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Somali President withdraws PM’s powers in escalating row

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed announced on Thursday he had withdrawn the powers of Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, the latest development in a bitter row that has plunged the country into fresh crisis.

“The prime minister has violated the transitional constitution so his executive powers are withdrawn… especially his powers to remove and to appoint officials, until the election is completed,” the office of the president, popularly known as Farmajo, said in a statement.

The head of state justified his decision by saying that the Prime Minister had taken “imprudent decisions that could pave the way for political and security instability,” and that he had not carried out “any consultation and collaboration with the president.

The two men, who have had a tense relationship for several months, have clashed twice in the past ten days over dismissals and appointments to key security positions.

On September 5, Mohamed Roble dismissed the head of the Intelligence and Security Services Agency (Nisa), Fahad Yasin, a close associate of Farmajo, for his handling of the investigation into the unexplained disappearance of one of his female officers, Ikran Tahlil.

The president overturned the “illegal and unconstitutional” decision and appointed a replacement of his choice after promoting Fahad Yasin to national security adviser.

Last week, after accusing the president of “obstructing” the investigation and calling his decisions a “dangerous existential threat” to the country, the prime minister replaced the security minister. The President also ruled that this decision was not in accordance with the Constitution.

Politicians then tried to defuse the tension between the two leaders, but without success.

– Open rivalry-

“Somali factions are playing with fire,” the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank warned in a report released Tuesday, in the face of escalating tensions between Farmajo and Roble.

Elected in 2017, Farmajo’s term expired on Feb. 8 without being able to agree with regional leaders on holding elections, triggering a serious constitutional crisis.

The announcement in mid-April that his term would be extended for two years sparked armed clashes in Mogadishu, reviving memories of the decades of civil war that ravaged the country after 1991.

Roble, appointed in September 2020, has been at the center of the political scene since Farmajo tasked him in May with organizing the sensitive elections.

The Prime Minister has agreed on an election timetable, with an initial target date of October 10 for the presidential election.

The process is already behind schedule. The appointment of members of the lower house, the last step before the election of the head of state under Somalia’s complex indirect electoral system, is now scheduled to take place between October 1 and November 25.

Mohamed Roble assured UN diplomats on Sunday that the elections would go ahead “as planned”.

– “Designate the saboteurs” –

However, the process appears to be in great danger.

Stressing that the Prime Minister enjoys the support of several politicians, notably from the opposition, the ICG estimated on Tuesday that “getting rid of Roble (…) would probably ruin the agreement on which the elections are based”.

“The clash between its two top leaders risks upsetting what little stability the country has enjoyed, while diverting politicians from other priorities,” the ICG added, calling on Somalia’s partners and donors to “publicly name the saboteurs, threaten them with sanctions if they do not change course, and prepare targeted measures.

The electoral stalemate and this umpteenth crisis at the top of the state are also diverting attention from the Shebab jihadist insurgency that has rocked the country since 2007.

Ousted from Mogadishu in 2011, the shebab still control large areas of the country’s countryside and regularly carry out attacks in the capital.

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