Kismayo — Hundreds of Somalis demonstrated in support of the formation of Jubaland state in southern Somalia on Friday and protested against what demonstrators called "interference" in the Jubaland state formation process by Somali Federal President Hassan Sheikh, Garowe Online reports.
The demonstrations took place across districts and towns in Lower Jubba and Gedo regions, including the key port town of Kismayo.
Somali media reported the protestors expressed full support for Jubaland formation, whilst criticizing "divisive policies" by President Hassan.
On Wednesday, President Hassan sent a delegation from Mogadishu who arrived at Kismayo airport unannounced. The delegation was deported to Mogadishu by Somali authorities in Kismayo that were critical of the unplanned visit purportedly to follow-up on charcoal trade issues in Kismayo.
President Hassan has opposed the formation of Jubaland administration, preferring instead to nominate a local administration from Mogadishu. Local communities and political leaders in Jubaland regions have vocally opposed President Hassan's plans, but Friday's mass protests depicted the local communities' growing frustrations with the Somali president.
'Kenya not part of AMISOM': Mogadishu businessman
Mr. Salad Ahmed Elmi Gabayre, chairman of Mogadishu's chamber of commerce to accompanied the Mogadishu delegation's unplanned visit to Kismayo, told the BBC Somali Service during a Friday interview that Kenyan troops currently in Kismayo "are not part of AMISOM".
"The Kenyan troops in Kismayo do not wear AMISOM uniforms and are attired in Kenyan army uniforms," said Mr. Gabayre, who was critical of Somali authorities in Kismayo.
Continuing, he said: "We did not meet any Somali army commanders in Kismayo. It seems to me that Kismayo officials oppose the authority of the Somali government in Mogadishu."
Kenyan troops serving in Kismayo and the Jubaland regions are mandated under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), endorsed by the U.N. Security Council. In September, Kenyan-AMISOM forces aided Somali local forces in capturing the port town of Kismayo after years of armed confrontation with Al Shabaab militant group that controlled Kismayo since August 2008.
'No interference in Jubaland process': Somali army spokesman
The spokesman of Somali government forces in Jubaland regions, Mr. Mohamed Farah, confirmed that mass protests took place across the Jubaland regions during an interview with the BBC Somali Service, while urging that the Somali government in Mogadishu to abide by the country's federal constitution.
"There were mass protests in support of Jubaland and the protests took place from Luuq [district of Gedo region], to Badhaadhe [district of Lower Jubba region] to Kismayo [district of Lower Jubba region] and the local communities support Jubaland formation," Mr. Farah said during a telephone interview from Afmadow district in Lower Jubba region, adding: "The protestors demonstrated against the continued interference of Jubaland affairs by the Somali government in Mogadishu."
Continuing, Mr. Farah urged the Somali government in Mogadishu to abide by the country's federal constitution: "The Federal Constitution permits formation of federated states by the merger of two or more administrative regions in Somalia. It is a wonder why the Somali government is obsessed with interfering in Kismayo affairs, while Somali communities in other liberated regions, such as Baidoa and Beledweyne, are allowed to voluntary establish their own administrations."
Mr. Farah said: "Jubaland communities and Somali government forces in Jubaland will not accept Mogadishu to appoint an administration for Jubaland regions, as this violates the Somali Federal Constitution."
The Jubaland state formation process, supported by local communities and IGAD regional bloc, began earlier this year and is at its final stages with drafting a state charter and planning a state convention to be held in Kismayo to establish Jubaland state parliament, presidency and judiciary, in line with the Somali Federal Constitution.
President Hassan, a political newcomer elected by Somali federal parliamentarians on Sept. 10, has focused much attention and energy on the Jubaland issue while Somalia struggles to recover from 22 years of armed conflict, mass exodus, national disintegration, and economic woes.