Somalia’s president has signed a disputed law extending his mandate for two years, the state news agency reported, setting the Horn of Africa nation on a collision course with donors who strongly oppose the move.
Somalia, with only limited central government since 1991, is trying to rebuild with international help but the path back to stability has been obstructed by a political crisis caused by a failure to hold elections that were due in February.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s four-year term expired in February and his successor was meant to be chosen by a new crop of legislators. Uncertainty deepened after opponents accused Mohamed of packing regional and national election boards with his own supporters.
On Monday, the lower house of parliament passed legislation to extend Mohamed’s tenure by up to two years, the state news agency reported, citing Information Minister Osman Dubbe, and Mohamed signed the bill late on Tuesday.
But the decision was swiftly rejected by the upper chamber of the Mogadishu parliament, sowing confusion that could abet further attacks by extremist Al-Shabaab militants, who have been trying for years to topple the government.
On Wednesday, fourteen people died and four others were wounded when the minibus they were travelling in ran over a landmine on the outskirts of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.
“We have confirmed that 14 people died and four others were wounded after a minibus travelling along the road between Mogadishu and Balcad ran over a landmine,” said Andikarim Mohamed, a government official from the south-central Hirshabelle region.
The accident took place about 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of Mogadishu, in what Mohamed called a “horrible and evil act”.
Somali military commander Abshir Mohamed, who works in the area, blamed the incident on the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab militants who carry out regular attacks in the country.
“The terrorists are indiscriminately targeting everybody. They planted the mine that had killed those innocent civilians who we were going about their businesses travelling,” he told state media.
Somalia’s main donors said they would not support any extension of the presidency’s term.
“(This) resolution undermines peace, security, and stability in Somalia and beyond,” international partners including the United Nations said in a joint statement. Other major backers including the United States also bemoaned the decision.
“The United States is deeply disappointed by the Federal Government of Somalia’s decision to approve a legislative bill that extends the mandates of the president and parliament by two years,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
“It will compel the United States to re-evaluate our bilateral relations with the (government) to include diplomatic engagement and assistance, and to consider all available tools, including sanctions and visa restrictions.”
A statement on Tuesday by Britain’s Minister for Africa James Duddridge also warned of unspecified consequences.
“In the absence of consensus leading to inclusive and credible elections being held without further delay, the international community’s relationship with Somalia’s leadership will change,” he said.