Somali MPs cancel president term extension

·2-min read

Somalia's lower house of parliament has voted unanimously to cancel a two-year presidential term extension it approved last month after clashes in the capital Mogadishu and between factions of the security forces divided over the issue.

The crisis has raised fears that al-Shabab militants could exploit a security vacuum if state forces split along clan lines and turn on each other.

The group has taken over at least one Somali town in the past week as heavily armed fighters moved from the countryside into the capital city.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed's attempt to extend his term has also angered foreign donors, who have backed his government in an attempt to bring stability to Somalia after more than two decades as a failed state following a civil war that began in 1991.

Saturday's lower house vote was broadcast on Somali television and came shortly after Mohamed addressed parliament and said he was directing the prime minister to prepare to hold a delayed parliamentary election.

Mohamed's term expired in February but without a new crop of lawmakers, parliament was unable to choose a president.

The term extension was approved by the lower house last month but rejected by the Senate, provoking the crisis that has intensified in the past week.

Between 60,000 and 100,000 people were forced to flee their homes following clashes on Sunday that stirred fears of all-out war between heavily armed factions for and against the president.

Rashid Abdi, a Nairobi-based independent analyst, said the parliamentary vote and the president's move towards holding elections appeared to be a good compromise.

"The problem is there is so little trust between the parties and as long as Farmaajo holds the levers of the military and security services, it looks difficult to build confidence in that process," he said, using a popular nickname for the president.

The US embassy and European Union ambassador praised Saturday's developments.