Somali PM asks peacekeepers to vote for parliament speaker


Violence by armed groups and a power struggle between the president and prime minister have delayed elections in Somalia

Somalia’s prime minister has asked African Union soldiers to take over lawmakers’ protections in electing new leadership after warning police and intelligence officials not to interfere in the backlog of elections.

Somalia’s long-delayed electoral process has been ravaged by violence from armed groups and a power struggle between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble.

Last year, political rivalries divided security forces so much that rival factions of the military fought in the streets – a rift that has led to a stalemate over security ahead of the election.

Prime Minister Roble on Monday condemned two attacks, in which two lawmakers accused intelligence agents of opening fire on a lawmaker’s car and engaging in a shootout outside a hotel where parliamentarians were sworn in.

Roble’s office did not say who was behind the attack, but warned police and intelligence chiefs about involvement in “irregularities” in the election.

The National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) did not respond to a request for comment.

Elections in Somalia were scheduled for a year ago but were postponed when President Mohamed tried to extend his four-year term for another two years, but was thwarted by parliament.

Roble authorized AU peacekeepers to secure an aircraft hangar in the capital Mogadishu, where lawmakers are expected to elect a speaker of the lower house of parliament on Wednesday, his office said in a statement late Tuesday.

President Mohamed opposed the order and said police were responsible for security, the president’s office wrote in a statement on Tuesday.

On Wednesday morning, police tried to block the entrance to the hangar, but Roble’s security forces ordered them to leave, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.

The hangar remained protected by peacekeepers and Prime Minister Roble’s troops, the reporter said.

The election of speakers to parliament and the senate is an important step in the creation of the new government, which must be installed by May 17 if Somalia is to continue receiving budget support from the International Monetary Fund, the lender said in February.

Homeland Security Minister Abdillahi Mohamed Nur suspended police chief Abdi Hassan Hijar on Wednesday and ordered officers to avoid “political involvement, especially in election matters”.

On Tuesday, Abdi Hashi, a long-serving senator and critic of the president, was re-elected as speaker of the upper house.

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