WASHINGTON – Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed says he will no longer pursue a two-year extension of his presidential term, giving in to internal and international pressure to back away from a controversial resolution on the extension passed by the Lower House of Parliament.
In a televised address, Mohamed said he will appear before the Lower House of Parliament on Saturday to ask the lawmakers to restore last year’s agreement between the federal government and the leaders of five federal member states and the governor of Mogadishu.
The agreement known as the “September 17 agreement” called for the election of federal lawmakers through indirect elections. The lawmakers would then elect the president. The Lower House of Parliament invalidated that agreement on April 12, giving the executive and legislative branches two more years to prepare popular elections. Mohamed signed the resolution into law on April 13. The president’s term expired on February 8, 2021, while the parliament’s mandate exhausted on December 27, 2020.
“I shall on Saturday, appear before House of the People of our Republic to restore the September 17 process between Federal Government and Federal Member States,” he said.
If the parliament approves the president’s request, it will reverse the two-year extension.
“The government sees the only viable path is through dialogue, convincing each other and compromise, and a return to the table to compete the September 17 agreement,” he said.
Mohamed urged the signatories of the September 17 agreement for immediate talks to discuss the way forward towards the implementation of the agreement without conditions.
The Somali leader came under pressure on Tuesday when two federal members states allied with him broke ranks and opposed the term extension. In a joint statement, Galmudug and Hirshabelle states ruled out any kind of term extension and instead supported elections based on the September 17 agreement.
Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble issued a statement shortly after endorsing the joint statement issued by the two federal member states. Roble urged all stakeholders to prepare for elections based on the implementation of September 17 agreement.
“I would like to welcome the press statements made by Galmudug and Hirshabelle Federal Member States,” Roble said in the statement. “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.”
In a call directed at armed security forces who split and sided with either the federal government or the opposition, Roble urged them to pull back to their locations and barracks, while urging opposition leaders to cease all hostilities and actions that could undermine stability.
Foreign diplomats in Mogadishu who already strongly opposed the term extension expressed relief after the prime minister took the decision to essentially oppose extension and support dialogue based on the previous agreement.
Earlier, the United States embassy in Mogadishu applauded the decision of the two federal member states to oppose the term extension and urged President Mohamed to “accept the clear path to dialogue and peace.”
The European Union Ambassador to Somalia Nicolas Berlanga also threw his support behind the prime minister and the two federal states.
“The EU praises the courage and sense of concertation by PM Roble and FMS proposing a consensus-based way forward towards fast elections and urge others to follow the path to previous commitments,” Berlanga wrote. “Violence has no place in Somalia and dialogue is the only way forward.”
This latest political shift comes two days after clashes erupted in the capital, Mogadishu, between soldiers backing the federal government and forces supporting the opposition.
Mogadishu has been calm but tense since Monday, forcing civilians to flee from volatile districts to safer ones within Mogadishu and the outskirts. Forces from the two sides erected roadblocks and took positions in key junctions close to the presidential palace, the arterial Maka Al-Mukarama road and K-4 junction near the Mogadishu airport.
Somali security experts blamed the political stalemate for the split of the fragile army, which has been undergoing rebuilding, with training and mentoring from number of countries including the United States and Turkey.
“There has been prolonged political stalemate between the Somalia leaders, this unfortunately created uncertainty for not only the Somali people, but for the Somali security forces,” said Jihan Abdullahi Hassan, a former advisor to the Ministry of Defense and Chief of Defense Forces who admitted the army is split.
“The incident of the 25th April 2021 showcases a split Somali security forces which is unfortunate since the security forces should not be involved in politics.”
Hassan warned that if the political dispute is not quickly resolved, it will undo any progress made in recent years and will dismantle the security forces.
“(It) will be difficult for any administration to resolve,” she said.
The International community also warned the fragmentation will detract the army from fighting the radical Muslim insurgency group, al-Shabab.
“Use of security forces for pursuit of political objectives is unacceptable,” a statement released by the United Nations Mission for Somalia on behalf of partners read.
Hassan said the standoff between security forces in Mogadishu indicates that the fight against al-Shabab is not a current priority. She said security forces vacated frontlines, which will create a security vacuum.
“The unity of our security forces will be key in combating the threat al-Shabab poses,” she said.