Somalia election risks further delay as Garbaharay standoff persists

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Elders appeal to international community to intervene and help have the centre relocated

The election standoff in Gedo, Jubaland, remains even as the new deadline of March 15, fast approaches.

At the centre of the standoff is the dispute over the federal parliamentary election in Garbaharay, Gedo region.

Some aspirants last week demanded that the election centre be moved to Kismayu citing insecurity posed by al Shabaab and influence by Somalia President Mohamed Farmaajo.

On Tuesday, aspirants further accused the Farmaajo administration of locking out a fair and free election monitoring committee that was to observe the parliamentary election in the area.

Garbaharey deputy regional administrator Adan Sirat Mohamud in a press statement warned local flights operating between Mogadishu and Garbaharey district that they risk a ban if they ferried the election monitoring committee to the region.

Reports further indicated that Garbaharey’s airstrip was sealed by the national army to block the monitoring team from landing.

Somalia Prime Minister Mohamed Roble appointed the seven-member team on February 24 to assess the situation in the area ahead of the Lower House elections.

The elections are to be held in two polling stations in Kismayu and Garbaharey, and each is expected to deliver 27 seats and 16 seats.

In the indirect system, delegates are supposed to vote for 275 MPs for the Lower House, while state legislatures elect senators for the Upper House, a process that has now been completed.

Once the Lower House election is concluded, the two assemblies will vote for the next president. However, the Lower House elections are yet to be concluded.

This development comes barely a week aspirants protested against what they termed as Farmaajo’s administration interference by dispatching the national army to the area to detach the centre from Jubaland president Ahmed Madobe’s administration.

In an article for Foreign Policy in May 2021, Farmaajo denied being behind the delay of the elections and instead said “entrenched elites are blocking the path toward universal suffrage and insisting on an indirect electoral system that maintains their power”.

Garbaharey aspirant Dr Abdi Ali Hassan, however, said Farmaajo is fighting to retain the presidency through all available means, including forcibly influencing the election of parliamentary members who will elect him.

Hassan is among aspirants camping in Kismayu demanding the relocation of the election centre.

Elders from the Dir, the Digil and the Mirifle clans, who have six slots among the 16 seats, protested against the move to lock out the election monitoring committee.

They called for the international community to intervene and help have the centre relocated to Kismayu for a free and fair process.

On February 25, the US announced visa restrictions to Somali officials and individuals, accusing them of ‘undermining the democratic process’ following the extension of the February 25 deadline.