The President of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” announced in the afternoon of December 26 the suspension from office of Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, officially as a result of corruption charges involving him, and for interfering in the investigation.
However, tensions between the president and the prime minister had been in the air for months, and revolve around the dispute over the general elections, in which they are pitted against each other in a power dynamic that now threatens to overwhelm Somalia’s stability.
Somalia’s parliamentary elections are proceeding slowly, and on December 26 the United States officially invited the Somali government to complete them, the deadline initially set for last week having passed on December 24, while only 10% of Lower House deputies have been elected.
In an ongoing clash between the President and the Prime Minister, extending to the sphere of the political leadership of all federal state entities, only 24 out of 275 Lower House MPs have been officially elected, while a succession of procedural irregularities continues to undermine the credibility of the entire electoral process, risking to bring it to a permanent halt.
The timetable of the elections – held indirectly – foresees that, once the 275 deputies of the Lower House have been elected, the five Somali federal states will elect the 54 members of the Upper House, and then the two wings of Parliament will proceed with the joint election of the new President. This objective is still far from being achieved, as a consequence of the continuous delays in the election of the members of the Lower House.
President Farmajo and Prime Minister Roble accuse each other of these delays, in a political conflict that has now exasperated the country’s electoral climate, and which exploded in recent months after the President’s attempt to extend his mandate by two years. A crisis that led to violent clashes in Mogadishu and other Somali cities, and which was resolved only after the president agreed to call elections and entrust Prime Minister Roble with their organization.
Despite the appearance of a political evolution characterized by the will to complete the electoral process, tensions and contrasts between the two institutional figures has not diminished over the months, indeed increasing in intensity over the last few weeks.
A few days ago, the commander of Mogadishu police appeared on video giving an interview in which he accused Prime Minister Roble of being involved in a case of corruption connected to the exploitation of some state-owned land owned by the Coast Guard, where Prime Minister Roble would have instead tried to make real estate investments.
The news, the veracity of which many tend to doubt, was taken up publicly by President Farmajo between December 25 and 26, announcing the possibility of the suspension of the Prime Minister, which was then denied by Roble himself.
In a statement issued on the evening of December 26, however, President Farmajo confirmed his intention to suspend Roble from his post, instrumentally pointing to the presence of indications linked to the prime minister’s attempt to interfere in the investigations involving him in a case of corruption.
Serious accusations, to which Roble’s office promptly responded by defining as outrageous the allegations made by the president, accusing Farmajo himself of having pursued coup intentions.
In a separate message, the prime minister’s office stated that Roble remains “fully committed to fulfilling his national responsibility to conduct an acceptable electoral process culminating in a peaceful transition of power”, suggesting the possibility of his rejection of the president’s decision, with the possibility of the start of a very serious institutional crisis.
The Somali press closest to Prime Minister Roble, on the other hand, commented on the political news this morning, defining President Farmajo’s gesture as an “indirect coup d’état”, recalling how Roble had announced in recent days that he would convene a press conference on December 27 to announce the government’s moves to speed up the elections and indicate a road map. The suspension of the Prime Minister on the evening of December 26th thus appeared to many as an attempt to prevent Roble from taking any measures capable of restarting the electoral process.