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Army chief orders withdrawal of SNA guards attached to Somalia's ex-presidents

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Two of Somalia's former presidents could be forced to look for private security services, it has emerged, after an order was issued directing the withdrawal of their SNA guards.

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who are arguably two top critics of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, have been enjoying security services from elite Somalia National Army [SNA].

But in a letter dated March 14. Gen. Yusuf Rageh Odawaa, Somalia's Chief of Defense Forces, instructed all service commanders to order for the immediate return of troops assigned "private" duties.

The guards, he said, should report back to their barracks for "new assignments" in compliance with "SNA rules" which includes beefing up security in areas occupied by civilians in Somalia.

Although he did not specifically mention the two high profile leaders, the directive, however, means all SNA troops guarding them will no longer be available. They are considered private citizens.

“All commanders of the army headquarters, army divisions, army training colleges are hereby ordered to immediately facilitate return to barracks army officers who are assigned "deviation roles" soonest," read the statement.

It's not clear if those attached to the former leaders have already downed their tools. None of the two former presidents is yet to issue a statement despite the circular leaking.

Gen. Odawaa was promoted last year after showcasing brilliant leadership skills when SNA battled with Al-Shabaab militants in Juba months before. He was trained in Uganda.

Farmajo has been under intense criticism from a section of opposition leaders, who accuse him of "misusing" the military by setting them "against" innocent civilians and politicians. Previously, he has fired a number of them.

Last year, both Sharif Sheikh and Hassan Sheikh were blocked from taking domestic flights in Somalia. The standoff precipitated to an urgent meeting in Villa Somalia where Farmajo "apologized" and vowed "never to misuse" SNA troops.

But the ceasefire seems to have been "violated" following the recent directive. Among others, the two former leaders are pushing for timely polls, the professionalism of security forces and stopping of extrajudicial killings.

As part of early preparations for December polls, the two have teamed up with six parties to form a united coalition dubbed Forum for National Parties [FNP].

In Turkey early this month, they agreed to consolidate the coalition to one single party as a strategy of pushing for numbers in parliament and subsequently, produce one presidential candidate.

"Uniting the progressive political forces is a prerequisite for stability and prosperity. The FNP’s decision to unite under one political party in the future is a major milestone for a Somalia that serves the current and the generations to come," Hassan Sheikh said in a tweet.

Withdrawal of security guard comes amid claims that Farmajo wants to cling to power, by using the military to extend his term against the spirit of Constitutionalism.

To effect the move, Mahad Salad, a Somali MP, recently claimed that Farmajo is training troops from Gedo region in Eritrea, who come from his clan as presidential guards.

“Troops from Gedo Region have taken over the security responsibility for the Somali Presidency from the Presidential Guards of the 60th Unit," he said.

"The number of soldiers guarding the Presidency has also been increased from 600 to 1,600. The Presidential Guards who have been replaced used to work with former Presidents Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud."

However, Garowe Online could not independently verify the claims even though the working relationship between Farmajo and opposition leaders has been on rocks.

For instance, he recently deployed SNA troops to Gedo leading to clashes at Balad-Hawo town. Regional leaders accuse him of using the troops to antagonise federal leaders who "don't read from his script".

Although he rarely speaks about his chaotic relationship with federal leaders especially Ahmed Madobe [Jubaland] and Said Deni [Puntland], Farmajo has persistently been urged to exploit dialogue.


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