Somalia’s prime minister has invited regional leaders to a new round of talks in the hope of resolving a prolonged feud over elections that erupted in violence in the capital.
The unstable Horn of Africa nation is undergoing its worst political crisis in years, with violence erupting last week in Mogadishu following the president’s two-year extension of his term without holding elections.
Opposition fighters remain in the capital despite President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s weekend withdrawal from the mandate extension vote in favor of a rerun.
The president, dubbed Farmajo, tasked his prime minister on Sunday with reaching out to rivals and supervising talks, a key opposition demand.
According to a government spokesman, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble has invited representatives of Somalia’s five semi-autonomous states to a roundtable discussion later this month.
“The prime minister anticipates that the heads of federal member states will accept his invitation and attend the May 20 meeting,” spokesman Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimu told reporters.
Roble also met with opposition heavyweights to address Mogadishu’s stability, which has been on the verge of collapse after opposing security forces groups exchanged gunfire last week, killing three people.
“The prime minister is committed to resolving all issues peacefully and preparing for the forthcoming national reconciliation conference,” a government spokesman said.
Following clashes that displaced tens of thousands of civilians, some fighters in opposition strongholds have refused to leave Mogadishu.
“There are armed opposition supporters in trenches in front of our houses, and we cannot return until they are gone,” said Abdirahman Jeego, a resident of the capital.
Nicolas Berlanga, the EU’s ambassador to Somalia, said that demilitarizing Mogadishu was “the goal at the moment.”
“Those who wish to play a constructive role in the run-up to the elections should assist Prime Minister Roble with his primary responsibilities. Mogadishu’s division into militias or out-of-command security forces is not beneficial to the Somali people,” he tweeted.
In September, Farmajo agreed with the states that paved the way for indirect elections before the current government’s term expired in February.
The agreement fell apart due to disagreements between Farmajo and the leaders of two states, Puntland and Jubaland.
However, under domestic and foreign pressure, Farmajo agreed to adhere to the terms of the September agreement, a move hailed as a step forward by his opponents.
Six months of UN-sponsored negotiations, on the other hand, failed to resurrect the agreement the last time around, and analysts warn that without external pressure, the impasse could fester indefinitely.