Somalia: Amisom Halts Handover Plan in Somalia As Poll Fuels Clan Politics

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The African Union will retain a grip on Somalia's security apparatus following fears that the country was retreating to clan politics over an electoral impasse.

The African Union Peace and Security Council, at a virtual meeting last week on Thursday, condemned President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo's endorsement of an extension of term passed by the Lower House, and said it will monitor troop movements in Somalia through the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).

"The AU Peace and Security Council requests Amisom, pending the renewal of its mandate, to monitor the deployment of Somali Security Forces," a dispatch from the 15-member Council said on Thursday.

The African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat was expected to call for a meeting for troop contributing countries to Amisom "to consider the security implications of the current political impasse, as well as to map options for addressing and mitigating them."

Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Burundi have all contributed troops to Amisom, which is expected to begin a gradual withdrawal from Somalia by December.

Amisom head Francisco Madeira recently said the Mission will surrender certain security operations to Somalia National Forces ahead of its departure. However, the latest incidents in Somalia now mean the programme will be paused, officials told The EastAfrican.

The African Union specifically expressed "deep concern" over what it called a unilateral decision by the Lower House of Parliament to extend President Farmaajo's term by two years, which technically meant it would supersede an agreement reached last year in September to hold indirect elections this year.

"The AU Peace and Security Council condemns the actions of April 12 by the House of People, which extended the mandate of the president and the parliament, effectively delaying the elections," the Council said, warning this could undermine the unity and stability of the country.

"[The AUPSC] further expresses deep concern with the possible impact of the current political situation and climate on the cohesion of the Somali federation, the unity of the Somali army and security apparatuses, the process of force generation and the capability to continue to degrade al Shabaab."

Mr Faki was expected to name a special envoy for Somalia to help parties negotiate a deal. But, the immediate problem, however, could be the resurgence of clan-based politics.

The Hawiye clan -- an influential group in Mogadishu both in business and politics -- announced it was withdrawing the support for President Farmaajo whom they accused of illegally staying in power.

"We call on President Farmaajo to immediately retract the illegal term extension for both parliament and president," the group of about 400 elders, politicians and businessmen from the clan said in a statement last week on Wednesday.

The Hawiye who occupy Mogadishu, parts of central and southern Somalia have probably produced some of the most prominent politicians in the country. They include Aden Abdulle, Somalia's first president, former presidents Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and former prime ministers Abdullahi Issa Mohamud and Ali Mohamed Ghedi.

The clans have been influential in the country's politics, but political leaders had been appearing in public under movements such as the National Salvation Forum.

"Ethnic alignments and re-alignments are common in African political space and not just in Somalia," said Nuur Mohamud Sheekh, spokesperson for the executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad).

"Given the current circumstances, Igad urges all Somalia stakeholders to show statesmanship and refrain from any actions that will further escalate tensions or lead to violence and therefore call on leaders to prioritise dialogue in their political aspirations," Mr Sheekh told The EastAfrican.

President Farmaajo has argued that the extension will allow time to prepare for universal suffrage. But this argument has been rejected both at home and abroad. Last week on Monday, he flew to Kinshasa to meet with DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, the current chairman of the African Union.

President Tshisekedi was also reluctant about endorsing an extension, but did say that he will ensure the African Union mediates a proper solution.

"The issue of political transition in Somalia is an internal issue," Mohamed Abdirizak, Somalia's Foreign Affairs Minister said after the Kinshasa trip.

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PUSH FOR NEGOTIATIONS

The Hawiye -- an influential group in Mogadishu both in business and politics -- and the Forum -- a political movement -- said the country must return to negotiations on the September 17 Agreement, to hold indirect elections this year, while the president of Puntland state warned that he will take "appropriate steps" if President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo refuses to negotiate.

The United States, United Kingdom and the European Union have also rejected the extension, isolating President Farmaajo further.

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