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Somalia's opposition warns of political turmoil after military surrounded ex-leader's house

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online
Former President Sheikh Sharif speaking at a press conference in Mogadishu

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Somalia's opposition Forum for National Parties [FNP] accused President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo's administration of antagonism, alleging that troops were deployed to monitor movements of its leaders.

In a thinly veiled attack, Tuesday, the coalition said troops from Somali National Army [SNA] had been sighted in a house occupied by former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who is also the leader of the outfit.

The troops, FNP said in a statement, surrounded the house, adding that "the maneuver was intended to target Mr. Ahmed" with the sole purpose of instilling "phobia" and possibly undermine the opposition's campaigns.

At the headquarters of FNP in Mogadishu, the government troops also surrounded the premises, although nobody was arrested or ordered to record a statement with authorities.

FNP, who is a conglomerate of six opposition parties, argued that "coordinated crackdown" against its members was a manifestation of "paranoia" exhibited by President Farmajo's administration.

Incidentally, the allegations come barely a fortnight after the government ordered the withdrawal of troops from "private" assignments, another directive geared towards stripping off security attached to Ahmed and his successor, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

Gen. Yusuf Rageh Odawaa, the Chief of Defense Forces, ordered service commanders to recall all SNA troops to their barracks, from their engagement outside "normal" duties. It's not clear if the two leaders lost their guards.

SNA soldiers guard the former presidents by the virtue of their previous status. But in recent weeks, the two have spearheaded anti-government agenda, subsequently, inviting the wrath of the administration.

For instance, the two leaders were temporarily blocked from making internal flights to various states, although Farmajo would "apologize" for the "unintended" protocol hitch, during their reconciliation meeting in Villa Somalia in December last year.

But in a swift rebuttal, FGS through the internal ministry, dismissed the reports as "baseless", adding that the government has no intentions to "harm" the former leader, whose security "matters a lot" to the people of Somalia.

The rumors added to the ministry in a statement, were "unrealistic" since troops drawn from SNA are responsible for the security of Villa Somalia and the former leaders.

“The ministry wishes to make it clear that soldiers from the Presidential Guards are the ones who are responsible for the security of the incumbent president and that of all the former presidents which make the rumors being circulated unrealistic,” it added.

At a forum in Turkey early this month, FNP leadership agreed to fold up all their respective parties and form one front that would field a presidential candidate in December polls.

The move would enable the single party to garner a majority in parliament and subsequently, pave way for constituting the next government, whose mandate is critical in transforming the war-torn nation, FNP said.

Somalia's international partners have been urging for dialogue to solve the current impasse, which they insist that it may "erode" gains made in the fight against Al-Shabaab militants.

For months, FNP has condemned FGS of "absolute failure" in guaranteeing citizens security, citing Al-Shabaab as the immediate "existential threat" which the government has failed to eliminate.

Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is credited for engineering Al-Shabaab's defeat in the capital in 2011 after working closely with AMISOM soldiers. Farmajo, who is facing a re-election debacle, is also at loggerheads with regional leaders, who accuse him of "misusing" SNA troops.