Two Weeks After Extending Rule, Somalia President Backtracks

Somalia’s leader said he’s prepared to hold elections, after a controversial plan to extend his mandate without a vote drew international condemnation and stoked violence in the Horn of Africa nation.

President Mohamed Abdullahi, also known as Farmajo, called for urgent talks on the return to a Sept. 17 agreement between the federal and regional governments to hold an indirect election.

“As a government, we have always been ready to implement, without any preconditions” the September accord, Farmajo said in a statement Tuesday night.

The announcement came after the U.S. and the European Union criticized Farmajo’s April 14 decision to extend his and the lawmakers’ mandates by as long as two years, and threatened sanctions and other actions against Somalia. The backlash emboldened an opposition which, prior to the extension, had asked Farmajo not to seek re-election as a condition for talks on the voting to progress.

The crisis has pushed Somalia to the edge. Some soldiers abandoned their posts in Middle Shabelle region on Sunday and went to the capital Mogadishu where they clashed with troops loyal to Farmajo. The violence came after two former presidents-turned-opposition leaders, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, claimed that the national army raided their homes in the capital.

The mandates’ extension came after the nation failed to hold a scheduled election on Feb. 8 as the federal and regional governments disagreed over the voting process. The controversial decision required the nation to prepare for universal suffrage instead of a vote through electoral colleges as had been agreed in September.

The U.S. and EU warned of a reversal of the gains made in rebuilding a nation after two decades of civil war and amid an insurgency by al Qaeda-linked militants, al Shabaab, who continue to stage attacks in the capital Mogadishu and beyond national borders.

Farmajo said he will address lawmakers on Saturday “to gain their endorsement” for the electoral process that’s based on the September deal.

Successfully elections will depend on Somalis refraining from actions that could lead to widespread instability, “including the politicization of the security forces, creating social divisions and the destruction of public property,” Farmajo said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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