ELECTORAL STANDOFF

Cracks emerge in Somalia's security agencies over president's term extension

US Bureau of African Affairs said the extension deepens Somalia's political divide.

In Summary

• On Monday, Mogadishu police commander Brig Gen. Saadaq Omar Hassan attempted to stop the Lower House sitting that extended the term.

• Police Commissioner Hassan Mohamed Hijar fired and replaced Hassan moments later.

Somali legislators of the lower house of parliament raise their hands to vote to extend President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed's term for another two years to let the country prepare for direct elections, in Mogadishu, Somalia April 12, 2021.
Somali legislators of the lower house of parliament raise their hands to vote to extend President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed's term for another two years to let the country prepare for direct elections, in Mogadishu, Somalia April 12, 2021.
Image: REUTERS/Feisal Omar

There are cracks in Somalia security agencies following the extension of President Mohamed Farmaajo’s term by two years, posing a weak link in the war against al Shabaab.

Somalia’s Lower House on Monday approved a bill that pushed the election set on February 8, when Farmaajo’s term ended, to 2023 when a one-man-one-vote election will be held.

Farmaajo on Tuesday accented the two-year term extension legislation — Special Electoral Law for Federal Election — without the input and approval of the Upper House.

On Monday, Mogadishu police commander Brig Gen. Saadaq Omar Hassan attempted to stop the Lower House sitting that extended the term.

"We have stopped the parliament session today. We have a responsibility bigger than a personal one. We have to solve anything that can bring violence and war in Mogadishu," Hassan told local TV station Universal in a live speech.

"The four-year term has ended."

Police Commissioner Hassan Mohamed Hijar fired and replaced Hassan moments later.

President Farmaajo in a presidential decree on Tuesday stripped Hassan of all his police ranks and benefits.

On Tuesday, Major General Mohamud Mohamed Koronto of the Somali National Army threatened to take control of Mogadishu's Aden Adde International Airport, if Farmaajo goes ahead with the two-year extension.

Koronto is the former commander of Sector 27 of the national army and has been at the forefront in the war against al Shabaab. 

In a video shared by Garowe Online, the general says Mogadishu security cannot be entrusted to “outgoing President Farmaajo” and Intelligence boss Fahad Yassin.

Without providing evidence, he said a foreign power is in control of the country’s affairs.

This is amidst the rise in terror attacks in Somalia and Kenya.

This is even as the international community threatens to take action against Somalia following the decision to extend Farmaajo’s term.

UK Minister for Africa James Duddridge on Tuesday said they are dismayed by the decision of the Lower House of the Somali Parliament to extend the mandates of Farmaajo and of the Somali Parliament by two years.

“This is not a solution to the ongoing impasse on the electoral process, but instead a move that undermines the credibility of Somalia’s leadership and risks the safety and future of the Somali people,” Duddridge said in a statement.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo's term ended on February 8, 2021
President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo's term ended on February 8, 2021
Image: GETTY IMAGES

Somalia’s Lower House on  Monday approved a bill that pushed the election set on February 8, when Farmaajo’s term ended, to 2023 when a one-man-one-vote election will be held.

Farmaajo on Tuesday assented to the two-year extension legislation — Special Electoral Law for Federal Election — without the input and approval of the Upper House.

The international community has previously opposed any move to postpone the polls, a position Duddridge recalled.

"We have consistently opposed any initiatives leading to a parallel process, partial election or an extension of prior mandates". 

In the absence of consensus leading to inclusive and credible elections without further delay, the international community’s relationship with Somalia’s leadership will change, he said.

He warned that the UK will work with its international partners to re-evaluate their relationship and the nature of assistance to Somalia.

State Secretary Antony Blinken on Tuesday said the US is “deeply disappointed” by the move.

He warned the implementation of the bill will pose serious obstacles to dialogue and further undermine peace and security in Somalia.

“It will compel the United States to reevaluate our bilateral relations with the Federal Government of Somalia, to include diplomatic engagement and assistance, and to consider all available tools, including sanctions and visa restrictions, to respond to efforts to undermine peace and stability,” Blinken said.

Like the UK, the US has stressed repeatedly that the federal government and federal member states reach a consensus on a way forward for the elections for the peace, stability, prosperity and governance of Somalia.

Blinken noted such actions would be divisive, undermine the federalism and political reforms and divert attention away from countering al-Shabaab.

US Bureau of African Affairs said the extension deepens Somalia's political divide.

It called on Somalia leaders to return to talks urgently and resolve the electoral crisis.

European Union High Representative Josep Borrell in a statement said the extension undermines the “longstanding effort, supported by the EU and the international community, to rebuild Somalia through consensus”.

“It certainly does not serve the interests of the people of Somalia. We call for an immediate return to talks on the holding of elections without delay based on the September 17 agreement,” Borrell said on Tuesday.

Failing this, he said, the EU will consider further concrete measures.

Kenyan diplomat Ambassador Mahmud Saleh said the extension is justified as Farmaajo had  "in four short years redeemed the image and dignity of Somalia and restored some semblance of "Government 101"'.

"Somalia is on the road to full recovery under the stewardship and safe hands of President Farmaajo, hence the need to extend his term for another four years," Saleh, former Northeastern regional commissioner, said in a tweet. 

Welcoming the extension, Kenya's former Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim said Somalia Parliament had freed the Somali state from "the bondage of warlords and hired goons".

"[UN Special Representative for Somalia James] Swan, [US Ambassador Donald] Yamamoto et al, Somalia is a sovereign entity & Ambassadors accredited to it must appreciate their limited disciplined roles. Your role is similar to your counterparts in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, India etc period," he said in a tweet.