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Somalia: Somaliland leader under immense pressure to hold snap election

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

HARGEISA, Somalia - Even before the dust settles over Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo's proposed visit to Hargeisa, Somaliland leader Muse Bihi Abdi is under immense pressure to hold snap elections.

For over 15 years, the secessionist Somaliland state is yet to hold elections, with electoral commission postponing them frequently citing "unpreparedness" by political parties.

Such unprecedented postponement has often caused tensions in Hargeisa, and even to escalating to arbitrary arrests targeting opposition proponents.

In a press conference on Thursday, leading opposition parties Waddani and UCID accused Mr. Bihi of "failing to lead the country", and called for snap elections.

Abdirahman Abdullahi Irro, the Waddani leader, said fresh polls "will help Somaliland restore its virtues" and curb possible "loss of sovereignty".

He said: "The president has failed spectacularly. He is technically making the country lose its sovereignty. We cannot allow that to happen."

The firebrand leader said "we need snap elections as urgently as now" to fix some of "artificial problems" engineered by Mr. Bihi's administration.

For the better part of 2019, the crackdown against the opposition forced elders to intervene and restore normalcy, even as calls for a properly constituted electoral board persisted.

Somaliland seceded from Somalia in 1991 following a civil war that left thousands dead, a disaster which informed Farmajo's recent apology to Hargeisa people.

The Somaliland president met Farmajo in Addis Ababa a fortnight ago, in a meeting brokered by Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed. He has since accepted Mogadishu's apology.

However, the Somaliland opposition team demanded to know the contents of the letter by Bihi to Abiy over Farmajo's proposed visit, which has sparked outrage.

Also, the team wants Bihi to give a debriefing over last week's visit to Hargeisa by Ethiopian delegation under the stewardship of Finance Minister Ahmed Shide.

"We want to know the content of Bihi's letter to Ethiopian PM," Irro said. "The president should also debrief us on his meeting with the Ethiopian delegation".

During his address to Somaliland parliament last week, Bihi acknowledged a request by Mr. Abiy for a joint trip with Farmajo to Hargeisa but said that "it's impossible for now".

Several politicians from Somaliland including those in government have vehemently opposed Farmajo's proposed visit, some terming it "tragic".

Although Somaliland remains independent, Mogadishu has often insisted that its part of her territory, further leading to a standoff.

In 2015, a reconciliation committee was constituted to negotiate for a possible unity but it's yet to make any formal recommendations due to frequent infighting, authorities said.

Mohamed Abdi, a researcher in the Horn of Africa, however, believes that the proposed visit by Farmajo to Somaliland was engineered by Hargeisa's opposition parties.

"The idea of bringing Farmajo to Hargeisa was theirs; to incite Somalilanders against president Bihi's administration," he tweeted.

"Even if the SL government collapses tomorrow, will their 'new' administration bring statehood recognition to Somaliland? No place for warlords in Somaliland!"

Mr. Ahmed is keen to reconcile the two sides, a move which could substantially increase his stake as a de facto leader in the Horn of Africa given his recent Nobel Peace Prize award.


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