Somalia: Tension mounts in Puntland capital after rival force deploys

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GAROWE, Puntland - Heavy presence of rival forces has been reported in Garowe, the capital of Puntland state, witnesses said, with Monday morning incident coming after hours of mobilization of government troops, who have surrounded critical government buildings including the legislature.

According to reports, the tension after troops allied to opposition formations were seen on some streets early in the morning ahead of the parliament debate on constitutional changes which could include the controversial term extension of outgoing leader Said Abdullahi Deni, who is believed to be crafting tactics to remain in charge, beyond his five-year mandate which ends in January 2024.

Last night, government forces were deployed to Garowe streets, including key roads to the parliament, ministries, and
presidency, but it was not immediately clear why the administration chose to dispatch the troops. The soldiers who were deployed are from Puntland Maritime Police Force trained and equipped by the United Arab Emirates.

Presidential guards were also on-site, further reports indicated. The decision to amend the constitution, the opposition said, was a "plot'' for a possible illegal extension of Deni's term, but he has shown all signs of preparations to stay around for some time.

Deni has also been battling with internal pressure including the local elections which tilted in favour of his KAAH party, with the opposition accusing him of pre-rigging. But despite the mounting pressure, Deni has stayed put and even maintained that the elections were "free and fair".

And it is not just local politicians who seem infuriated with alleged plans to extend the term, given that top federal government officials have expressed similar displeasure, accusing Deni of stifling democracy in the state. Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre had called for immediate dialogue to solve the impasse.

Cases of soldiers clashing in Garowe are not anonymous given that recently, the same factions were embroiled in a bitter tussle over the disputed local elections, with some claiming salary delays. At some point, the soldiers closed roads leading to the State House while calling for payment of their dues last month.

For a long time, Puntland has been the most stable state in Somalia, but in recent months, internal wrangles and cases of Al-Shabaab and ISIS resurgence have compromised the gains. The state is also at loggerheads with Somaliland over the control of the Sool region.

GAROWE ONLINE

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