By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Somalia: Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has backed down from his attempt to extend his tenure for two years a political move that had sparked off clan-based fighting in Mogadishu between soldiers supporting and opposing him.
In a broadcast address to the nation, Mohamed called for a new presidential election and commended the efforts of his prime minister, who hours earlier had denounced Mr. Farmajo’s bid to cling to the office after his term expired in February.
Mr. Farmajo said he would appear in parliament on Saturday to restore the 17 September 2020 deal on a proposed electoral framework, which would reverse the two-year extension of his term passed by legislators on 12 April.
“I wish to reaffirm, like I have done in the past, that we have always been ready to ensure election takes place in Somalia more so, in a timely and peaceful manner,” he said.
The president’s term expired in February, but the country failed to hold elections as planned. Earlier this month, the lower house of parliament voted to extend Mohamed’s four-year term by another two years but the Senate rejected the move, provoking a political crisis.
Commanders in both the police and military had defected to the opposition, and rival factions of the security forces had fortified positions in central Mogadishu, raising fears of clashes in the heart of the city, and a security vacuum in the surrounding areas that could be exploited by al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgents.
The opposition, who had called on the president to resign, did not immediately respond. The president did not discuss the opposition in his speech, but denounced unnamed “individuals and foreign entities who have no aim other than to destabilize the country.”
The heads of two regional states who had been staunch allies of the president had also rejected on Tuesday the proposed two-year extension of Mohamed’s term. Those leaders said in statements immediately after the president’s speech that they welcomed his announcement.
Mohamed’s attempt to extend his term had also angered foreign donors who backed his government, hoping it would help bring stability and quash the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgency but the proposed extension pitted factions in the security forces against each other.
This week, opposition forces abandoned positions in the countryside as they headed for a showdown in the capital, allowing al Shabaab to take over at least one town.
Forces loyal to the opposition hold important parts of the city and clashed with government forces over the weekend, fueling worries that the country could return to all-out war.
The president said he urged “all security agencies to maintain the stability of the capital and the safety of innocent civilians, avoiding any actions that may lead to insecurity.”
Somalia’s fledgling armed forces are drawn from clan militias who have often battled each other for power and resources.
Mohamed is Darod, one of Somalia’s major clans and the majority of the Somali military in the capital are Hawiye, another large clan, and most of the opposition leaders are Hawiye.