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Somalia Lawmakers Cancel Presidential Term Extension

FILE - Somali legislators of the lower house of parliament take a vote, in Mogadishu, Somalia, April 12, 2021.

Somalia’s lawmakers have voted to cancel a presidential term extension they had approved last month in an action that might end a political stand-off.

Somalia’s lower house of Parliament reversed a 2-year extension Saturday for its term and that of the president to ease internal and international pressure that urged it to back away from the controversial resolution passed on April 12.

The Parliament — responding to a request by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, nicknamed Farmajo, asking lawmakers to restore last year’s agreement between the federal government and the leaders of five federal member states and the governor of Mogadishu — has unanimously voted for the reversal. The move could help to defuse an armed stand-off in capital city Mogadishu.

The decision was announced by the speaker of the Parliament, saying that all 140 lawmakers at the meeting have voted “yes” on the agreement.

Speaking before Parliament shortly before the vote, Farmajo also pledged to hand over the electoral process and the leadership of the country’s security to Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble.

“I want to clear in front of the Parliament that I will hand over the electoral process and the leadership of the country’s security to Prime Minister Roble, and I call for politicians who differ from us to work for the common good of our nation and our people.”

During his speech, the president said he made the decision in an effort to save the country from returning to a civil war.

“It is unacceptable that our country returns to the same ugly path it took 30 years ago. We have chosen to solve our differences among us, so that foreign elements would not take advantage of our disagreements.”

The president’s request was the result of pressure by Somalia’s international partners, including the United States, who opposed the term extension that triggered armed clashes in Mogadishu between government soldiers and those loyal to opposition candidates, including two former presidents and a prime minister.

Pressure reached its peak last Tuesday when two federal members states that are allies of the president, Galmudug and Hirshabell, broke ranks with Farmajo and opposed the term extension, joining Puntland and Jubaland states.

Roble issued a statement shortly afterward, endorsing the joint statement issued by the two federal member states.

Later the same day, Farmajo said he would ask Parliament to reverse the extension and urged the signatories of the September 17 agreement for immediate talks to discuss the way forward to implement the agreement without conditions.

Ruling out any kind of term extension, today’s parliament decision supported indirect elections to be held based on the deal, known as the September 17 agreement. According to that plan, federal lawmakers would be indirectly elected. The lawmakers would then elect the president.

That agreement was unilaterally invalidated by the lower house without the upper house vote, giving the executive and legislative branches two more years to prepare popular elections.

Mohamed signed the resolution into law on April 13, triggering opposition anger and the disapproval of the international community. It also split Somalia’s national army and police forces along clan lines, threatening the security of the capital.
The president's term expired on February 8, 2021, while the Parliament's mandate ended on December 27, 2020.

Mogadishu residents, who have been worrying about the crisis created by the term extension, expressed relief after today’s parliament decision and the president’s speech.