Somalia's opposition group on Tuesday accused President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo of undermining reconciliation after his office invited election stakeholders for dialogue, but excluded his rivals.
Villa Somalia, the president's official residence, announced a one-day forum between Farmaajo and leaders of the federal states - Puntland, Jubbaland, Hirshabelle, South West and Galmudug slated for Thursday. The meeting would also include the governor of Benadir region, the metropolis of the capital Mogadishu.
"The forum marks the climax of efforts towards implementing the election agreements and recommendations," said Abdirashid M Hashi, Farmaajo's spokesman.
But the opposition, under the caucus of the Council of Presidential Candidates, said the timing of the meeting was suspect. The group had planned further talks with Prime Minister Hussein Roble on the same day, seeking to iron out issues that had forced it to the street to protests two weeks ago.
"It is unfortunate that former President Farmaajo is intentionally undermining the talks between the prime minister and the Council of Presidential Candidates," the coalition of 15 contenders said in a statement on Tuesday.
"This call by the former President is only aimed at sabotaging the talks between the PM and the Council."
The group warned against derailing the talks between the PM and the opposition candidates, which it said: "deserve to be given a chance to bear fruit."
Somalia is in a stalemate over the election dates after leaders failed to agree on the composition of the election commission and other contentious issues.
Farmaajo's tenure as president, according to the constitution ended on February 17. However, a motion passed by the bicameral federal parliament on September 26 last year said all incumbents must remain in office until their successors are elected and sworn in.
The latest meeting comes even as the United States called for a meeting "now", seen as putting pressure on the opposing sides to agree on when to hold the elections.
A statement posted on Twitter by the US Embassy in Mogadishu said: "Time is running out. We urge the FGS [federal government of Somalia] and the FMS [federal member states] leaders to meet now, do the right thing for the people of Somalia and complete this election."
While it is not clear if the US prefers talks to be led by Farmaajo or Roble, its calls join the United Nations and other Somalia donors who had earlier endorsed dialogue between representatives of the federal government with opposition groups last week.
"Whenever a solution is imminent and an agreement is about to be reached, Farmaajo spoils it," claimed Abdishakur Abdirahman, leader of Wadajir Party and one of the presidential aspirants.
Somalia reached an electoral pact, known as the Dhusamareb III Agreement, on September 17, 2020, that could see an indirect election for the MPs who are to elect the President.
But, bickering on the composition of electoral management teams as well as venues for the elections has resulted in a stalemate.