MOGADISHU (Somaliguardian) – Somalia’s opposition said Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, whose term expired nearly two weeks ago, is a “traitor” and should not be allowed to run for reelection, a day after government troops fired on peaceful protesters.
In a statement issued on Saturday, an alliance of opposition presidential candidates, many of whom had been among protesters dispersed by security forces using live rounds on Friday, accused Farmajo of ordering troops to fire on protesters and break up a peaceful demonstration.
An attack by government troops on an opposition march sparked clashes with guards of several presidential candidates including former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire in what candidates running against Farmajo say was an “assassination attempt” and triggered the ire of critics against the Somali leader.
As many as 20 people may have been killed or wounded in the clashes, according to a statement by US embassy in Mogadishu, though the exact number of casualties has not been clear.
A mortar shell, which Wadajir party leader Ahmed Abdirahman Abdishakur says had been intended to target them, struck a restaurant inside Adan Adde airport in Mogadishu, causing significant damage. All incoming and outbound flights have been immediately cancelled over security fears.
UN mission in Somalia immediately issued a statement, raising deep concerns and calling for “calm and restraint” by all the parties involved in Somalia’s current political crisis.
The US embassy in Mogadishu recommended that its citizens avoid downtown Mogadishu amid fear of fresh clashes.
Puntland administration denounced government’s use of armed forces to attack protesters and called for both sides to calm the situation and end their dispute through dialogue to proceed with election plan.
Somali Prime Minister, speaking in a video message, said he regretted what had happened and urged residents in the capital not to allow “the peace they strived for be ruined” by individuals seeking personal political motives.
African Union Chair Moussa Faki added his voice to those concerned about the recent developments in Somalia.
“I’m deeply concerned at the deteriorating security and political situation in Mogadishu, which puts at risk all the gains made in Somalia in the last decade,” Moussa Faki’s statement reads.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) condemned the growing hostility and violence in Mogadishu.
“The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) strongly condemns the violence in Mogadishu in the last twenty-four hours,” IGAD said.
“IGAD further condemns the growing hostility and extreme belligerence in political contests in the country.”
Jubaland regional state condemned the security forces’ use of live ammunition to clear peaceful protesters and said it would reconsider attending electoral talks in Mogadishu due to the insecurity spiraling out of control.
Reports of military buildup
Wadajir opposition party leader Abdirahman Abdishakur said on Saturday heavily armed government troops had been returned from the frontlines in order to attack the opposition.
“I spoke to senior military officer who told me that many heavily armed troops have been returned from the frontlines in order to attack the opposition and suppress the protests,” Mr Abdishakur tweeted.
“The international community has failed to demand accountability. Farmajo can’t be part of the solution.”
There have been reports of clan militias being amassed on the outskirts of Mogadishu.
Raid on hotel housing opposition leaders
On Thursday night, Somali special forces raided Maida hotel near the presidential palace, where some of the leaders of the opposition stayed to attend Friday’s protests, and fighting broke out.
Former president Hassan Sheikh, who had been at the hotel as the attack unfolded, pointed out that a coup had been orchestrated by Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.
“What transpired in Mogadishu last night and today is a coup orchestrated by the former president who turned down calls to lead the country to elections,” Hassan Sheikh tweeted on Friday.
“The federal parliament and militia commanders who have backed him in the coup will be held accountable for their actions and brought before justice.”
Electoral talks delayed
Talks scheduled to take place in Mogadishu from February 18-19, to resolve dispute over the upcoming elections, have been delayed due to the escalating tensions in the capital.
Somali leader Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo had earlier called for the meeting with regional state leaders, but many of them have yet to arrive in Mogadishu.
Jubaland state says it is reconsidering whether to attend the conference, citing security concerns after violence gripped the capital over the past hours.
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