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President Farmajo calls for elections as allies withdraw support; Mogadishu to remain volatile – Somalia SITUATION UPDATE

Executive Summary:

  • President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo’s April 27 announcement that he will not pursue a two-year term extension is highly notable. With tensions escalating in Mogadishu and having lost support from allies, Farmajo likely had no other option but to back down on his desired term extension and to pursue elections.
  • However, it remains unclear how electoral stakeholders will proceed with inclusive dialogue and the implementation of the September 2020 electoral agreement after facing months of failed discussions over the same issues.
  • Given the extent of opposition and public anger toward Farmajo, any unfavorable outcome from the May 1 parliamentary sitting could elicit further backlash and demonstrations in Mogadishu. In turn, Farmajo may aim to subvert the narrative and blame the opposition for endangering national security. Such a scenario heightens the possibility of further violent clashes in the coming days.

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Please be advised:

  • In the evening hours of April 27, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo addressed the nation, announcing that he will not pursue a two-year term extension and will hold a special parliamentary session on May 1 to relaunch the electoral process.
  • Farmajo further called for the immediate resumption of unconditional dialogue between electoral stakeholders and reiterated his commitment to the September 2020 electoral agreement.
  • Earlier on April 27, Hirshabelle State President Ali Guudlawe and Galmudug State President Ahmed Kaliye, alias Qoor Qoor, withdrew their support for President Farmajo’s two-year term extension and called for the implementation of the September 17, 2020, electoral agreement along with the resumption of dialogue between electoral stakeholders.
  • Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble also issued a statement welcoming the announcement by Hirshabelle and Galmudug leaders and called for all five Federal Member States (FMS) to commit to renewed, inclusive dialogue and to prepare for elections.
  • Furthermore, PM Roble called for Somali National Army (SNA) and opposition force commanders to withdraw their troops from Mogadishu and to “cease all hostilities.”
  • Opposition presidential candidates including leader Abdirahman Abdishakur and former Presidents Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud also expressed support for these statements on social media.
  • The US Embassy in Mogadishu issued a statement on April 27 in support of these announcements, and called for President Farmajo to accept “a clear path to dialogue and peace.”
  • Meanwhile, in Mogadishu, pro-government and opposition security elements remain deployed across the city, with several neighborhoods throughout the Hodan, Hawlwadag, Shibis, and Yaqshid districts under the control of opposition forces. Residents, primarily from Hodan and Hawlwadag districts, reportedly continued to flee Mogadishu on April 27 fearing renewed clashes.
  • The capital reportedly remained calm on April 27, however, sources indicate that President Farmajo recalled additional pro-government forces to Mogadishu from Dhusamareb in Galmudug, Baladweyne in Hirshabelle, and Gedo Region in Jubaland to secure his position.

Main Tenets of FGS-FMS Electoral Model Agreement September 2020 - Somalia Situation Update


Assessment & Forecast:

  1. With tensions rapidly escalating in Mogadishu, the statements by Hirshabelle and Galmudug Presidents, and the subsequent endorsement from PM Roble, have effectively united all five FMS against President Farmajo’s attempts to remain in power for an additional two years. Hirshabelle and Galmudug State Presidents had remained staunch supporters of Farmajo and his administration until this point, backing Farmajo’s position at repeated FGS-FMS discussions before and after the February 8 election deadline and initially supporting the Lower House of Parliament’s resolution to extend his term. However, with the opposition mobilizing extensive support from clan militias, police commissioners, and certain SNA units in recent days, and demonstrating their ability to successfully counter pro-government security elements in Mogadishu, it is plausible that the Hirshabelle and Galmudug leaders were pressured to either withdraw support for Farmajo or enter into armed conflict on his behalf.
  2. While the exact circumstances that motivated their announcement remain unclear, it is possible that urgent negotiations among political figures and clan leaders facilitated by PM Roble convinced Qoor Qoor and Guudlawe that such action was necessary to defuse the situation in Mogadishu. Moreover, given PM Roble’s immediate expression of support for the Hirshabelle and Galmudug statements and his efforts to quell tensions in Mogadishu, it appears that he has significantly distanced himself from Farmajo in recent days. While PM Roble had previously attempted to maintain neutrality throughout the electoral impasse and repeatedly facilitated negotiations with Farmajo’s opponents including Jubaland and Puntland states and the Presidential Candidates Union (PCU), electoral stakeholders continued to perceive him as Farmajo’s closest ally. Therefore, his break with Farmajo is notable and could have also motivated Qoor Qoor and Guudlawe to do the same.
  3. Having lost support from allies within the FGS, FMS, and from international partners like the US and EU, Farmajo likely understood that his current position was untenable, and thereby has no other option but to back down on his desired term extension and to resume the electoral process. FORECAST: However, despite the significance of his announcement, it’s unclear how electoral stakeholders will proceed with inclusive dialogue and the implementation of the September 2020 FGS-FMS electoral agreement after facing months of failed discussions over the same issues. For instance, although Parliament will likely rule to renew the electoral process on May 1, with the Lower House allied to Farmajo, the body could vote to delay elections for some time to provide for sufficient stakeholder dialogue, which in turn will allow Farmajo to remain in office for an indefinite extended period. Furthermore, although all parties reiterated their commitment to inclusive dialogue as a way forward to elections, the parties are likely to once again disagree on the conditions for negotiations as Farmajo has already called for “unconditional” talks while PCU members will likely demand Farmajo’s resignation before discussions move ahead. Ultimately however, Farmajo remains unlikely to resign, further entrenching the mistrust between all parties.
  4. FORECAST: Given the potential for these same issues to derail renewed discussions and the electoral process, it is possible that international partners, particularly the US, will ramp-up pressure on stakeholders to agree to the conditions for negotiations. In this context, the US endorsement of the position adopted by Hirshabelle and Galmadug, is notable and may likely result in other international partners such as the EU, UK, and Norway endorsing the same position. While such a scenario further reduces Farmajo’s thus far relatively steady international support, it remains highly unlikely that international actors will intervene, apart from further threats, and the possible imposition of sanctions on specific FGS or FMS leaders, additional reduction of humanitarian and security aid.
  5. FORECAST: In terms of the security environment, given that pro and anti-government forces remain deployed across Mogadishu, the security situation is poised to remain extremely volatile with a heightened risk for further clashes. Although some opposition contingents have reportedly withdrawn from various areas of the capital and may heed PM Roble’s call, given that additional pro-Farmajo SNA troops are slated to arrive in Mogadishu, opposition elements are likely to remain on high alert and prepared for potential confrontations. Additionally, given the extent of opposition and public anger toward Farmajo, any unfavorable outcome from the May 1 parliamentary sitting could elicit further backlash and opposition demonstrations in Mogadishu. Given this possibility, Farmajo is likely to aim to subvert the narrative, and blame opposition forces and protesters for endangering national security, and may use loyalist forces to repress the opposition. Such a scenario heightens the possibility of further violent clashes in the coming days.

Recommendations:

  1. Those operating or residing in Mogadishu on April 28 and in the coming days should minimize movement throughout the city due to the potential for renewed clashes between pro-Farmajo and anti-Farmajo forces in multiple districts.
  2. Those in Mogadishu are advised to consider organizing contingency and evacuation plans.