Somalia: AU Urges Somali Leaders to Resume Poll Talks, Condemns Presidential Term Extension

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Mogadishu — Opposition leaders in Somalia welcomed a rare move by the African Union to condemn a term extension by Somali lawmakers for themselves and the president.

The AU Peace and Security Committee expressed "deep concern" over the vote by Somalia's lower house of parliament this month to extend the mandate of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.

The organization said the move, which effectively postponed the country's already-delayed elections, also undermines the unity and stability of the Horn of Africa state.

Lawmakers extended Farmajo's mandate for another two years after months of failed talks on holding parliamentary and presidential elections. Political leaders were unable to agree on the electoral process, despite heavy pressure from the AU, the United States, and European Union.

On Friday, the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) welcomed a renewed initiative by the African Union to facilitate talks on holding elections. But the FGS also blamed Kenya and Djibouti for engaging in what Information Minister Osman Dubbe described as a sinister campaign to derail the political process in Somalia through their influence in the commission.

Dubbe said the Somali government will not accept interference by the African Union into its domestic affairs, and added intervention in internal affairs violates the founding principles of the continental body which Somalia was among the pioneers.

Djibouti Government Minister for Economy and Finance Ilyas Mousa Dawaleh denied Somalia's accusations, saying it undermines core values of peace and stability.

However, Somali opposition Senator Ilyas Ali said he appreciated the AU's intervention.

"I applaud the condemnation made by the African Peace and Security Council over the lower house decision to extend its term and the term of the president, appreciate the African Union Peace and Security Committee seeing it the same way as we see," he said. "I would like also to emphasis of course our desire to continue collaborating with African brothers for a better Somalia."

The African Union is expected to send a special envoy to oversee the efforts to resolve the stalemate over the polls.

Political analyst Mohamed Muse Aden predicts the AU intervention will bring the sides to end their differences.

"The African Union involvement is very much significant, because of the trust deficit between the government and its rivals," he said. "Therefore, breaching that gap African solutions for African problem is badly needed here. This will pave way for broad-based dialogue and eventually lead to broker a deal ending the political quagmire and electoral deadlock."

The international partners in Somalia, led by the U.S., also welcomed African Union mediation and urged Somalia's leaders to agree to a way forward to resolve the electoral crisis urgently.

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