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UPDATE: Election talks in capital begin despite absence of Puntland, Jubaland

Monday March 22, 2021

Mogadishu (HOL) - An electoral conference organized by the Somali government opened on Monday in the capital despite two regional Presidents snubbing the talks.

President Farmajo chaired meeting the electoral summit attended by his Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and the regional leaders of  Hirshabelle, South West, Galmudug and Banadir.

The leaders met at Aden Abdulle International Airport complex to reach an agreement on implementing the electoral process and the Baidoa Technical Committee's recommendations.

Villa Somalia tweeted that the meeting was a "pre-summit meeting ahead of the National Consultative Forum Meeting."

"H.E @M_Farmajo chairs a pre-summit meeting ahead of the National Consultative Forum Meeting as he leads the nation towards the implementation of Baidoa Technical Committee's recommendations and the September 17, 2020 Elections agreement ratified by the Federal Somali Parliament," Villa Somalia said in a Twitter post.

A Spokesperson for the Federal Government described the pre-summit meeting as an "ice-breaking session" and confirmed that all regional presidents were in attendance save for Deni and Madobe.

Absent from the bargaining table were President Said Abdullahi Deni of Puntland and President Ahmed Madobe of Puntland, citing lack of consultation over the forum's agenda and security concerns.

Deni hinted in an interview with the BBC Somali language service that he would not be attending, saying that he did not feel safe being "surrounded" by federal troops during the talks. He said that elite troops loyal to Farmajo have been deployed outside the Airforce hangar as other parts of the airport, a claim dismissed by Information Minister Osman Dubbe.

The Head of AMISOM released a statement saying the AU Peacekeeping mission will "guarantee security before, during and after the meeting."

“I wish to assure all Somali leaders, the public and other stakeholders that AMISOM, in coordination with its partners, has put in place the necessary measures to ensure that the meeting takes place in a conducive, secure and peaceful environment in which all parties feel comfortable to participate.” Ambassador Madeira said.

Both Puntland and Jubaland have forged a close alliance in their opposition to President Farmajo. Earlier this week, they strengthened the anti-Farmajo coalition by teaming up with a group representing 15 presidential candidates to form the National Salvation Forum. The opposition group - which consists of two former presidents and a former prime minister -  was not invited to the election talks. They argue that Farmajo is out of his constitutional authority to call the conference. This latest round of election talks is the fifth election summit called by President Farmajo.

The international community played a significant role in facilitating the electoral conference by tightening the screws on Somalia's leaders in recent days.

In a statement, the international partners include the African Union Mission in Somalia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, the EU, Finland, France, Germany, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, Ireland, Italy, League of Arab States, the Netherlands, Norway, Qatar, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Uganda, UK, US, and the UN have affirmed that they will "not support a partial or parallel electoral process or any initiatives leading to an extension of prior mandates.

"We see no viable alternative to the implementation of the 17 September electoral model on a rapid timeline to conduct peaceful, inclusive, free, fair, and credible elections. International partners will not support a partial or parallel electoral process or any initiatives leading to an extension of prior mandates," the statement reads in part.

Leading with the names of the defiant regional presidents, the U.S Embassy sent a strongly-worded tweet out demanding Somalia's Federal Member State leaders "must stay in Mogadishu until an election agreement is reached," punctuating that "Failure is not an option." There is no comment yet by the Americans on this latest snub by Jubaland and Puntland.



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