Somali parliament reverses decision to extend presidential term
Somali lawmakers have voted unanimously to nullify a law they approved last month to extend the presidential mandate by two years. The decision comes after intense fighting in Mogadishu between Somali security forces divided over the issue.
Following Saturday’s vote in the lower house of parliament, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble ordered the army to return to barracks and urged politicians to avoid inciting violence.
Roble said in a Twitter post late on Saturday that the government would “soon” prepare the plan for elections and thanked President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (also referred to as Farmajo) for agreeing not to extend his mandate by two years in order to remain in his position.
The United Nations welcomed the news while the US embassy, ambassador for the European Union and the Turkish foreign ministry said they were satisfied with Saturday’s vote.
Mohamed’s attempt to extend his term had angered foreign donors, who have backed his government in an attempt to bring stability to Somalia after more than two decades as a failed state following a civil war that began in 1991.
It remains unclear when an election could take place.
Some leaders of the opposition had hoped Mohamed would resign and now needed reassurances he would keep his word.
Opposition lawmaker Abdirahman Odowaa told Reuters “much remains to be done”, adding that he wanted Mohamed to formalize what had been agreed.
“The handing over of security and election process to the prime minister should be documented and signed … (He) has to go to the conference tent and sign … before all,” Odowaa said.
Violence erupted last weekend after the lower house of parliament approved President Mohamed’s extension, but it was rejected by the Senate, provoking the crisis that has intensified in the past week.
The political crisis raised fears that al-Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgents could exploit a security vacuum if state forces split along clan lines.
The group has already taken over at least one Somali town in the past week as heavily armed fighters moved from the countryside into the capital city.
Between 60,000 and 100,000 people were forced to flee their homes.
It was not immediately clear whether security forces loyal to the opposition would withdraw from fortified positions in the capital following Saturday’s vote and Roble’s order, having refused to do so earlier this week.
Somalia’s armed forces include members of clan militias who have often battled each other for power and resources.
Mohamed is Darod, one of Somalia’s major clans. Most of the opposition leaders and Somali military in the capital are Hawiye, another large clan.