Anti-president Somali soldiers to return to barracks after reaching deal -spokesman

by Reuters
Thursday, 6 May 2021 16:55 GMT

(Updates with reported deal to ease crisis)

By Abdi Sheikh

MOGADISHU, May 6 (Reuters) - Somali forces who back the opposition have agreed to return to their barracks or posts elsewhere in the country after reaching an agreement with the prime minister, a spokesman for the loose alliance of opposition forces said on Thursday.

The spokesman had told Reuters late on Wednesday that the dissident forces would not relinquish control of parts of the capital until President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed stood down.

"Now there is peace and agreement," Major Diini Ahmed, spokesman for the opposition-allied troops, told Reuters late on Thursday. He said the Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, other officials and some opposition leaders had agreed that mistakes will be solved and that forces will be returned to where they had come from, region or barracks".

Officials and some opposition leaders signed a 10-point agreement on Wednesday aimed at ending the months-long political standoff over a proposed two-year presidential term extension that has twice flared into violence in the capital.

The agreement included demands that opposition-allied forces return to barracks within 48 hours, that soldiers be apolitical, and a promise that soldiers who declared support for the opposition would not be penalized.

"Forces should not be used for politics or interfered with," said Assistant Information Minister Abdirahman Yusuf al Cadaala.

But some other opposition leaders, including the spokesman for the opposition-allied troops, rejected the agreement, raising the possibility that the standoff could continue.

Major Ahmed had said late on Wednesday that the agreement had "nothing to do with us."

The crisis flared when, amid political wrangling between federal and regional authorities and the opposition, Somalia failed to hold a December election for a new crop of legislators who were supposed to select a new president in February.

In April, the lower half of the existing parliament approved a two-year term extension for President Mohamed, commonly referred to by his nickname "Farmaajo", although the Senate rejected it.

Opposition-backing forces refuse to accept Mohamed as president.

"We are national forces. We are not attacking anyone. We are against dictatorship," Ahmed told Reuters.

On Saturday, lawmakers rescinded their approval of the term extension, but some in the opposition remain sceptical of Mohamed's stated willingness to step down and want him to immediately hand over power to the prime minister.

"Farmaajo is against the constitution," said opposition Senator Muse Sudi Yalahow, as he presented camels to opposition-allied soldiers whom he called "liberators". (Reporting by Abdi Sheikh, writing by Ayenat Mersie, editing by Alexandra Hudson and Mark Heinrich)

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