Somalia's political stakeholders on Thursday signed a definitive agreement that paves the way for the country to hold indirect elections, likely before August this year.
The decision followed marathon week-long talks led by Prime Minister Hussein Roble. It allows the country to go ahead with the delegate system of voting as earlier mooted, ending weeks of uncertainty.
Roble signed for the Federal Government and federal state leaders Said Abdullahi Deni (Puntland), Ahmed Abdi Qoorqoor (Galmudug), Ali Hussein Gudlawe (Hirshabelle), Abdulaziz Mohamed Laftagareen (South West) and Ahmed Mohamed Islam Madobe (Jubbaland) signed for their respective federal states.
The Governor of Banadir region and Mayor of Mogadishu Omar Mohamed Filish also appended his signature for his metropolis.
Roble, who chaired the meeting between the federal government representatives and federal member states, said the deal signalled a "golden" day for Somalia.
"Several days of negotiations between the FGS, FMS and Banadir Region in the spirit of responsiveness, compromise and consensus have, in the interest of the nation and people, culminated in a mutually acceptable solution to the national electoral impasse," he told an audience at the meeting venue, inside the fortified Aden Abdulle International Airport.
"Today, May 27, 2021, marks a historic moment and turns a golden page in Somalia's State building and governance history."
Roble's success in having the leaders reach an agreement may have saved the country from a potential crisis. But the leaders must now return to their stations and implement the crucial bits such as ensure security for the elections, prepare venues and also select delegates who will vote for MPs, who in turn will vote for the President.
Roughly, that could cost at least $50 million and adequate security arrangements.
Somali politicians praised the leaders for reaching an agreement on the polls.
"Today's election agreement between the Federal Government of Somalia and its federal member states finally takes us on the path to elections," said Ayub Ismail Yusuf, a Senator in the Upper House.
"This agreement is as fair and representative as possible to ensure indirect free and fair elections. We must work towards 1P1V (One Person One Vote)," he added.
The agreement could also be a personal victory for President Mohammed Farmaajo, who, just a month ago, appeared like a leader at odds with his people. His move to extend his term by two years was fiercely opposed by his rivals, federal states and the international community. Farmaajo had argued that he wanted to organise universal suffrage, accusing politicians of taking hostage of the indirect polls.
After pulling back the gear on this, he nominated the widely popular Roble to lead talks on elections, as well as manage its security.
The Thursday agreement is a general acceptance to implement indirect elections under the September 17 Agreement. Each federal state will field two venues where delegates will elect MPs.
Security arrangements were among the issues that had stalled previous talks. On Thursday, Roble said he will directly supervise the elections and lead reconciliation in the troubled Gedo region of Jubbaland where Somali National Army troops routinely clashed with Jubbaland forces.
The Prime Minister, under the arrangement, will chair a committee on security which will have nine members and will include representatives from federal states, African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) and security chiefs in Somalia.
Details on security arrangements were yet to be shared by Thursday evening, but security arrangements had been among the issues that stalled previous talks, especially between Jubbaland and the federal government.
On Thursday, Farmaajo witnessed the signing ceremony at the venue known locally as Afysione, having also weathered a dispute with the African Union after rejecting its special envoy John Mahama.
If the agreement holds, it could cement Somalis' ability to negotiate for themselves.
But there were unfinished issues on the election model for representatives from Somaliland. Speaker of the Upper House Abdi Hashi, a senior politician from the breakaway northern region, had bickered with Roble on how to select delegates. It required a delegation of politicians to his house to convince him to attend the signing ceremony.