MOGADISHU, Somalia – Somalia’s main opposition groups have welcomed a pre – election agreement signed on Thursday by a number of stakeholders, further closing a growing gap that could have derailed efforts to restore peace and stability in the Horn of Africa.
Interestingly, the agreement was only signed by President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, five regional leaders, and Mogadishu Mayor Omar Filish, who convened the conference. The opposition team was not invited to the dialogue, which was also endorsed by the international community.
In a tweet, Senator Ilyas Ali Hassan, who is the de facto spokesman for the Forum for National Parties [FNP], a conglomerate of six opposition groups, said the coalition supports the agreement for the sake of stability and prosperity for the Horn of Africa.
“The FNP welcomes the election modality agreement that FGS and FMS have reached,” he said. “The FNP underlines its firm belief that the peaceful transfer of power through viable electoral modality is crucial to avoid mandate extension-induced political and constitutional crisis.”
The FNP coalition under the leadership of former presidents Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is considering making available a single presidential candidate who will fight against President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo. Talks on such actions are still ongoing and they met last in Turkey early in the year.
Also in support of the agreement is the Wadajir party, whose leader Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame said the agreement paves the way for a new Somalia. The hardline opposition leader also expressed satisfaction with the appointment of Mohamed Hussein Roble as the country’s prime minister.
“The Wadajir Party welcomes the agreement between the Federal Government of Somalia and the Federal States. This is an important milestone for Somalia’s search for peaceful elections. We also welcome the appointment of a new Prime Minister,” the statement read. Farmajo for inability to hold elections for a person-a-vote.
Earlier, immediate former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire had also welcomed the deal, which he called “historic”. Khaire, who was hounded from office in July after a disagreement with Farmajo, has since declared interest in running for president in the upcoming election.
Inside the deal, Axadlereported that the team agreed to appoint the federal election commission that will work with another team from the member states. The decision precludes NIEC’s participation in the indirect voting, in contrast to the original Dhusamareb agreement, which seemed to incorporate the team into the electoral systems.
Constituencies are designated in two cities in federal states, the agreement reads, adding that the number of delegates who will vote for each member of parliament will be 101, representing the community that shares the seat of parliament. This is a reduction from 301 agreed at the Dhusamareb III conference.
Elections will be decided by traditional elders in cooperation with civil society and member states, where women will be given at least 30 percent seats to increase the affirmative action. It is not clear whether this process will slow down the infiltration of al-Shabaab in parliament after reports that the group had compromised a section elder.
For senators, stakeholders said, regional parliaments will elect the representatives who represent their interests in Mogadishu. Senate members [Upper House] and the lower house of secessionist Somaliland will be elected by a joint delegation in Mogadishu, the agreement noted.
Somaliland runs a separate functional government and has been pushing for international recognition for three decades since claiming independence in 1991. The region has intensified its search for citizenship in recent months by signing cooperation with a number of other states, including Taiwan, a region claimed by China.
The agreement also stipulates that elections will be held from November 2020, when the current parliamentary term expires, to February 2021, when the presidential elections are expected to be held. This effectively ends speculation about term expansions as previously noted by critics.
Both sides agreed to work together on security issues, which have traditionally destabilized the nation due to persistent al-Shabaab attacks, adding that improved security would guarantee a credible electoral process. Al-Shabaab has been hardening the country for the past 13 years.
Management further stressed the need for freedom of expression, including but not limited to allowing journalists to carry out their work without intimidation. In recent months, journalists have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrests and detentions that have caused international anger and condemnation.