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Somali president in poll U-turn to stop Mogadishu clashes

Somali president in poll U-turn to stop Mogadishu clashes thumbnail

image copyrightReuters

image captionPresident Farmajo’s mandate expired in February and anger over the failure to hold elections has turned violent

Somalia’s president has moved to ease tensions in the capital, Mogadishu, by calling for fresh presidential polls.

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known by his nickname Farmajo, has said he will no longer seek a two-year extension to his term in office.

He had controversially approved the move last week after disagreements over how to hold elections.

But it provoked three days of clashes in Mogadishu between rival factions of the security forces.

There are fears the row could see Somalia lurch back towards the clan-based violence that scarred the country after the fall of the Siad Barre regime in 1991.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mohamed Roble has urged civilians who fled their neighbourhoods during the fighting to return home.

image copyrightEPA

image captionUp to 100,000 people are estimated to have fled their homes since Sunday

Forces loyal to the president and those backing the opposition have been occupying different parts of the city.

The UN says between 60,000 and 100,000 people have left their homes since Sunday.

There has been a reduction in troop movements in the city following President Farmajo’s late-night address on Tuesday.

He said he would revert to an original plan to hold elections.

Why are elections so hard to hold?

Somali elections are conducted under a complex indirect system where clan elders select MPs, who in turn choose the president.

President Farmajo’s mandate expired in February but no vote has been held because of regional squabbles over how power is distributed – and a row over a new election commission.

media captionWhy is it so hard to hold elections in Somalia?

Somalia has been torn by conflict for decades but had been moving towards stability since 2012 when a new internationally backed government was installed, helped by an African Union force providing security.

The UN Security Council said on Friday that the political deadlock was diverting attention from serious problems, including the coronavirus pandemic, a locust invasion and an Islamist militancy.

Al-Shabab fighters continue to control vast swathes of territory outside the capital, and frequently attack Mogadishu.

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