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Jubaland demands for withdrawal of SNA from Gedo ahead of election

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

KISMAYO, Somalia - The long-standing standoff between the Federal Government of Somalia and the Jubaland state could escalate in the coming weeks over the continued stay of the Somali National Army [SNA] troops in the region, over one month after both parties reached a preliminary agreement for withdrawing of the soldiers.

Since January, SNA troops in collaboration with the Ethiopian National Defense Forces [ENDF] have tightened grip in Gedo, a region which should be primarily under the Kenya Defense Forces [KDF] under the AMISOM stewardship, something which has created animosity between the two parties.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo deployed the troops to safeguard Somalia's "territorial integrity" when it emerged that the Jubaland security forces were being assisted by the KDF team contrary to the constitution of Somalia, a claim which Kismayo authorities have often refuted.

During his address at the opening of the Third Session of Parliament on Tuesday, President Ahmed Madobe rebuked the Federal government for the continued stay of the troops, insisting that elections will not take place in Gedo should SNA continue staying in the region.

"President Ahmed Mohamed Islam presided over the opening of the Third Session of the Second Parliament of Jubaland State of Somalia. In his speech, the President addressed issues including the security situation of the state and the coming 2020/2021 elections of Somalia," said Jubaland presidency. 

Madobe who works closely with the KDF said SNA troops could interfere with the elections by installing administrators contrary to people's wishes. He urged the Mogadishu administration to implement the agreement that was signed last month.

"We are not going to have elections in Gedo region should the SNA troops continue hanging around," the president told MPs during the address, adding that: "This is not what we envisaged, and we must continue telling one another the truth for the sake of integration in Somalia."

He added: "For this elections to take place, we must ensure that the soldiers hand over to my administrators. We cannot agree with something but some people go ahead and delay the implementation. We are not cowards and this remains our position for now."

Last month, sources told Garowe Online that Farmajo had assured Madobe that the troops will leave Gedo as part of the pre-election arrangement which led to the signing of the historical deal. All five states and the federal government settled on the Constituency Caucus model for elections which are supposed to kick off in December.

But Jubaland maintained that for the elections to take place, the Somali soldiers should hand over to administrators who were ousted when the troops seized several towns in the fragile region. Some of the towns are said to be under the administration of Ethiopia non-AMISOM troops, something that further irks the Jubaland administration.

Madobe's re-election was opposed by the Mogadishu administration in August 2019 leading to the protracted wrangles, which culminated in the deployment of national troops. Early this year, the SNA troops engaged in a fierce gunfight with Jubaland security forces, in a crisis that the KDF is said to have partly taken part in.

Besides Kismayo, the election for Federal MPs are expected to be held in Garbaharey, the capital of Gedo, but the latest reaction from Madobe could delay the plans. Jubaland just like all other states is expected to hold elections for the 10th parliament through an improved clan-based system.

On the unity of Jubaland, Madobe said he has delayed the formation of government so that he reaches out to all stakeholders for a "government of national unity". The region has been without a substantive government since 2019 when Madobe's re-election was challenged by Farmajo, who will also be defending his seat in February 2021.