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Heavily armed soldiers were deployed Tuesday, December 28 in strategic areas of Mogadishu, as Somalia sinks into a new political crisis that is causing concern among its Western allies.
Soldiers loyal to Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble took up positions around the presidential palace, the day after his dismissal was announced by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, alias Farmajo. Tensions between the two men are recurrent, but this new escalation raises fears for the stability of this fragile country in the Horn of Africa.
“The soldiers are not far from the main checkpoints surrounding the presidential palace. They are equipped with heavy machine guns and rocket launchers ”Saido Mumin, a resident of the presidential district, told AFP on Tuesday about the armed men.
Another resident of the neighborhood, Abdukadir Ahmed, said that although the situation was calm, he was ” very worried “ as for a possible explosion of violence.
” Rebellion “
Politicians and traditional leaders have tried to calm the situation. “Some political circles and traditional leaders have started talking with the two camps to defuse the crisis, but efforts are still underway”an official in the presidential office told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Begun several months ago, the standoff between the president and his prime minister has hardened in recent days. Farmajo first on Saturday withdrew from his prime minister the responsibility of organizing the elections expected since the beginning of the year, then he “Suspended” Monday by accusing him of being involved in a corruption case.
Mohamed Hussein Roble responded on Monday, accusing the president of seeking to commit “A coup d’état against the government, the Constitution and the laws of the country”.
A coalition of opposition presidential candidates on Tuesday called on the head of state to quit his post immediately and demanded “An urgent investigation and legal proceedings against Farmajo and anyone who helped him mount the blow.” “This failed coup was an attempt to destroy the constitutional organs of the country”, she said in a statement.
Somalia’s allies – the UN mission in Somalia (Amisom), the United States, the European Union and the UN in particular – have expressed their “Deep concern” Monday evening in a joint press release.
“We call on the Somali leaders to prioritize the interests of their country, to promote a de-escalation of political tensions, to avoid any provocation or use of force which could harm peace and stability”, underlines their press release.
The Africa section of the US State Department, for its part, said on Monday that Washington was “Ready to intervene against those who obstruct the path to peace in Somalia”.
“The attempt to suspend @MohamedHRoble is worrying and we support his efforts for quick and credible elections”, the US State Department added on Twitter, calling “All parties to avoid escalation in their actions and in their statements”.
Complex electoral system
President since 2017, Farmajo saw his term expire on February 8 after failing to organize an election. The announcement in mid-April of the extension of his mandate for two years had provoked armed clashes in Mogadishu.
In a gesture of appeasement, Farmajo had instructed Mohamed Hussein Roble to organize the elections. But in the months that followed, tensions between the two men continued.
According to Somalia’s complex electoral system, the assemblies of the country’s five states and delegates invested by a myriad of clans and sub-clans choose legislators who in turn appoint the president.
Elections for the upper house have been concluded in all states except Galmudug, and votes began in early November for the lower house.
The jihadist insurrection of the Chabab
Many observers believe that the crisis at the top of the state and the electoral stalemate are distracting attention from more important issues in Somalia, such as the jihadist insurgency of the Chabab which has rocked the country since 2007.
“You have all the energies that are focused on the internal struggles and less on the Chabab, it always benefits them. They are also very adept at exploiting these political tensions ”International Crisis Group (ICG) analyst Omar Mahmood told AFP.
Although ousted from Mogadishu by force from the African Union (Amisom) in 2011, the Chabab still control large rural areas and regularly carry out attacks in the capital.
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Political crisis in Somalia: tension mounts in Mogadishu