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Somalia

Money prompts an about-turn on elections

Along with military threats, a hostile vote in parliament, the loss of foreign finances convinced President Mohamed to change his strategy

The threat of the World Bank, the European Union and the United States pulling the plug on funding appears to have forced President Mohamed Abdullah Mohamed 'Farmajo' to backtrack on his plans to delay general elections and extend his term by two years, and go back to the negotiating table (AC Vol 62 No 5, Battle lines in the capital).

Washington had threatened sanctions in response to the elections delay while the European Union has delayed the payment of instalments of its three-year €100 million budget-support package to Somalia.

The threat of cutting the flow of cash to a government so reliant on donor support had traction with Farmajo. Last week, his government flatly rejected an offer of mediation from the African Union's Peace and Security Council, dismissing it as 'foreign interference'. 

Farmajo was perhaps taking a cue from his new ally Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who quickly slapped down an AU offer of assistance to resolve the Tigray conflict.

Somalia's Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdirizak has conceded that without the foreign cash, the government will be unable to pay the salaries of civil servants and security service personnel. Keeping the latter group on side is critical to the government's stability in the wake of a spate of clashes between pro-opposition and pro-government factions in the security forces, and the growing presence of militia groups in and around Mogadishu. 

Abdirazak says that Farmajo plans to hold talks with opposition leaders in July, with a view to agreeing on the election procedure and the date of polls, which could be held in October.

This is a dangerous game for both sides. Abdirizak says that talks to obtain funds from the United States and EU are ongoing, and Farmajo's government hopes that the cash will be released before an election date is agreed. But a February deadline for elections was missed when Somalia's political leaders failed to agree on whether Farmajo could stand for another term, as well as other rules on the polls. 

At the same time, should an increasingly fragile situation deteriorate further into violence, outsiders could be blamed for withholding the cash (AC Dispatches, Militias opposing President Mohamed move into the capital after weekend of clashes).



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