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Police in Mogadishu Announce Lockdown Ahead of Presidential Poll

African Union peacekeepers stand next to election banners of presidential candidates along a street in Mogadishu, Somalia, May 13, 2022.
African Union peacekeepers stand next to election banners of presidential candidates along a street in Mogadishu, Somalia, May 13, 2022.

Somalia’s police force says it will impose a lockdown in the capital beginning late Saturday to maintain security for the Sunday presidential election. According to the directive, city residents will be required to stay in their homes while vehicles also remain banned from the city streets.

Somali Police Force spokesman Abdifatah Adan Hassan said the ban on pedestrian and vehicle traffic in Mogadishu takes effect Saturday at 9 p.m. and will last until 6 a.m. Monday.

He said recognizing the importance of movement of the people and vehicles in Mogadishu, the police force still has to ensure the overall security of the country during the presidential election in the Federal Republic of Somalia.

Members of parliament will meet in a heavily guarded compound at Mogadishu’s airport to choose the next president Sunday. Incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, also known as Farmaajo, is running for reelection against close to 40 other candidates.

Professor Abdiwahab Abdisamad, chairman of the Nairobi-based Institute for Horn of Africa Strategic Studies, thinks the lockdown is unnecessary.

“There's not much threat coming from the outside of Mogadishu, even inside Mogadishu," he said. "And hopefully, the public must follow the instruction of the security, the police and security agents of the country.... And hopefully, tomorrow's election will go ahead and will be one of the most beautiful elections so far in the country for almost 10 years.”

Abdurahman Sheikh from the Centre for Analysis and Strategic Studies in Mogadishu, however, argues the lockdown is a wise move.

The curfew imposed on Mogadishu at this time is valid, he said. The police have the right to provide security since security at the polling station was transferred to African Union forces.

According to Sheikh, the militant group al-Shabaab poses a real threat to the elections.

Al-Shabaab has mounted several attacks in the run-up to the election. Eleven days ago, the group attacked an African Union base in the Middle Shabelle region, killing at least 30 Burundian soldiers.

The group struck again Wednesday, killing at least four people at a checkpoint near the airport where presidential candidates were addressing lawmakers.

Sheikh said there are fears that al-Shabaab will carry out attacks, especially tomorrow and tonight, during the time the elections are expected to take place. Explosions are feared to take place near Mogadishu airport.

Al-Shabab has the proven ability to fire mortar shells which can reach the airport and sneak vehicles loaded with explosives into the city.

Somali police believe that if the streets of the capital are empty, they can head off any attacks before disaster strikes.