Somalian President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on Saturday relaunched talks over the holding of fresh elections, in a move welcomed by the country’s opposition following Somalia’s worst political crisis in years.
In a speech before the Somalian parliament that was broadcast live, the president, who also goes by the name Farmaajo, effectively abandoned a policy passed by parliament last month that would have extended his term in office by two years.
He asked Somalian Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble to take charge of organizing fresh elections — a key demand of the opposition.
“We have decided to seek a solution through negotiations and to avoid starting violence in the benefit of those who trade on the blood of the public,” Farmaajo said.
Deadly clashes on April 25 broke out between rival factions in the capital, Mogadishu, over Farmaajo’s failure to hold elections before his term ended in February, due to the collapse of a deal between him and state leaders over the terms of the vote.
The city has been on a knife’s edge since the political crisis erupted into gunfire between rival factions of security forces backing Farmaajo and the opposition, leaving three people dead.
The US has repeatedly called for elections to go ahead, threatening sanctions against the nation of about 12 million, which is divided into several semi-autonomous states.
In his speech, Farmaajo returned to the agreement reached with states in September last year to hold indirect elections, whereby special delegates chosen by Somalia’s clan elders would pick lawmakers who in turn would choose the president.
“I want to make clear that Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble will lead in preparing and implementing the election and the security of the election,” he said. “I ask the government to get ready for the huge task.”
The measure was voted through unanimously by the 140 members of parliament present.
“Today is a historic day with particular importance for the Somalia peace process, democracy and governance. We are committed to holding fair, free and inclusive elections without anyone having their rights deprived,” Roble told an evening news briefing. “I will very soon invite all the concerned parties to a meeting.”
A coalition of opposition candidates welcomed the latest developments on Saturday, calling them “a step forward.”
“I applaud the decision of the parliament to get back to the implementation of the September 17 agreement,” said former Somalian president Sharif Sheik Ahmed, who is part of the opposition, adding that the deal was “the only solution we have for elections.”
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