Somali President Farmajo removes PM Roble

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Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, popularly known as Farmajo, announced on Thursday that he has withdrawn the powers of Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, in the latest developments in a bitter row that has plunged the country into a new crisis.

“The Prime Minister has violated the Transitional Constitution, so his executive powers are being withdrawn … especially his powers to remove and appoint officials until the election is complete,” the president’s office said in a statement.

The much-publicized feud between Farmajo and Roble escalated on Wednesday when Prime Minister Roble fired the country’s security minister and replaced him with the president’s critics.

Somalia’s parliamentary speaker, Mohamed Mursal, said in a statement that Robles’ actions were “contrary to the clearly separated powers of state authorities.”

He called on the Prime Minister to “carefully consider this issue while paying particular attention to the political stability and system of law” in the country.

The Prime Minister attended a round-up ceremony on Thursday for the new Minister Abdullahi Mohamed Nur, who pushed forward despite Farmajo declaring his height invalid.

“Do not want to create fear”

It was the second time the couple had collided in recent days over appointments and dismissals within Somali security bureaus, which raised fears of a comprehensive power struggle at the highest levels of government.

Earlier this week, Roble fired the head of Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) over his handling of a high-profile investigation into the disappearance of a young intelligence service.

Farmajo said the dismissal was “illegal and unconstitutional” and ignored his prime minister, appointed someone else to the top job and appointed the dumped intelligence chief as his national security adviser.

Roble accused Farmajo of “obstructing” the investigation of the missing spy and warned that interference in Somali judicial authorities posed a “dangerous existential threat” to the country.

The spotlight has raised political temperatures in Mogadishu and fears of violence, with military units near Farmajo’s offices seen stationed outside NISA’s headquarters on Wednesday.

Police Chief Abdi Hassan Mohamed Hijar said on Thursday that the situation remained calm and under control.

“It is our country and security that matter. It is the choice and our unity that matters. We do not want to create fear, and people should not panic because our security forces can ensure stability in the country,” he said.

‘Skinned’

This week, state media journalists reported that they were not allowed to send messages from Farmajo, whose four-year mandate expired in February.

“We have been told by the minister to stop reporting on issues from the president’s office in connection with the political conflict,” a staff member of the Ministry of Information told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on condition of anonymity.

A Swedish-educated civil engineer and political newcomer, Roble was appointed prime minister by Farmajo in September last year after his predecessor was ousted in a parliamentary no-confidence vote. But the two men have clashed frequently, with the line threatening to throw an already delicate electoral process into deeper danger.

The international community has encouraged both leaders to focus on the elections, which are already months behind schedule.

“We urge Somali leaders to strip down the political confrontation surrounding this investigation and, in particular, to avoid any action that could lead to violence,” said a statement from the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia.

Farmajo’s mandate was extended by parliament in April, sparking deadly gun battles on the streets of Mogadishu, with some rivals viewing it as a blatant coup.

Roble was appointed to ease political tensions and deliver elections, and a new voting timetable was put together.

But the process followed and Roble has accused Farmajo of trying to take back “election and security responsibility” from him.

Elections in Somalia follow a complex indirect model, in which state legislators and clan delegates elect legislators to the national parliament, who in turn elect the president. The next phase is planned between October 1 and November 25.

Analysts say the deadlock has distracted from Somalia’s major problems, most notably the violent al-Shabab uprising. Al-Qaeda allies were expelled from Mogadishu a decade ago but retain control of the countryside and continue to carry out deadly attacks in the capital and elsewhere.

Last week, NISA said that the intelligence service that was kidnapped near her home in June was killed by extremists. But al-Shabab denied any involvement in the disappearance of 25-year-old Ikran Tahlil, whose family has accused NISA of murdering her.

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