Somalia: Opposition Cancels Controversial Rally After PM Roble Intervenes

A view of Lido beach, Mogadishu, Somalia on November 15 2019.
26 February 2021

Somalia's opposition politicians on Thursday night cancelled a planned rally in Mogadishu after Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble conceded some of their demands.

The rally, which had been planned despite a ban on public gatherings to control cases of Covid-19, was instead postponed after Mr Roble formally expressed "regret" following violence that followed a similar march last week on Friday.

The leaders, under the caucus of the Council of Presidential Candidates, agreed to hold their march in 10 days, after the Federal Government said it will investigate the incident in which a hotel the leaders were lodging in was attacked on the eve of their march last week.

The deal arose from an emergency meeting at Mogadishu's Decale Airport Hotel, a facility inside the Aden Abdulle International Airport, as part of Premier Roble's efforts to cool down the tempers that have flared over delayed elections in the country.

Ahead of the meeting, the council had warned it would proceed with the peaceful march to express disapproval of President Mohamed Farmaajo's government, his alleged overstay in power, and delaying elections for both the legislature and the presidency.

Roble, a former technocrat at the Food and Agriculture Organisation and who was appointed in September, declined to have senior security chiefs fired for the violence; but did offer an official government regret for it. He also said the matter would be investigated and culprits punished through an independent team. In addition, the Federal Government guaranteed that citizens' rights will be protected including the right to assemble and protest.

"I am pleased to address today the issues on February 19 incidents, security and elections. Thanks to the Union of Candidates for their flexibility and to President Mohamed Farmaajo, the Presidents of Galmudug, Hirshabelle and Benadir Governor for their contribution to the solution," Roble tweeted on Thursday night, referring to the leaders of the two federal states who helped broker a meeting.

"I call upon all to support it."

The deal averted a potential clash between security forces and the opposition groups, in a week that had seen government officials accuse the council of "insurrection." Appearing before the UN Security Council for a virtual meeting on Monday, Somalia's Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdirazak said his government would allow protests, but there had been no guarantee they would be peaceful.

"Rest assured, the prospective presidential candidates have and will continue to be provided the freedom and political space to express their views and government bodies, as well as security forces, will fulfil their statutory duty to protect the public against the dark forces of extremism and the silent enemy of the pandemic while they express their views openly," he said during a session of the UNSC on Monday night.

"However, the security and wellbeing of the Somali people will remain paramount and no armed insurrection under the guise of a political demonstration will be accepted."

His colleagues in the Ministry of Security later banned public gatherings and warned they would arrest participants at the rally.

The resolution on Thursday was welcomed by the UN as a "positive step" but Somalia must still reach an agreement on the election.

The leaders have bickered on the composition of electoral management teams as well as venues especially in Jubbaland's Gedo region. Although a technical committee composed of Federal Government and federal states had worked on a proposal, Jubbaland and Puntland refused to attend the endorsement meeting, accusing Farmaajo of dictatorship.

The Council of Presidential Candidates has been demanding to be enjoined in the meetings.

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