MOGADISHU (Somaliguardian) – Somalia’s outgoing president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has said he will stay in office until elections take place to avoid a leadership vacuum amid pressure from his opposition and calls for him to quit or hold polls immediately.
On Thursday the African Union issued a communique condemning a vote by Somalia’s Lower House of Parliament extending their mandate and the president’s term in office, in what many described as an effort to derail the electoral process and ensure a power grab.
The US and the European Union had previously decried the move and called on the president to rescind the decision or otherwise face concrete actions, including sanctions and visa restrictions.
The country’s opposition and some of the regional leaders also repeated calls for Farmajo to leave office after his mandate expired and urged the international community to take the lead in efforts aimed at holding free and fair elections in the strife-torn nation.
Tensions have also been building up in the capital Mogadishu, the government’s seat of power where nearly half of the city’s 16 districts has fell to the hands of opposition supporters and militia groups against the outgoing president.
Farmajo rebuffed growing calls for him to quit, citing that the “country cannot afford a power vacuum” and will continue to serve beyond his term until elections are held.
“We’re here after our term ended already, months ago, because the country cannot afford vacuum, a power vacuum,” Farmajo said in a recent interview with Buffalo News, adding: “So until an election takes place – until an election happens – we will stay in office because we cannot leave.”
The outgoing president whose opposition have accused him of intentional actions leading to the collapse of talks with regional state leaders and reneging on previous agreements, now asks “who can lead, if we leave?” and also responds to those demanding his resignation that he cannot leave office “because you need a legitimate government taking office legally through election”.
Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo insists that a resolution passed by parliament last week, giving him another 24 months in power was “not an extension” and reframes the addition as a “change in election model”.
“This is not an extension…This is a change of election model. This will require time to do this election, of course,” Farmajo noted.
“This is the first time in 50 years we have one person, one vote. We don’t have…experience in this electoral model.”
Asked if he would transfer power peacefully if another president is elected Farmajo said “absolutely, without hesitation”.
He argued that the resolution extending his mandate was passed to ensure “a real, true democratic process in which people can freely vote and elect their leaders”.
This is the first interview by the embattled Somali president since he signed into law a resolution extending his term in office, drawing condemnation from Somalia’s western allies, including the US, the UK and the European Union.
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