US calls on Somalia to hold immediate elections

Washington is echoing international calls for the country to hold previously agreed upon elections despite an indefinite delay

Security forces block a street with an armored personnel carrier during protests against the government and the delay of the country's election in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.  Security forces in Somalia's capital fired on hundreds of people protesting the delay of the country's election on Friday as at least one explosion was reported at the international airport and armored personnel carriers blocked major streets. (AP Photo)
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The US on Friday called on Somalia to immediately hold elections, echoing similar calls from the United Nations last week.

“The United States is deeply concerned by the electoral impasse in Somalia, which is creating political uncertainty that threatens security, stability and development in the country,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

“We call on Somalia’s federal and member state leaders to set aside narrow political objectives, uphold their responsibilities to the people of Somalia and agree to immediately hold transparent and inclusive elections.”

Mr Blinken's statement echoed a UN Security Council resolution passed last Friday that called on the Somali government to organise elections "without delay", noting the threat posed by Al Shabab and other armed groups.

Although Somalia was initially slated to hold elections last month, the vote was delayed indefinitely. The delay led to violence in Mogadishu last month, with forces loyal to Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and armed opposition groups exchanging gunfire in the streets.

The opposition accuses Mr Mohamed of delaying the elections to remain in power.

“The current impasse undermines progress made to date, delays reforms urgently needed for Somalia to continue on the path to full debt relief and hinders the fight against terrorism,” said Mr Blinken.

“The United States supports the right of Somali citizens to protest peacefully and firmly opposes the use of violence by any party. We urge Somalia’s leaders to safeguard the country’s future and find agreement to immediately conduct parliamentary and presidential elections.”