Somali President suspends Prime Minister over corruption allegations

NAIROBI, Kenya – The Somali president on Monday suspended the country’s prime minister and maritime forces commander, a sharp escalation in a political dispute that threatens to further destabilize the troubled Horn of Africa nation.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has suspended Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble over allegations of corruption and abuse of public land. Mr. Mohamed’s office had previously accused Mr. Roble for “posing a serious threat to the electoral process” and for carrying out activities contrary to his mandate.

Mr Roble refused to accept the order and accused Mr Mohamed of deploying troops to attack his office and those of the cabinet to prevent them from performing their duties. The movements, he said in a televised speech, were “a blatant attempt to overthrow the government, constitution and laws of the land.”

On Monday, foreign governments and international observers expressed concern that the dispute could spark a new round of violence in a nation scarred by decades of fighting.

The simmering political impasse turned into violence in the streets in April, after Mr. Mohamed signed a law extending his tenure by two years. Opponents of Mr. Mohamed, a former American citizen and bureaucrat, as well as his Western allies denounced the move, and many Somalis feared it would undo the modest democratic gains the country has achieved after decades of civil war.

The showdown ultimately led Mr. Mohamed to ask Parliament to overturn the extension and ask Mr. Roble to help organize the delayed elections.

Calling Mr. Mohamed “the former president”, the prime minister on Monday asked the armed forces to report directly to his office and vowed to take action against anyone who defied the orders. He also said that Mr. Mohamed, whose term technically expired in February this year, intended to disrupt the elections so “that he can illegally remain in office”.

Somalia is motivated by clan politics, and analysts say the rift between president and prime minister – who belong to different clans – threatens to escalate into outright violence not only among their supporters but also among their clan members. within the Somali army. On Monday evening, armed forces loyal to the opposition gathered in parts of the capital, Mogadishu, witnesses said, as Somali military forces fortified the roads leading to the presidential palace.

The process of organizing the elections was not smooth, with the legislative elections facing delays, irregularities and multiple allegations of corruption on the part of candidates and observers. So far, only 26 of the 275 deputies in the lower house of parliament have been elected, with 53 of the 54 upper house seats filled.

Somalia’s electoral process is decidedly complex, with traditional elders choosing special delegates who select lawmakers, who then choose the country’s president. Mr Mohamed has said he wants to move to a more traditional one-person, one-voice process, but critics say he is motivated by a desire to retain power.

The Somali constitution gives the president the power to appoint a prime minister, but the power to revoke or deny trust in the prime minister and his cabinet rests with parliament.

Abdirahman Yusuf Omar, a deputy information minister loyal to the prime minister, called the president’s decision an “indirect coup”.

Write about FacebookMr Omar said the deployment of security forces around the prime minister’s office would not prevent Mr Roble from performing his duties.

The political battle comes as more than 90 percent of the country faces drought conditions, according to the United Nations, with nearly four million people estimated at risk of acute food insecurity.

Somalia also faces growing threats from the terrorist group Shabab, the negative economic impact of Covid-19, and clashes between rival forces in various parts of the country that have left tens of people dead and thousands displaced from their homes.

On Monday, residents of Mogadishu said there was a heavy troop presence on the streets, with many fearing the political feud would become bloody again.

Abdimalik Abdullahi, an independent analyst in Mogadishu, said the latest suspension “plunges Somalia into yet another difficult political crisis”.

The international community, said Mr. Abdullahi, should “put pressure on political actors in Somalia to comply with existing electoral agreements, severely warn troublemakers of the possible repercussions and help the prime minister fulfill his mandate regarding management of the electoral process. . “

Sunday, United States, Britain and other Western countries have expressed concern over the delay in elections and urged political leaders to participate a Monday meeting called by the prime minister to resolve differences and speed up the electoral process.

But before the meeting, President Mohamed’s office on Sunday accused the Prime Minister for “posing a serious threat to the electoral process” and for having carried out activities contrary to his mandate.

The prime minister is also under investigation for corruption.

The Somali Navy Commander, Brigadier. General Abdihamid Mohamed Dirir recently publicly accused senior government officials, including Mr. Roble, of planning to seize public land belonging to the Coast Guard near the port of Mogadishu.

In one press release issued by the presidencyMr. Mohamed accused Mr. Roble not only of having hijacked the ground but also of exerting pressure on the Minister of Defense, “which amounts to tampering” with the investigation.

Pending the conclusion of the investigation, “the prime minister’s duty and powers remain suspended,” Mohamed said.

The president too suspended General Dirir said the move was crucial to complete the investigation into the prime minister.

As political unrest grew on Monday, the United Nations, the European Union and nearly two dozen other countries around the world issued a joint statement call for restraint and dialogue. Somali political leaders have also called on the authorities to take urgent action to defuse the situation.

“I am deeply saddened by the horrific actions which threaten the stability and existence of this nation”, Fawzia Yusuf H. Adam, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and sole candidate for President, said in a post shared on Twitter. “The leaders of this country must stop inciting violence and respect the law and the agreements.

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