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Questions grow over timing and credibility of elections

President 'Farmajo' tries to mend fences in the region after another spate of attacks

At least nine people were killed on 31 January when a car bomb exploded outside Hotel Afrik in central Mogadishu, followed by a shootout between Al Shabaab fighters and government soldiers. Retired General Mohamed Nur Galal was killed in the attack, said a statement from Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble.

This attack will cause more problems for the holding of national elections this month. The process was due to start with parliamentary election in December which would be followed by the elected MPs choosing the national president on 8 February.

That schedule was scuppered after protests that Farmajo had hand-picked the electoral commission. The Jubaland and Puntland regions have long refused to take part in the polls, though both have now appointed electoral commissioners and nominated members of the electoral committee, following international pressure for them to take part (AC Vol 61 No 16, Clearing a path). 

Farmajo has promised international organisations that the elections will be fair. Yet the government is playing the nationalist card in a row with neighbouring Kenya, which it accuses of arming the Jubaland forces, led by Nairobi's ally Ahmed Madobe, to attack federal government positions (Vol 61 No 25, Farmajo breaks with Nairobi).

Nairobi has denied all accusations that it is stirring up conflict in the region, where fighting killed more than 20 people last week. After some friction, the Kenyan and Ethiopian governments have patched up matters with a new regional security agreement. This leaves them free to coordinate pressure on Farmajo on economic, security and elections. 

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