Somali Opposition Fighters Hold Parts Of capital
April. 28, 2021
Heavily armed Somali opposition fighters held positions in parts of Mogadishu on Monday, in the country's worst political violence in years.
Fighters used mounds of earth to barricade roads, while armed men and vehicles mounted with machine guns were stationed in opposition strongholds after the fighting that left three dead.
"Both the Somali security forces and the pro-opposition fighters have taken positions along some key roads," said witness Abdullahi Mire.
The latest political crisis came on April 12 when the Somali lower house of parliament voted to extend the terms of the executive and legislative arms of government, despite stiff opposition from the upper house leadership and opposition leaders.
Efforts to reach an agreement on how to carry out presidential and parliamentary elections, which were originally scheduled for February, have been stalled for months.
The opposition has refused to recognize Mohamed Farmajo as president since his four-year term expired on Feb 8 without planned elections taking place.
The fragile nation has not had an effective central government since the collapse of a military government in 1991 led to decades of civil war and violence fueled by clan conflicts.
For more than a decade, conflict has centered on an extremist insurgency by the al-Shabaab group.
The political clashes in the streets of Mogadishu mark a dangerous new phase in a dispute triggered by the failure to hold February's planned elections.
Sporadic bursts of heavy gunfire rang out on Sunday night across the capital after fighting broke out between government forces and soldiers allied along clan lines to various opposition leaders.
Tensions remained high, with soldiers supporting the opposition vowing to remove the president by force.
"Former president Farmajo ...wants to stay in power with force. We are against that, we will continue fighting until he leaves," said military commander Abdulkadkir Mohamed Warsame, who backs former prime minister Hassan Ali Khaire for the presidency.
"Now we want to take over the presidency," said Warsame, adding the opposition controlled the northern Hawle Wadag district.
The fighting had "sharpened "clan divisions in the capital and set the stage for more violence along those lines, said Somalia analyst Omar Mahmood.
"Any sort of miscalculation could happen,… it just takes one trigger-happy soldier to fire on the other side, and that's going to erupt those dynamics," said the senior analyst for the International Crisis Group.
Some residents in tense neighborhoods had begun to leave.
Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble expressed disappointment on Monday with the violence during Ramadan, and urged security forces to "fulfill their national commitment and protect" Mogadishu's people.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres added he was "deeply concerned" about the clashes, urging "all Somali stakeholders to resume negotiations immediately".
The US State Department also expressed worry, adding that it was "prepared to consider all available tools, including sanctions and visa restrictions" to tackle the instability.
Civilians flee following gunfire between factions within Somali security forces in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Monday. FEISAL OMAR/REUTERS