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Somalia president backtracks on plan to extend his term,calls for election amid unrest

The president agreed to not extend his term in an overnight speech. The country’s prime minister had signaled his opposition to the president’s plan to extend his mandate. Some residents have started fleeing Mogadishu.

Somalian President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has 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.

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

“As a government, we have always been ready to implement timely and peaceful elections in the country without any preconditions ” Mohamed said in a statement on Tuesday night.

“But unfortunately, our efforts were hampered by individuals, and foreign entities who have no aim other than to destabilize the country and take it back to the era of division and destruction in order to create a constitutional vacuum,” added the president.

The announcement came after the US and the EU criticised the April 14 decision to extend his and legislators’ mandates by two years, and threatened sanctions and other actions against Somalia. The backlash emboldened an opposition which, before the extension, had asked Mohamed 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 the president. 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.


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Mohamed had signed a law extending his mandate by two years, provoking political violence in the capital Mogadishu.

But Galmudug and Hirshabelle, two Somali states that were formerly aligned with the president, called for the cancellation of the term extension and resuming talks on the national electionin a joint statement on Tuesday.

Later in the day, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble supported Galmudug and Hirshabelle’s appeal and called for preparations for a new election.

The mandates’ extension came after the nation failed to hold a scheduled election on February 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 US 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.

Mohamed said he will address legislators 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 politicisation of the security forces, creating social divisions and the destruction of public property,” Mohamed said.

Residents began fleeing their homes on Tuesday, fearing more clashes over Mohamed’s move.

Civilians piled televisions and mattresses into rickshaws or loaded belongings onto donkeys, according to the AFP news agency.

On Sunday, groups of armed men opposing the president exchanged fire with security forces.

Government troops have blocked major roads as armed opposition held positions in parts of the capital.

Opposition protesters are supported by armed groups in Mogadishu

In February, Somalia’s election was delayed amid disputes between the federal government and the states of Puntland and Jubbaland on how to conduct the vote.

Earlier this month, the lower house of parliament voted to extend President Mohamed’s four-year term in office. However, the Senate rejected the move.

The president tried to defend his actions in a recent interview with a local newspaper, The Buffalo News, saying that Somalia “cannot afford a power vacuum.”

Somalia has not had an effective central government since the collapse of Barre’smilitary regime in 1991, which led to decades of civil war and lawlessness fueled by clan conflicts.

The country also still battles al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-linked Islamist militant group.

Al-Shabab controlled the capital until African Union troops pushed it out in 2011.

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