Somalia’s President Bows To The Pressure

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The level of pressure and unrest in Somalia has forced President Mohamed Abdullahi to cancel the plans of extending his term.

Hours before confirming this, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble had denounced the proposed term extension and called for preparations for a new presidential election.

The president’s term expired in February, but the country failed to hold elections as planned. Earlier this month, the lower house of parliament voted to extend Mohamed’s four-year term by another two years. The Senate rejected the move, provoking a political crisis.

Commanders in both the police and the military had defected to the opposition, and rival factions of the security forces had fortified positions in central Mogadishu, raising fears of clashes in the heart of the city, and a security vacuum in the surrounding areas that could be exploited by al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab insurgents.

In a televised statement in the early hours of Wednesday, the president said he commended the efforts of the prime minister and other political leaders and welcomed the statements they issued calling for elections to be held without further delay.

He also called for urgent discussions with the signatories to an agreement signed last September on the conduct of the elections.

The opposition, who had called on the president to resign, did not immediately respond. The president did not discuss the opposition in his speech but did denounce unnamed “individuals and foreign entities who have no aim other than to destabilize the country.”

The heads of two regional states who had been staunch allies of the president had also rejected on Tuesday the proposed two-year extension of Mohamed’s term. Those leaders said in statements immediately after the president’s speech that they welcomed his announcement.

Mohamed’s attempt to extend his term had also angered foreign donors who backed his government, hoping it would help bring stability and quash the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab insurgency. But the proposed extension pitted factions in the security forces against each other.

The U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu tweeted support for the prime minister and the two state presidents after they issued their statement.

This week, opposition forces abandoned positions in the countryside as they headed for a showdown in the capital, allowing al-Shabaab to take over at least one town.

Forces loyal to the opposition hold important parts of the city and clashed with government forces over the weekend, fueling worries the country could return to all-out war.

Both African and Western nations have condemned the outbreak of violence in Somalia.

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