Somalia: Southwest parliament extends Lafta-Gareen's term by one more year


MOGADISHU, Somalia - Legislators in Southwest state have unanimously endorsed a motion seeking term extension for regional leader Abdiaziz Lafta-Gareen, reports indicate, in an unprecedented move which could raise questions from among pundits.

The motion had garnered support from 34 MPs during mobilization but the number significantly increased after almost the entire house voted in favor of term extension, reports from the state indicate.

Lafta-Gareen, who leans towards the federal government, was elected in December 2018 albeit controversially, in an election which triggered street protests and execution of a number of protestors.

Under the current dispensation, Lafta-Gareen was set to vacate the office in 2022. But the Parliament, whose them expires in 2024, sought to perhaps amend some clauses to allow him to complete the term alongside all legislators.

And the move will now have him at the realm until 2023, with a further option to extend for another year, thus allowing him to serve for a total of six years contrary to four years meant for just one term.

In 2018, Lafta-Gareen faced opposition from former Al-Shabaab deputy leader Mukhtaar Robow, who is now under detention in a Mogadishu prison. At that time, he was projected as the favorite to take over.

During his arrest, protests erupted in Baidoa, the regional administrative capital of Southwest, leading to the death of eleven people. Protestors accused President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo of using non-AMISOM Ethiopian troops to "intimidate" locals for his own gains.

Since then, Farmajo has also been linked to manipulation schemes in other states, with Galmadug being the latest victim. In February, the regional assembly in Dhusamareb picked Ahmed Kariye alias Qoor Qoor as president, a move that triggered protests that left at least 20 people dead.

Currently, Farmajo, who is forcing a re-election nightmare, enjoys support from HirShabelle, Galmadug and Southwest state, where he was accused of "imposing" his loyalists ahead of December polls.

But Puntland of Said Deni and Jubaland under Ahmed Madobe, have proved had to fall to his "trick" something that has escalated tensions between the federal government and the administration of the two states.

For instance, Somali National Army [SNA] troops were deployed to Gedo in Jubaland two months ago in a scheme which Madobe said was a "plot" to overthrow his government by establishing "parallel" administration in the region. The US condemned the deployment.

In Puntland, Deni, who has been pushing for dialogue between FGS and federal states, accuses the former of crafting "unacceptable" election and petroleum laws, which he wants "revised" after a Consultative Forum which he wants to be held in Garowe.

Although no consensus is yet to be reached, the National Independent Electoral Commission [NIEC] has since settled for universal suffrage for polls. However, federal states want the system drops, arguing that "it can lead to unnecessary term extension since Somalia is unprepared" for it.

Forum for National Parties [FNP], which is a conglomerate of six parties under former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, insists that "elections must be held in time" adding that "FGS must work closely with federal states by setting the budget for the elections".

Monday's extension of the term by Lafta-Gareen is also likely to spark protests from Somalia's international partners, who have been encouraging "democracy" in governance structures, an area where they have put massive investment in Somalia.


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