MOGADISHU, SOMALIA - Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble has called for calm and dialogue after overnight clashes in the capital between backers and opponents of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as “Farmajo.” Analysts worry the political stand-off over parliament’s term extension for Farmajo could quickly turn into an armed conflict.
Roble says he was saddened by the overnight violence in the capital, Mogadishu, between government security agencies and forces from the opposition. He added that dialogue and understanding are the only ways to resolve the stalemate.
Clashes were reported at the home of opposition Wadajir party leader Abdulrahman Abdishakur, and at the home of former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The former president is among those who oppose Farmajo’s term extension.
Somali opposition leaders have blamed Farmajo and security forces for the fighting, but Security Minister Hassan Hundubey denies the accusations and blames the opposition. The crisis is related to delayed elections.
Somalia’s parliamentary and presidential elections have been held up for months because of disputes over the electoral process.
The stalemate took a new turn this month after the lower house of parliament voted to extend the mandate of President Farmajo’s government for two years.
Opposition lawmakers, who were already against Farmajo’s staying in office, strongly rejected the move as the international community also warned against its effect on Somalia's stability.
Mohamed Hassan Idris, a member of the opposition party, says the government is not ready for dialogue due to its actions regarding the violence in the capital.
"His appreciation (PM) of the operation by security forces is clarifying that he isn’t calling to calm the situation," said Idris. "Instead, he is encouraging the ongoing illegal operation that aims to secure the unconstitutional extension.”
The African Union last week urged Somali leaders to resume election talks, rejecting the extension of Farmajo’s mandate. Its envoy is expected to visit Somalia in the coming weeks.
Afyare Elmi is associate professor of security studies at Qatar university. He says dialogue is the only way out to avoid the armed clashes seen in Mogadishu on Sunday.
"I think there is only one way out of this situation at the moment and that is to go back to the negotiating table and resolve the political conflict and the election issue that has triggered the violence in the first place," said Elmi.
The U.N. in office in Somalia urged maximum restraint by all parties, while calling on all sides to immediately resume dialogue.