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Election talks in Somalia delayed by Deadlock

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - The much-anticipated meeting at Villa Somalia that was to bring together Jubaland and Puntland leaders along with President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo was called off last-minute shortly after a joint dinner, sources said, amid pressure from the international community.

Said Abdullahi Deni of Puntland and his Jubaland counterpart Ahmed Islam Mohamed Madobe had boycotted the Dhusamareb III conference on pre-election dialogue and it was envisioned that they would have engaged Farmajo in their Mogadishu trip for a common stand on issues bedeviling Somalia's electoral model.

Abdinur Mohamed, the Villa Somalia spokesperson, had earlier announced the meeting between the two parties, arguing that "key Agenda of the talks will be Somalia elections to ensure the FGS-FMS leadership champion an election that safeguards the future of the nation and steers Somalia forward".

Multiple sources told Garowe Online that the two leaders held a brief dinner meeting with their host, Farmajo, which was termed as "cordial" but it's unclear if the occasion was used to deliberate on some of the controversial issues surrounding the elections. Earlier, the two had met immediate former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

However, their meeting was short-lived after it emerged that it would not proceed following a host of demands from Deni and Madobe. Previously, the two regional leaders had been pulling parallel sides, with the electoral model for November elections and sharing of resources being some of the thorny issues.

Jubaland, sources said, demanded immediate withdrawal of Somali National Army [SNA] troops from the volatile Gedo region. Previously, Madobe had accused Farmajo of plotting to establish a parallel administration in the region, but the federal leader insisted that the SNA troops have a right to "protect" the country's territorial integrity.

Further, a source told Garowe Online, both Jubaland and Puntland demanded that the three other states leaders attend the Mogadishu meeting for them to take part in the dialogue. Galmadug, HirShabelle, and Southwest leaders were absent having signed an accord with Farmajo in Dhusamareb last month.

The two factors significantly contributed to calling off the meeting. While it's not clear if the missing leaders had also been invited, it's however evident that the SNA troops have been manning Gedo with sections of the Ethiopian non-AMISOM troops, something which has strained the relationship between Jubaland and Mogadishu.

The two leaders had also told the international community that they came to Mogadishu with an "open" mind for negotiations over the election process, adding that "they anticipated the same approach by Farmajo". The federal leader has been accused of plotting for a term extension against the spirit of the provisional constitution.

Observers say Puntland and Jubaland leaders could welcome some aspects of the Dhusamareb deal but could raise objections too on key issues such as the role of the independent electoral commission. Since the election is indirect they feel regions should lead elections and not a federal body.

Another thorny issue is holding elections in several locations in each region. It’s reported Jubaland feel this article could lead to manipulating outcome in some areas. This article is linked to the political situation in Gedo and this could have informed Jubaland's push to have SNA forces withdrawn from Gedo.

Last month, Farmajo, three state leaders, and the Mogadishu Mayor Omar Filish agreed on Electoral Constituency Caucuses where 301 people will participate in the picking of MPs. Further, they settled on the National Independent Electoral Commission [NIEC] managing the elections, regions selecting Senators, and that the said election should take place on time.

The term for current administration expires in November and there have been accusations that Farmajo could push for a term extension. But the federal leader has since settled on a sort of clan-based model, despite the fact that Jubaland and Puntland are yet to ink the deal.

The US ambassador to Somalia Donald Yamamoto met Said Abdullahi Deni on Tuesday and later, the Jubaland leader Ahmed Madobe. The US embassy said: "Relying on these statesmen to work with Villa Somalia to finalize Dhuasamareb III implementation details. Somalia needs consensus and compromise – now is a time for leaders to show wisdom."