Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed called for elections early on Wednesday and a return to dialogue following the extension of his mandate triggered the fragile nation’s worst political violence in years.
In an address to the nation broadcast on state media, he said he would appear before parliament on Saturday to “get his support for the electoral process” and urge political actors to hold “urgent discussions” on how to conduct the vote.
The speech, which took place at 01.00 local time after hours of anticipation, comes when government forces and soldiers supporting the opposition have taken positions in Mogadishu, after colliding on Sunday and sending civilians on the run.
“As we have repeatedly said, we have always been ready to hold rapid and peaceful elections in the country,” said the president, best known by his nickname Farmajo.
“But unfortunately, our efforts were hindered by individuals and foreign entities who have no other goal than to destabilize the country and take it back to a time of division and destruction to create a constitutional vacuum.”
Somalia’s current crisis came after Farmajo’s four-year term in February, when he and the leaders of Puntland and Jubaland, two of Somalia’s five semi-autonomous states, failed to agree on how to conduct elections.
An agreement had been reached in September, which later collapsed, and several rounds of UN-backed talks failed to convey a way forward.
As tensions escalated, Farmajo signed a controversial measure earlier this month that extended his term and promised elections within two years.
The move was declared unconstitutional by Farmajo’s rivals and rejected by Somalia’s Western support, which urged him to return to the negotiating table and threatened sanctions if he did not comply.
On Sunday, clashes broke out between government forces and those who support the opposition, and the capital Mogadishu has been on the knife side ever since.