April 29, 2021
Protesters demonstrate against Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on the streets of Yaqshid district of Mogadishu, Somalia April 25, 2021 © REUTERS/Feisal Omar
Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed called early Wednesday for elections and a return to dialogue after the extension of his mandate sparked the fragile nation’s worst political violence in years.
In an address to the nation broadcast on state media, he said he would appear before parliament on Saturday to “gain their endorsement for the electoral process”, calling on political actors to hold “urgent discussions” on how to conduct the vote.
The speech, which took place at 1:00 am local time after hours of anticipation, comes as government troops and soldiers supporting the opposition have taken up positions in Mogadishu, after clashing Sunday, sending civilians fleeing.
“As we have repeatedly stated, we have always been ready to implement timely and peaceful elections in the country,” said the president, best known by his nickname Farmajo.
“But unfortunately, our efforts were hampered by individuals, and foreign entities who have no 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.”
Somalia’s current crisis came after Farmajo’s four-year term lapsed in February, as he and leaders of Puntland and Jubaland, two of Somalia’s five semi-autonomous states, failed to agree on how to conduct elections.
A deal had been cobbled together in September, which later collapsed, and multiple rounds of UN-backed talks failed to broker a way forward.
As tensions escalated, Farmajo earlier this month signed into law a contentious measure extending his mandate and promised elections within two years.
The move was declared unconstitutional by Farmajo’s rivals, and rejected by Somalia’s western backers, who urged him to return to the negotiation table and threatened sanctions if he did not comply.
On Sunday clashes broke out between government troops and those backing the opposition, and the capital Mogadishu has been on a knife’s edge ever since.