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Rivals Ink Peace Deal In Tense Somali State

Friday May 1, 2020

US Ambassador Donald Yamamoto [L] and Jubaland president Ahmed Madobe [R] having talks in Kismayo city

Somalia's international backers have welcomed a peace agreement between political rivals in the semi-autonomous Jubaland state after months of rising tensions and armed violence.

The deal was brokered this week in Kenya, which shares a long border with Jubaland, and sees the region as a buffer against incursions by the Islamist militants Al-Shabaab who control swathes of Somalia.

Ahmed Madobe, an ally of Kenya who was re-elected Jubaland's president last August in a contested vote, signed the pact in Nairobi with his political opponents on April 23. It was only formally announced on Tuesday after he returned to Somalia.

"Both sides had to make compromises in order to reach this agreement. It was successful, and they eventually signed the deal to end this political crisis," Ahmed Farah, a politician close to Madobe, told AFP.

Madobe's re-election was disputed by his rivals, who held a parallel vote and declared their candidate, Abdirashid Hidig, the rightful president, with both men giving victory speeches.

Somalia's foreign-backed central government in Mogadishu did not recognise the outcome. Madobe, a former warlord, had accused Mogadishu of trying to oust him and insert a loyalist in his place to expand its power.

The agreement between the Jubaland parties recognises Madobe as president but stipulates he cannot run for a third term. In turn, he agreed to form a unity government including opposition figures.

The signatories also called for dialogue with Mogadishu, which imposed travel restrictions to the region.

"The agreement represents a helpful step towards resolving the disputes that emerged from the Jubaland electoral process in August 2019, which left the communities and political stakeholders divided," the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia said in a statement Tuesday co-signed by 15 nations.

The US Ambassador to Somalia Donald Yamamoto said Wednesday the deal was "a starting point for dialogue" toward building a more representative Jubaland.

The Jubaland crisis strained ties between Kenya and Somalia, which has long accused its larger neighbour of meddling in its affairs.

Those tensions escalated considerably in March, when heavy fighting broke out near the Kenyan border between Somali troops and Jubaland forces.

Kenya accused Somalia of violating its territorial integrity and destroying property in Mandera, a nearby town, appearing to indicate that Somali forces had crossed the border during the battle.

Somalia, meanwhile, had accused Kenya of harbouring a fugitive Jubaland minister who was arrested by Mogadishu for "serious crimes" but fled from prison in January.



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