Somalia's president suspends PM as elections tensions deepen

A bitter rivalry between the two men and accusations of corruption threaten to further delay the troubled nation's elections

Somalia's Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble had accused the president of sabotaging the electoral process. Reuters
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Somalia's prime minister has been suspended by the country's president amid accusations that he interfered with an investigation into a scandal involving army-owned land.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo announced on Monday that he was suspending Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, a day after the two men clashed over long-delayed elections in the troubled Horn of Africa nation.

Relations between the two have long been frosty, with the latest development raising new fears for Somalia's stability.

On Sunday, Mr Roble accused the president of sabotaging the electoral process, after Mr Farmajo withdrew the prime minister's mandate to organise the vote and called for the creation of a new committee to “correct” the shortcomings.

Mr Roble, who has not responded to Monday's suspension announcement, said Mr Farmajo did not want to hold “a credible election in this country".

Mr Farmajo in turn accused Mr Roble of trying to influence the investigation into army-owned land after the prime minister sacked and replaced the defence minister on Sunday.

“The prime minister has pressurised the minister of defence to divert the investigations of the case relating to the grabbed public land,” the office of the president said on Monday.

Bitter rivalry

Somalia's elections have been hamstrung by delays for several months.

In April, pro-government and opposition fighters clashed in the streets of Mogadishu after Mr Farmajo extended his term without holding new elections.

The constitutional crisis was defused only when Mr Farmajo reversed the term extension and Mr Roble brokered a timetable to a vote.

But in the months that followed, a bitter rivalry between the men derailed the election again, alarming international observers.

In October, Mr Farmajo and Mr Roble issued a unified call for the glacial election process to accelerate.

Somalia has not held a one-man, one-vote election in 50 years and its polls follow a complex indirect model.

Elections for the upper house have finished in all states and voting for the lower house began in early November.

But the appointment of a president still appears to be a long way off, straining ties with western allies who want to the process reach a peaceful conclusion.

On Sunday, the US said it was “deeply concerned by the continuing delays and by the procedural irregularities that have undermined the credibility of the process".

Analysts say the election impasse has diverted attention from Somalia's larger problems, most notably the violent Al Shabab insurgency.

The Al Qaeda allies were driven out of Mogadishu a decade ago, but retain control of parts of countryside and continue to stage deadly attacks in the capital and elsewhere.

Updated: December 27, 2021, 11:43 AM