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Somali president's term extension reversed

by HASSAN BARISE THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | May 2, 2021 at 3:49 a.m.
Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed looks on during a parliamentary session, in Mogadishu, Somalia, Saturday, May 1, 2021. The controversial two-year term extension for Somalia’s president has evaporated after intense public pressure as the lower house of parliament has approved his request to instead support efforts to organize the country’s long-delayed national election. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- The controversial two-year term extension for Somalia's president evaporated Saturday after intense public pressure, as the lower house of parliament approved his request to instead support efforts to organize the country's long-delayed national election.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed asked the lawmakers to retreat from their decision last month to extend his time in office. The extension had been blasted by the Senate as illegal and was opposed by soldiers who took up key positions in the capital and clashed with other security forces.

The scene of soldiers firing at one another in the streets of Mogadishu brought back fears for many Somalis that the Horn of Africa nation could collapse back into chaos after years of trying to rebuild. The international community worried that the al-Shabab extremist group would take advantage.

Saturday's actions mean a return to talks on how to carry out the election that has been delayed since early February, when some Somalis believe the president's term ended.

Mohamed asked lawmakers to back the agreement the federal government reached with regional states in September on a way forward for the vote. He asked Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble to lead the election preparations and the related security measures.

"I also ask the opposition leaders to play their role in pacifying the country and Mogadishu, in particular, for the sake of the people, country and religion," the president said.

Somalia's leader also for the first time publicly expressed his condolences to those who died or were displaced during the clashes in Mogadishu. The United Nations has said several tens of thousands fled their homes.

Some in the opposition had hoped the president would resign. Mohamed left the future unclear, not saying whether he would run for a second term.

It is unknown how long it will take for the election to be organized.

Opposition leaders, however, did not appear to be satisfied with Saturday's events.

The president "can never be trusted, as he flip-flops between his own words in unpredictable or reasonable ways," said Abdirahman Abdishakur, one of the opposition candidates.

Despite the prime minister's call for all security forces to return to their barracks, the soldiers backing the opposition remained on the streets of the capital Saturday. Mogadishu was quiet but tense.

And some of the displaced people hesitated to go home.

"Would you bring your wife and children in the middle of those opposing forces, right in front of and around your house?" asked Mohamed Abdulle Farah, who had fled the Hodan district of the capital.

FILE - In this file photo dated Thursday, May 11, 2017, President of Somalia Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed speaks during a press conference after the Somalia Conference in London.  President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on Saturday May 1, 2021, has asked lawmakers to retreat from their decision earlier this month to extend his time in office, and has requested to instead support efforts to organize the country’s long-delayed national election. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, FILE)
FILE - In this file photo dated Thursday, May 11, 2017, President of Somalia Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed speaks during a press conference after the Somalia Conference in London. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on Saturday May 1, 2021, has asked lawmakers to retreat from their decision earlier this month to extend his time in office, and has requested to instead support efforts to organize the country’s long-delayed national election. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, FILE)
Somalia lawmakers raise their hands to endorse a direct election, during a parliamentary session, in Mogadishu, Somalia, Saturday, May 1, 2021. The controversial two-year term extension for Somalia’s president has evaporated after intense public pressure as the lower house of parliament has approved his request to instead support efforts to organize the country’s long-delayed national election.  (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)
Somalia lawmakers raise their hands to endorse a direct election, during a parliamentary session, in Mogadishu, Somalia, Saturday, May 1, 2021. The controversial two-year term extension for Somalia’s president has evaporated after intense public pressure as the lower house of parliament has approved his request to instead support efforts to organize the country’s long-delayed national election. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)
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