Somalia: PM Calls for Election Amid Unrest

Somalia flag

With violence escalating in Somalia, the country's prime minister signaled his opposition to the president's plan to extend his mandate. Some residents have started fleeing Mogadishu.

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on Tuesday lost more allies in his bid to stay in power.

Mohamed, also known as Faramaajo, had signed a law extending his mandate by two years, provoking political violence in the capital Mogadishu.

But Galmudug and Hirshabelle, two Somali states that were formerly aligned with the president, called for the cancellation of the term extension and resuming talks on the national electionin a joint statement on Tuesday.

Later that day, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble supported Galmudug and Hirshabelle's appeal and called for preparations for a new election.

The president is expected to address the nation later on Tuesday. This would be his first public address since the unrest started on Sunday.

What is the situation in Mogadishu?

Residents began fleeing their homes on Tuesday, fearing more clashes over Mohamed's move.

Civilians piled televisions and mattresses into rickshaws or loaded belongings onto donkeys, according to the AFP news agency.

On Sunday, groups of armed men opposing the president exchanged fire with security forces.

Government troops have blocked major roads as armed opposition held positions in parts of the capital.

What fueled the tensions?

In February, Somalia's election was delayed amid disputes between the federal government and the states of Puntland and Jubbaland on how to conduct the vote.

Earlier this month, the lower house of parliament voted to extend President Mohamed's four-year term in office. However, the Senate rejected the move.

The president tried to defend his actions in a recent interview with a local newspaper, The Buffalo News, saying that Somalia "cannot afford a power vacuum."

"Who can lead, if we leave?" he asked.

What does the unrest mean for Somalia?

The move sparked threats of sanctions from the US and the EU. The latest violence threatens Somalia's security and "undoing fragile gains made over the past decade and a half," said the International Crisis Group, a think tank.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since the collapse of Barre'smilitary regime in 1991, which led to decades of civil war and lawlessness fueled by clan conflicts.

The country also still battles al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-linked Islamist militant group.

Al-Shabab controlled the capital until African Union troops pushed it out in 2011.

fb/dj (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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