Somalia: Mogadishu tense as armed opposition fighters take up positions | News | DW | 26.04.2021

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Somalia: Mogadishu tense as armed opposition fighters take up positions

Somalia is on a knife's edge as opposition militias take up positions in parts of Mogadishu after embattled President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed sparked a political crisis by extending his mandate last week.

Somali opposition fighters

Opposition protesters are supported by armed groups in Mogadishu

Heavily armed Somali opposition fighters continue to hold positions in parts of the capital, Mogadishu, a day after clashes with government troops erupted following President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed's extending of his mandate. Though reports have not indicated ongoing fighting, the situation remains tense.

In Mogadishu, DW's Mohamed Odowa reports that renewed clashes appear "imminent anytime unless parties involved have peaceful talks on the election impasse." He does not expect a swift solution.

"Fighters are very close to each other," Odowa reports, "especially in the northern parts of the city but there is no fighting at the moment."

At the moment, mediation efforts are going on between the government and clan elders. Analysts fear a splintering of Somalia's security forces along political and clan lines, warning Mogadishu could be the scene of street-to-street battles.

Somalia Gewalt zwischen Regierung und Opposition

Mohamed, known as Farmaajo, has been criticized for extending his term by two years

"The government wants to use clan elders to engage with the opposition groups to prevent further clashes," Odowa said.

Witnesses say armed men and vehicles mounted with machine guns are stationed in opposition strongholds, while key roads in Mogadishu are blocked.

"Government troops have been redeployed to their bases. Policemen on the street seem friendly, as they do not want to engage in armed clashes," Odowa told DW.

Tensions have been high in Somalia since Mohamed signed a law extending his mandate for two years. Opposition parties have called it an unconstitutional effort to stay in power. The US and the EU have threatened sanctions.

On a knife-edge

"The situation is precarious in several parts of the city where militias loyal to opposition politicians have made strongholds in key areas in the heart of the city. No business is taking place as many people fled their homes," Odowa reports. 

Earlier, Mogadishu residents urged both sides to stop fighting, and complained about electricity and water shortages.

On Sunday, groups of armed men opposing the president exchanged fire with security forces, and government troops blocked major roads. 

Local police say at least five people have been killed in clashes. 

"Some clan militiamen organized by opposition politicians tried to disturb peace in Mogadishu, they have advanced onto police checkpoints ... but the security forces took immediate action against them," police commander Mohamed Abdirahman told AFP. 

What is behind the violence?

Military forces supporting former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud have vowed to forcefully remove Mohamed, also known as Farmajo, if he does not return to negotiations on the delayed election or if he does not resign.

Mohamed has faced increased pressure at home and from abroad after the lower house of Parliament approved the two-year extension of his rule. The African Union condemned the extension on Friday.

The president and leaders of Somalia's five semiautonomous federal states had agreed in September for indirect parliamentary and presidential elections in late 2020 and early 2021.

But those elections did not occur after talks on how to conduct the vote fell apart. The UN Security Council adopted a statement calling on parties in Somalia "to reject violence and resume dialogue as a matter of urgency and without precondition." The US and EU have both threatened to sanction Somalia for the delayed elections.

The EU envoy to Somalia, Nicolas Berlanga, said he was "highly concerned about the ongoing events in Mogadishu." Berlanga added: "Violence is unacceptable. Those responsible will be held accountable."

Former president says he was attacked

Former President Mohamud has said Mohamed had directed an attack his home.

"It is very unfortunate that an army under the command of the former president attacked my residence," Mohamud said, without providing evidence, and pointedly referring to Mohamed as the "former president."

The internal security minister, Hassan Hundubey Jimale, denied the government raid on Mohamud's home, according to the state-run Somali National News Agency. Witnesses said Mohamud's home was not attacked.

kbd/wmr (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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