Somalia’s presidential campaigns shift to Nairobi ahead

NAIROBI, Kenya – The presidential election scheduled for February 2021 appears to have shifted to Nairobi as leading candidates plan to defeat President Farmajo, whose term has been shaken by major divisions inside and outside the government, with international partners also raising concerns about the alleged human rights abuses.

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The country’s leadership agreed to hold elections from December this year after a long-running dispute over the election model among other contentious issues settled after months of quarrels between President Mohamed Abdullahi and top opposition and regional leaders.

Former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire returned to Nairobi on Thursday night after a brief stint in Djibouti, where he met with President Omar Ismael Guelleh. The former prime minister announced his presidential candidacy in September almost two months after MPs were unpretentious.

Before flying to Djibouti, he spent most of his time in Nairobi, which is believed to be the headquarters of the presidential campaign for his planned competition. On arrival Thursday, he was heralded by dozens of his team in Nairobi at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport before being driven away to a city hotel.

During his visit to Nairobi, Khaire is expected to hold talks with Somali politicians currently in Nairobi in an attempt to gain their support for his candidacy in the upcoming elections. Politicians have been locked in the Kenyan for the last few days after closing an agreement on the election contest.

Some of the political heavyweights currently present in Nairobi include Jubbaland State President Ahmed Islam Mohamed alias Madobe and his Northeastern State counterpart, Said Abdullahi Deni. The two leaders were integrated in the signing of the election agreement.

In addition to Khaire, the presidential race will also feature Wadajir leader Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, a longtime critic of Farmajo. Also in the race is former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who has blessings from his successor Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, after forming a joint coalition called the Forum for National Parties.

Analysts believe a stream of activities will take place in Nairobi in the next few months, with politicians using the city as the center of their campaigns. In the past, the opposition held such campaigns in Dubai, where they have a strong backup.

“Nairobi has overtaken Dubai as Somalia’s campaign hub. This is where it’s happening,” said Rashid Abdi, a political commentator. “Candidates in Somalia’s presidential election are selling their Kenyan property to raise money for the campaigns. Companies are also busy raising cash for their candidates.”

Somalia’s stakeholders released a preliminary election calendar last week, which is expected to run for three months. In November, official campaigns begin, followed by the election of senators and members of parliament in December, and the presidential ballots are held in February 2021.

Khaire, who parted ways with Farmajo, is the surprise candidate, but his strained relationship with stakeholders could blow up his plans, according to analysts. However, the former prime minister is a key mobilizer of the early elections, something that shook his relationship with Farmajo.

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