Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed announced he will not attempt to extend his term by two years, bowing to domestic and international pressure after clashes in the capital, Mogadishu, split security forces along clan lines.
Hours before the president’s speech early on Wednesday, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble had denounced the proposed term extension and called for preparations for a new presidential election.
Mohamed’s term expired in February, but the country failed to hold elections as planned. Earlier this month, the lower house of parliament voted to extend his four-year term by another two years. The Senate rejected the move, provoking a political crisis.
Commanders in the police and the military defected to the opposition, and rival factions of the security forces fortified positions in central Mogadishu, raising fears of heavy fighting in the heart of the capital, and a security vacuum in the surrounding areas that could be exploited by al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab fighters.
In his televised statement, Mohamed, who is better known as Farmaajo, commended the efforts of the prime minister and other political leaders and welcomed the statements they issued calling for elections to be held without further delay. He also called for urgent discussions with the signatories to an agreement signed last September on the conduct of the vote.
He also said he had decided to appear before parliament on Saturday “to gain their endorsement for the electoral process that [was] agreed upon” as he called on all parties to “refrain from any and all actions that could jeopardise stability” in the country. Analysts said Farmaajo’s pledge to appear before parliament suggested was intended to signal he was placing the question of his proposed term extension in its hands.
The president also urged a return to negotiations over the delayed election and called on all signatories to the September agreement to “come together immediately for urgent discussions on the unconditional implementation” of that agreement.
The opposition, which demanded the president to resign, did not immediately respond. The president did not discuss the opposition in his speech, but denounced unnamed “individuals and foreign entities who have no aim other than to destabilise the country”.
The heads of two regional states who had been staunch allies of the president also rejected on Tuesday the proposed two-year extension of Mohamed’s term. Those leaders said in statements immediately after the president’s speech they welcomed his announcement.
Prime Minister Roble had backed that joint statement and called on security forces to return to their barracks. He also urged opposition leaders to stop any actions that could harm Somalia’s stability.