Rival units fight amid row over president’s term

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Protesters against the Somali president cheer Somali soldiers loyal to a break away military faction in the streets of Fagah cross in northern Mogadishu, Somalia, 25 April 2021

Anti-government protesters cheered breakaway factions of the military

Fighting has erupted in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, reportedly between sections of the security forces supporting President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and units opposed to him.

Witnesses reported hearing heavy gunfire in the streets.

Last week Mr Mohamed – known as Farmajo – controversially approved a two-year extension of his term in office. His mandate officially ended in February.

The move was strongly criticised by the UN and the African Union.

Details on Sunday’s violence were sketchy. The privately owned Morad news website tweeted that heavy gunfire had broken out in north Mogadishu. It said the fighting was between pro-government forces and military units that support the opposition.

Caasimada Online, another privately owned website, said anti-government protesters were burning tyres parts of north Mogadishu were under the control of rebel soldiers.

Somali military officer supporting opposition leaders walks along streets of Yaqshid district of Mogadishu, Somalia April 25, 2021

Some army units are reportedly backing opposition leaders

The protesters are reportedly chanting: “We do not want a term extension. We do not want Farmajo. We do not want dictatorship.”

In a post on Twitter, former Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said soldiers had attacked his residence.

Soldiers backing opposition leaders are seen in the streets of Yaqshid district of Mogadishu, Somalia April 25, 2021

Somalia is in political and economic turmoil

Somalia has been torn by conflict for decades but had been moving towards stability since 2012 when a new internationally backed government was installed.

However, delayed elections following the end of President Mohamed’s mandate in February has thrown the country into renewed chaos. Some international donors have also pulled out, causing a cash crunch for the government.

Somali elections are conducted under a complex indirect system where clan elders select MPs, who in turn choose the president.

But this time there have been regional squabbles over how power is distributed – and a row over a new election commission.

The UN Security Council said on Friday that the political deadlock was diverting attention from serious problems including the pandemic, a locust invasion and Islamist militancy.

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