By Mbafan Ade –
Even as a severe rivalry between him and the country’s president generated new anxieties for the fragile Horn of Africa nation, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble told visiting UN diplomats on Sunday that Somalia’s long-delayed elections will go forward “as scheduled.”
The public feud between Roble and President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, sometimes known as Farmaajo, comes as Somalia battles to organize months-delayed elections and keep an Islamist insurgency at bay.
While senior politicians worked feverishly to temper tensions and end the standoff, Roble assured a team led by UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed that the vote would take place as scheduled.
The increasingly acrimonious feud has threatened to jeopardize an already precarious electoral process.
Farmaajo’s four-year term ended in February, but parliament extended it in April, sparking fatal gun fights in Mogadishu’s capital, which some opponents saw as a power grab.
Roble juggled a new polling schedule, but the process fell behind, and he accused Farmaajo of attempting to retake “election and security obligations” from him on Wednesday.
“We are determined to holding the polls as planned, and other existing concerns will not have any impact,” Roble’s office said in a statement on Sunday, as he sought to reassure UN diplomats about the vote.
“The prime minister informed the delegation about the progress made toward (having) the election… and how he is committed to (holding) peaceful and transparent elections,” according to the statement.
In Somalia, elections follow a convoluted indirect approach in which state legislatures and clan delegates select members of the national parliament, who then elect the president.
The second phase is set to begin on October 1 and end on November 25.
Roble fired Somalia’s intelligence chief this week over his handling of a high-profile investigation into the disappearance of a young operative.
Farmaajo defied the prime minister and appointed the disgraced intelligence official as his replacement.
Roble, in turn, accused the president of “obstructing” the probe, and removed the security minister on Wednesday night, replacing him with a Farmaajo opponent.
The row has heightened political tensions in Mogadishu, with a coalition of opposition presidential contenders declaring on Friday that they “back the prime minister… and denounce the outgoing president’s behavior.”
Last Monday, the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia asked both leaders to put aside their differences and concentrate on the elections.
Somalia’s political issues, according to analysts, have diverted attention away from more important dangers, such as the brutal Al-Shabaab insurgency.