Somalia: Somali Opposition Welcomes President Dropping Term Extension

Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo is sworn in as president after he was declared the winner of the election held at the Mogadishu Airport hangar in Mogadishu on February 8, 2017.

Mogadishu, Somalia — Somalia's opposition politicians have cautiously welcomed President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed's move to drop a controversial two-year extension of his term in office. But questions remain on his intentions, and how the country is going to hold already-delayed elections.

Forces loyal to opposition leaders and government security agencies had clashed in Mogadishu on Sunday, injuring several people. But residents who fled their neighborhoods are returning home now that the president, commonly known as Farmajo, and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble are calling for calm.

While members of the opposition supported Farmajo's announcement Tuesday, they remain skeptical about the next moves by the president, whose term in office expired in February.

Abdulrahman Abdishakur, a presidential candidate and the leader of the Wadajir political party, said Farmajo is not clear on the way forward.

"... our position is, in order to reach inclusive agreement, the talks must be inclusive by including all stakeholders to resolve all outstanding issues once for all," Abdishakur said. "I don't see Farmajo has backed down his agenda for two-year term extension. He is still looking for excuse and he is plotting with former speaker of the lower house to reject and to fail the 17th September agreement," Abdishakur added, referring to a 15-point agreement on the election process signed September 17, 2020.

President Farmajo bowed to pressure Tuesday after the leaders of Hirshabelle and Galmudug states, who initially supported his bid for a term extension, reversed their decision.

The speaker of the lower house of parliament has confirmed an extraordinary session on Saturday to formally nullify the extension, which the lower house of parliament had given Farmajo earlier this month.

The federal government, the opposition, and state governments still have to reach agreement on the process for presidential and parliamentary elections.

Abdimalik Abdullahi, Somali analyst affairs, said all parties should negotiate in good faith with the help of an envoy appointed by the African Union.

"The incoming AU envoy would be better suited to mediate, oversee the negotiations, build bridges and act as a guarantor as well," Abdullahi said. "The September 17 agreement and the Baidoa recommendations should form the basis of the talks. If any of the parties brings to the forth any other valid issues and genuine concerns that have a bearing with the electoral process, it should be accommodated as well."

The United States has urged federal government leaders to resume dialogue immediately, saying political conflict will only destroy Somalia's hopes for peace and stability.

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