President Mohamed Farmaajo of Somalia is seeking the support of the African Union in his last week’s decision to extend his term of office by two years, even as he chastised the international community for interference.
On Monday, President Farmaajo landed in Kinshasa to meet with his host Felix Tshisekedi, also the current Chair of the African Union. A statement from Villa Somalia said President Farmaajo will be on a ‘working visit’ to speak with Mr Tshisekedi in his capacity as the African Union Chair.
“During the visit, the two leaders will discuss how to further strengthen the bilateral relations between Somalia and DR Congo,” Mr Farmaajo’s office said.
The meeting though forms part of the latest shuttle diplomacy by Mr Farmaajo to seek support following a controversial extension of his term by two years.
This week, the African Union Bureau of Heads of State and Government is expected to discuss the situation in Somalia, following the decision by the Lower House to delay elections by two years.
Chaired by Tshisekedi, it also includes leaders from Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, South Africa and Senegal. It was unclear on Monday if these leaders will be travelling to Kinshasa as well.
Although Mr Farmaajo has argued that Parliament was merely providing more time for the country to conduct proper universal suffrage, international partners including the AU have rejected the delay.
Parallel electoral processes
A joint statement issued last week said the international partners would not accept any extensions of mandate, parallel electoral processes nor any activities that could worsen the security situation in Somalia.
Mr Farmaajo has dismissed international critics and accused them of interfering with Somalia’s internal affairs. He said last week Parliament had created a “historic chance” for Somalis to choose their own destiny after the failure of FMS members to support the implementation of the initial September 17, 2020 Agreement.
He said Somalia will “not tolerate external interference in sensitive sovereign affairs especially elections which were issues of independence to the people and the Federal Government of Somalia.”
But after the EU, United States of America and the UK warned of “re-evaluating” their relationship with Somalia, including suspension of crucial support programmes, he summoned their representatives in Mogadishu on Saturday.
The meeting took place at the ‘Big Tent’ near the former Somali Air force Headquarters inside Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle International Airport.
It was the first meeting between Somalia’s development supporters and President Farmaajo since the Lower House of Somalia’s parliament voted for an extension of the elected institutions for two years.
The endorsement, which occurred on April 12, mandated the National Electoral Commission to prepare for one-person-one-vote elections for a period not exceeding two years.
No statement was immediately issued after the meeting, but the partners had in the past stated they would not support a partial or parallel electoral process or initiatives to extend prior mandates.
President Farmaajo signed the piece of legislation just hours after the Lower House’s endorsement last week on Monday.
There are fears tensions over the election agenda could either divert attention from war on al-Shabaab or allow militia to crop up defending their political kin.
Last week, the African Union Mission in Somalia, the combat force created by the AU to fight terrorism in Somalia, announced it would be gradually handing over key security responsibilities to Somalia National Army.
The duties to be granted by December this year include guarding of crucial installations, al-Shabaab combat strategy and border security.
An impasse on an electoral deal, however, could delay the transfer.
On Friday night, government forces reportedly surrounded Shirkole neighbourhood in Mogadishu’s Hodon district where General Sadaq Omar Hassan alias Sadaq John, the former Mogadishu Police Commander who attempted to block the entrance of the Lower House of the parliament on Monday, is hiding.
Sadiq John was immediately fired by Commissioner of Somali Police Force, Hassan Mohamed Hijar and endorsed by President Farmaajo. Since then, Sadaq John has surrounded himself with a unit of the police force that remained loyal to him while the Somali security forces are attempting to seize him.
Though no direct armed confrontations occurred, in one incident when a government vehicle that was passing nearby was aimed at, reportedly causing the death of a woman in the neighbourhood and injuries of others.