UN urges Somali leaders to ‘urgently reach consensus’ on polls

The United Nations Security Council called on Somalia’s federal government and regional states to urgently resume talks and agree on arrangements to hold elections as soon as possible.

A September agreement allows for the president and others to stay in office after Monday’s election date if needed, but UN special representative James Swan has warned that going beyond that day brings “an unpredictable political situation in a country where we certainly don’t need any more of that”.

The United Nations Security Council called on Somalia’s federal government and regional states to urgently resume talks and agree on arrangements to hold elections as soon as possible.

A September agreement allows for the president and others to stay in office after Monday’s election date if needed, but UN special representative James Swan has warned that going beyond that day brings “an unpredictable political situation in a country where we certainly don’t need any more of that”.

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo, who is seeking a second four-year term, blamed unnamed “foreign interventions” on Saturday for the failure of the talks and accused Puntland and Jubbaland states of refusing to support the September agreement.

Legislators in Parliament booed the president, pounding their desktops, as he addressed them after days of discussions fizzled. The president’s critics accuse him of delaying to extend his current mandate.

Mohamed said: “There’s still some hope that we can move forward, we just need to set another time for a meeting to solve our problems, and all these issues rest on the shoulders of parliament.”

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price warned that delays in setting the election “will only increase the risk of instability”.

“While this is an issue for Somalis to resolve, the United States views immediate elections as critical to Somalia’s future. Consensus can be reached,” Price told reporters.

Threat of violence

Uncertainty over the election is ripe for exploitation by the Somalia-based al-Shabab armed group, which has threatened to attack the polls.

Last Friday, it launched a documentary series criticising the president and the electoral process, which it accused of being riddled with corruption.

Al-Shabab attacked the city hosting the election talks on the night the president arrived and the following night. No one in town was killed, but security forces on the second night killed four attackers and detained two.

Meanwhile, Somalia is adjusting to the withdrawal of some 700 US military personnel, a process completed in mid-January, and it faces another security jolt as a nearly 20,000-strong African Union force is set to withdraw by the end of the year.

The Security Council statement “commended the role of the African Union in promoting dialogue between Somalia’s parties.”

Council members also “condemned terrorist attacks by al-Shabab and reaffirmed their support for the national sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Somalia.”

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