Gunfire at Mogadishu Protest Intensifies Somali Election Deadlock

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NAIROBI — Opposition protests within the Somali capital, Mogadishu, have been interrupted by gunfire on Friday, heightening a political standoff brought on by the federal government’s refusal to carry elections that have been scheduled for 2 weeks in the past.

Movies posted on social media and shared by native information retailers confirmed opposition leaders marching via the streets of the town earlier than ducking and operating for canopy as gunfire is heard.

The unfolding chaos within the capital is a flash level in a deteriorating political scenario in Somalia, and dangers exacerbating clan-based grievances, emboldening the extremist group al-Shabab and undermining progress the nation has made in recent times.

The present political disaster was set off when Somalia’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, delayed elections after which refused to depart workplace after his four-year time period formally ended on Feb. 8.

The federal government put the nation below a lockdown earlier than the demonstrations on Friday, suspending all public gatherings. Whereas it stated it imposed the restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, opposition critics attributed the transfer to an effort to tamp down protests.

The USA Embassy in Somalia stated that “as many as 20 individuals could have been killed or injured” within the morning clashes within the capital, and urged residents to keep away from the town. It additionally famous that incoming flights to the worldwide airport have been diverted and outbound flights canceled.

Hassan Ali Khaire, the previous prime minister and a distinguished opposition determine, stated in a put up on Fb that he and several other different presidential candidates, lawmakers, different officers and civilians survived an “assassination try” on the protest. Mr. Khaire later stated in a information convention that shells fired towards opposition protesters had landed inside the town’s worldwide airport.

The chaos on the protests got here simply hours after an intense trade of gunfire erupted in Mogadishu within the early hours of Friday morning. Hassan Hundubey Jimale, the Somali minister of inside safety, stated in a press release that “armed militias” had attacked army posts with the intention of taking on authorities buildings. Authorities forces repulsed the attackers, he stated.

These raids have been adopted by stories of assaults by the federal government on different political figures, together with Mr. Mohamed’s two presidential predecessors, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who stated on Twitter that the lodge the place they have been staying had been focused.

“The federal government forces tonight attacked the Ma’ida lodge the place I and the previous president have been staying,” Mr. Mohamud wrote in a post on Twitter. “It’s unlucky that the outgoing president is shedding the blood of residents who’re getting ready for a peaceable demonstration to precise their views.”

Mr. Ahmed wrote that he believed the assault was ordered by Mr. Mohamed, who’s “attempting to suppress and drive the Somali individuals from expressing their views peacefully.” The 2 males had been staying within the lodge together with different opposition figures earlier than Friday’s rally.

The deadlock over the election has infected tensions among the many federal and regional governments and opposition events. It has additionally alarmed the worldwide neighborhood, with the United Nations, the US, the European Union and several other African international locations, urging the events concerned to resolve the electoral points “to ensure that credible and inclusive elections to proceed.”

Along with intensifying assaults from the Qaeda-linked group Shabab, Somalia is battling two different crisises — rising circumstances of the coronavirus and desert locusts which can be destroying crops and local weather shocks, making a humanitarian disaster affecting hundreds of thousands of individuals. Somalia additionally severed diplomatic relations with Kenya in December after accusing it of meddling in its inside affairs.

Murithi Mutiga, the Horn of Africa challenge director for the Worldwide Disaster Group, stated that regardless of the unfolding occasions within the streets of Mogadishu, it was not too late for Mr. Mohamed to construct consensus across the election and stave off one other disaster within the area.

“At a time when Ethiopia is experiencing inside turmoil and its troops are going through off with Sudanese forces over a disputed borderland and with Al Shabab seemingly resurgent in Somalia and northern Kenya, renewed violence in Somalia and the attainable fracturing of the safety forces alongside clan traces could be considerably destabilizing,” Mr. Mutiga stated.

Somalia’s prime minister, Mohamed Hussein Roble, stated he was saddened by the occasions that transpired within the capital, noting that residents had the constitutional proper to display.

“Elections are going to happen,” he stated in a video statement posted on Twitter. “I need to say to the individuals: Don’t let the peace you will have suffered for be destroyed.”

Abdi Latif Dahir reported from Nairobi, and Megan Specia from London.

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