Somalia’s opposition postpones protest over election delay
Opposition presidential candidates in Somalia called off a planned protest on Friday over the country’s election delay, quelling fears of further violence.
The rally, which had been planned despite a ban on public gatherings to control the spread of Covid-19, was postponed after Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble formally expressed “regret” for the violence that engulfed a similar march last week on Friday.
“It’s the constitutional right of every citizen to elect or get elected and express freely in a peaceful manner,” Roble said in a statement. The official also vowed to make his government responsible for demonstrators’ safety.
The opposition, which includes former Somali presidents and ministers – many with diverging interests and agendas – agreed to postpone the march for 10 days to allow the government to open an investigation into the attacks, which killed at least five people and wounding a dozen, according to health officials.
On Thursday, ahead of the breakthrough, Somali forces deployed at many strategic junctions in the capital, sparking fears of further violence.
Pressure on Roble’s government had been mounting after its failure to hold elections on February 8 due to a disagreement on how to carry out the vote. Two regional states refused to take part without a deal.
Opposition leaders have been demanding the formation of a transitional national council to manage the coming elections.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo, who is seeking another four-year term, has been unable to reach an agreement with five federal member states on the electoral process. Following the talks’ failure, he blamed unnamed “foreign interventions.”
The current parliamentary mandate expired in December 2020 and elections were legally bound to be held by February 2021.
Uncertainty over the election is ripe for exploitation by the Somalia-based al-Shabab extremist group, which has threatened to attack the polls. Earlier this month, it launched a documentary series criticizing the president and the electoral process, which it accused of being riddled with corruption.
The UN Security Council called on Somalia’s federal government and regional states on Tuesday to urgently resume talks and agree on arrangements to hold elections as soon as possible.
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