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Soldiers loyal to Somalia's prime minister rally outside presidential palace

Troops loyal to Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble gather outside the residence of his political rival, President Mohammed Abdullahi, a day after he announced he would suspend the prime minister
Somalia militares

REUTERS/FEISAL OMAR  -   Somali military supporters of Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble ride in their pickup trucks as they gather in Siigale village in Hodan district of Mogadishu, Somalia 27 December 2021

Hundreds of Somali army soldiers gathered on Tuesday outside the presidential palace, the residence of President Mohammed Abdullahi, also known as Farmajo, who announced on Monday that he would suspend Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble. The soldiers, loyal to the prime minister, wanted to demonstrate the strength of the Somali politician. For his part, Hussein Roble described the plan to suspend him as "an attempted coup against the government, the constitution and the laws of the country"

The security forces had not taken a position earlier, but the rally in front of the presidential palace has raised fears of a possible confrontation between the two political rivals. The rivalry between Mohammed and Roble over allegations of corruption has heightened tensions ahead of the elections, threatening a further delay in the polls. 

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed
REUTERS/FEISAL OMAR  -  The President of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed

Mohammed accused Roble of stealing land owned by the Somali National Army and interfering with a Ministry of Defence investigation, prompting the president to announce the prime minister's dismissal. In response, Roble has claimed that the president's action was unconstitutional and aimed to derail the elections. 

In doing so, the prime minister ordered that the security forces would start taking orders from him and not from President Mohammed. "I order all Somali national forces to work under the leadership of the prime minister's office as of today," Roble said in a press statement. This has provoked an internal division among national troops who have taken sides for or against both Mohammed and Roble. 

Hussein Roble
REUTERS/FEISAL OMAR  -  Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble at the Somali election negotiation in Mogadishu, Somalia, 27 May 2021

These hostilities between the two politicians have continuously delayed the country's general elections, which began on 1 November and were supposed to be completed by 24 December. However, of the 275 MPs who should have been elected, only 24 have been elected. This is why the Presidential Candidates Council has spoken out, calling on President Mohammed to step down "as soon as possible to end the political crisis". 

This past weekend, President Mohammed decided to remove Roble from the task of organising the elections, calling for the creation of a new committee to "correct" the problems. He called for a consultative conference to find "a competent leader" to carry out the electoral process. Roble, for his part, stressed that the president does not want to hold a "credible election" in the country, and in a statement said that "the prime minister is determined not to be deterred by anyone from fulfilling his national duties in order to lead the country to elections that will pave the way for a peaceful transfer of power"

Mogadiscio Somalia
REUTERS/FEISAL OMAR  -  A Somali police truck drives on the empty street in front of the presidential palace in Mogadishu, Somalia, 28 December 2021

Hostilities in the Horn of Africa country have spread beyond its borders. The United States has taken a stand this week, announcing that its military is prepared to act against those obstructing the path to peace in Somalia. "Mr. Roble's attempted suspension is alarming and we support his efforts to achieve swift and credible elections," tweeted the US Department of State's Bureau of African Affairs. 

Meanwhile, the dispute between the two politicians is taking its toll on the country's development and especially on the fight against the Al Shabaab insurgency, an Al Qaeda-linked group that still threatens Somalia's security and peace.