Somalia's president drops bid for extended term after chaos

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A Somali family with their belongings wait as civilians flee following gunfire between factions within Somalia's security forces near KM4 in Hodan district of Mogadishu, Somalia, Monday April 27, 2021. Soldiers angry over the presidents extended stay in power have taken up key positions across Somalias tense capital on Monday, but there is none of the gunfire that shattered the previous night in Mogadishu. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh).

MOGADISHU – Somalia’s president early Wednesday bowed to growing opposition to his extended stay in office, urging a return to negotiations on the country's delayed election and vowing that the sight of rival soldiers clashing in the streets of the capital would not happen again.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed delivered the national address after midnight following fast-moving events that saw two key regional states object to his two-year extension and the prime minister welcome their action.

The president did not resign, as some expected, but he said he will speak to parliament on Saturday to inform them of developments. He had faced growing opposition after the lower house of parliament approved the extension of his mandate and he signed it into law, to the fury of Senate leaders who called the move illegal. Now he is ready to go ahead with elections based on the Sept. 17 agreement between his government and regional states, which the international community had emphasized.

The president had not commented publicly since hundreds of soldiers opposing his mandate extension took up positions in the capital on Sunday and clashed with other security forces. Alarmed by the extraordinary sight, the United Nations, African Union, United States and others on Tuesday warned against the “emerging fragmentation” of the Somali National Army along clan lines.

Some residents fled, worried that Somalia was against collapsing into conflict after years of trying to rebuild.

Soon afterward, the regional states of Hirshabelle and Galmudug turned against the president’s stance and called for a return to talks on the national election that had been meant to take place in early February.

Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble backed that joint statement and called on security forces to return to their barracks. He also urged opposition leaders to stop any actions that could harm Somalia's stability.

In his brief speech, the president early Wednesday blamed unnamed foreigners for the recent troubles and accused unnamed political leaders of trying to use the “blood of young Somalis” to seek positions of power.