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Somalia swears in lawmakers after chaotic election process

By AFP - Apr 14,2022 - Last updated at Apr 14,2022

MOGADISHU — Somalia's newly elected lawmakers were sworn in on Thursday after a long-delayed and chaotic voting process that was marred by deadly violence and a power struggle between the country's top leaders.

Security was tight as nearly 300 members of the lower and upper houses of parliament took the oath of office in a ceremony inside the heavily guarded airport zone in the capital Mogadishu.

"We have faced challenges and endured attempts to stop us from reaching this day but I am very happy that I am witnessing this occasion today," Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble said at the ceremony.

"I congratulate the new legislators who I hope will help the country overcome the current difficult situations."

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajo, also issued a statement on Twitter hailing the "historic" event.

A bitter spat between Roble and Farmajo hobbled the elections and stoked fears of further instability in the Horn of Africa country which is also battling a decade-long Islamist insurgency and the threat of famine.

Farmajo's term expired in February 2021 before fresh elections were held and his efforts to remain in power by decree were fiercely opposed and triggered armed clashes in Mogadishu.

To avert a crisis, and under pressure from the international community, he appointed Roble to negotiate a way towards concluding elections in a timely manner.

But the pair squabbled over authority, often embroiling in public quarrels over hirings and firings in the upper ranks of government.

The election has lurched from one crisis to the next, with deadlines passing unmet, while fighters from the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab Islamist militant group waged a number of deadly attacks during the voting process.

Upper house elections for 54 senators finally concluded in late 2021 and at last count, all but about 20 of 275 seats in the lower chamber of parliament have been decided by clan representatives under Somalia’s complex indirect voting system.

After the lawmakers were sworn in, the two oldest members of each house were temporarily elected to the role of speaker in line with the constitution.

Abdisalam Haji Ahmed, acting speaker of the lower house, called for elections for the remaining seats to be held as soon as possible.

“There will not be any time wasted from now on,” he said, announcing that the parliament would sit for the first time on Saturday.

Both houses are due to hold a vote to choose a president but no date has yet been set.

At the end of March, the UN Security Council voted unanimously for a new peacekeeping force for Somalia, where Al Shabaab has been seeking to overthrow the fragile government for more than a decade.

UN agencies also warned this week that millions of people in Somalia were at risk of famine, with 40 per cent of the population, or 6 million people, now facing extreme levels of food insecurity.

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