a chronology of events that nearly destroyed gains made in recent years.

Just a day before the start of the holy month of Ramadan on 12 April, the recently sacked Mogadishu police chief Sadaq Omar, widely known as ‘John’, had attempted to ban MPs from attending a session of parliament which was going to vote on a term extension for Farmaajo.

His attempts were unsuccessful, and the lower parliament invalidated the September agreement, giving a two-year extension to both the executive and legislative arms of government.

Sadaq John remains holed up in the Shirkole neighbourhood where he draws most of his support.

Two weeks later, Somalia National Army (SNA) troops — opposed to Farmaajo’s term extension — abandoned their positions in Middle Shabelle and moved to Mogadishu in open defiance on 24 April.

These soldiers insisted they were still part of the national army, even as they barricaded parts of the city and vowed not to leave until Farmaajo officially ends his extension bid.

I don’t think Farmaajo will step aside any time soon, he will cling to power until his last breath. -Hussein Sheikh-Ali, founder and chairperson of the Hiraal Institute think-tank.

Meanwhile, another weak spot emerged in Mogadishu’s security formation in the Shibis district, after its police commander Farhan Ahmed Jaraaye declared support for the opposition faction within the Somalia National Alliance (SNA). He also urged other security officers to push back against the illegal term extension.

Leaders in Mogadishu speak up

In addition to blocking off Mogadishu, the house of former president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was reportedly attacked by soldiers.

“It’s very unfortunate that forces loyal to former president Farmaajo attacked the home of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud for the second time as they made an attempt on his life,” says the former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheyre, who is part of the opposition coalition.

“It’s also ironic to see government soldiers fighting each other in Mogadishu, during the Holy Month of Ramadan. These are the fruits of the extension that we predicted and warned about. All that is happening now should be held accountable by the president whose term in office expired and who still wants to remain in office by force,” he says.

Mogadishu is predominantly inhabited and run by the Hawiye clan. One of its elders tells The Africa Report about the deteriorating situation. “The latest fighting in Mogadishu clearly show the weakness of the former president after he tried to use the armed forces in his war, which has created divisions within the armed forces. A large number of them refused to obey his orders leading to mutiny and they have joined forces with the majority of people who are against extending the term for Farmaajo,” he says.

There is frustration and a sense of hopelessness across the capital due to the prolonged and irreconcilable political differences among Somalia’s fractured political elite. Failure to find an amicable solution to unresolved state-building issues, particularly security, has had a negative far-reaching impact on much of society.

Abdullahi Mohamed Shirwa, a civil society leader, says he is dismayed by the residents of  Mogadishu. “We call upon the warring sides to remove the road blocks they have set up on major roads in the city and settle their differences around a negotiating table. If they don’t do that we will stop all our services, close schools, hospitals and we will flock the streets for a major protest against violence and promote peace.”

Farmaajo succumbs to pressure, or is it an illusion?

By Wednesday 28 April, Mogadishu woke up to a reconciliatory statement from Farmaajo. The incumbent president issued a statement saying: “I have decided to appear before the House of the People of the Federal Parliament on Saturday to gain their endorsement for the electoral process that was agreed upon between the Federal Government, the Heads of Federal Member States and the Governor of BRA.”

Though the president has accepted to implement the 17 September agreement, he blames political opponents and foreign interests for the political crisis that has gripped the country.

He said: “We have always been ready to implement timely and peaceful elections in the country. Unfortunately, our efforts were hampered by individuals and foreign entities who have no other aim other than to destabilise the country and take it back to the era of division and destruction in order to create a constitutional vacuum.”

“I don’t think Farmaajo will step aside any time soon, he will cling to power until his last breath,” Hussein Sheikh-Ali, founder and chairperson of the Hiraal Institute, a Mogadishu -based research centre, tells The Africa Report.

He says: “The security forces are in a downward disintegration spiral and this situation can only be resolved through political stability.”

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