MOGADISHU (Somaliguardian) – Somalia’s opposition and the authorities in the northeastern semi-autonomous region of Puntland have thrown their support behind the prime minister Mohamed Hussein Roble in a rift with the president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, amid growing fears raised that the new squabble may endanger the upcoming elections.
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In a statement on Sunday night, the Council of Presidential Candidates, a conglomerate of opposition parties welcomed a decision by the prime minister to oppose a decree issued by the current acting president that barred “all government institutions from signing any form of agreements involving our republic and other countries, institutions, and international companies” until the presidential vote is held.
It comes after the prime minister Mohamed Hussein Roble met with Abdirahman Abdishakur, the leader of Wadajir opposition party and president Farmajo’s foremost critic on Sunday, though details about the talks have not been immediately made public.
The president and his prime minister have been locked in a bitter dispute about key issues involving foreign policy, elections and relations with Kenya, and the lifting of a ban on Kenyan Khat. Farmajo opposed efforts by Mr. Roble to lift a ban on the Kenyan khat imports and his controversial decree aimed to block a cooperation agreement signed by Somali and Kenyan foreign ministers weeks earlier.
Kenyan foreign minister Raychelle Omamo arrived in the capital Mogadishu on Sunday morning, just hours after the president issued the decree, and held meeting with the prime minister Mohamed Hussein Roble at his office. Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta invited the premier to visit Kenya in an effort to further improve diplomatic relations, months after Qatar-sponsored mediation led to a thaw in the ties between the countries.
Authorities in Puntland, in a statement, picked side in the raging row and supported the prime minister in his decision to say the president’s decree was invalid and assert that only his government has executive powers to sign agreements with foreign countries, given that the president had earlier transferred many of his powers after delayed polls stoked armed clashes that racked the capital Mogadishu in April.
There has also been a dispute over the selection of members of an electoral team that is sought to manage the election of parliamentarians representing the breakaway state of Somaliland in the Somali federal parliament.
Members of the team, who are allied with the current acting president, held a partial vote to choose a new chairman last week, in a move which was supported by the prime minister, but opposed by the leader of the Senate, who had earlier been granted power to name half of the electoral team members under an agreement reached in May.
Tensions have also been simmering in the town of Jowhar in the middle Shabelle region, where a crucial vote is scheduled to be held in the coming days. A dispute between regional parliament also added tinder to an already precarious situation in the restive region. Outside the administrative capital of Hirshabelle state, clan militias have begun to mobilize for an attack aimed at disrupting the elections, in what locals fear might further worsen an already growing agitation in the region, more than half of whose land mass is held by militants aligned with Al-Qaeda.
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