Somalia: Peaceful Mogadishu Protests Marred By Gunfire Amid Calls for President to Go

A Mogadishu street during earlier conflict. (File photo)

Gunfire has broken out in the Somali capital Mogadishu as anti-government protesters attempted to march through the streets in a bid to break the political impasse.

According to a video posted on social media, a small group of opposition supporters led by former prime minister Hassan Khaire were filmed walking down a street near the main airport road when gunfire broke out.

Witnesses were unsure if security guards protecting the protesters or the Somali security forces fired first, but the exchange caused the small group to scatter.

The government later called the guards "armed militiamen."

BREAKING: Gunfire breaks out as former PM @HassanAKhaire is seen leading protesters at the airport road. pic.twitter.com/AXCl5wBuIA

- Harun Maruf (@HarunMaruf) February 19, 2021

The streets of Mogadishu had been shut down and security services deployed in anticipation of the protest.

An opposition alliance has called for President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, aka Farmajo, to step down after Somalia failed to hold elections on 8 February.

Complex situation

There were hopes that this first organised election since the civil war broke out in 1991 would allow people to vote for their candidate, but ongoing insecurity from Islamist insurgent group al-Shabaab scuppered the possibility.

Clan and community leaders had been picking their members of parliament, who, along with senators, would then pick the president.

Elections were further delayed after Farmajo was accused of packing electoral boards with his allies.

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Leaders in two of Somalia's five federal states, Puntland in the northeast and Jubbaland in the south said they would not recognize Farmajo's authority after 8 February.

The federal states have pushed for more autonomy and state's rights, while the central government in Mogadishu under Farmajo has worked on consolidating more power to the central government.

Farmajo was slated to hold a meeting with regional leaders on Friday, but the unrest and ongoing disagreements has put talks on hold.

Explosives at airport

Police said that some sort of projectile hit an area with shops and restaurants just inside the airport compound which burned the restaurant to the ground.

Opposition leaders held a joint press conference, saying that rockets had been fired and that the gunfire at the protest had been an assassination attempt.

The government had warned protesters not to come out en masse due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The UN in Somalia (UNSOM) called for calm on social media.

UNSOM "is deeply concerned by armed clashes in Mogadishu overnight and on Friday morning, calls for calm and restraint by all parties involved, and urges that open lines of communication be maintained to help reduce tensions."

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