Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed announced Monday that he was suspending Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, a day after the two men sparred over long-delayed elections in the troubled Horn of Africa nation.
“The president decided to suspend Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and stop his powers since he was linked with corruption,” the office of the president said in a statement, accusing the premier of interfering with an investigation into a land grabbing case.
Relations between the president, better known as Farmajo, and Roble have long been frosty, with the latest development raising fresh fears for Somalia’s stability as it struggles to hold elections.
On Sunday, Roble accused the president of sabotaging the electoral process, after Farmajo withdrew the prime minister’s mandate to organise the elections and called for the creation of a new committee to “correct” the shortcomings.
Roble, who has not responded to Monday’s suspension announcement, said Farmajo did not want to hold “a credible election in this country”.
Farmajo in turn has accused Roble of trying to influence a probe into a scandal involving army-owned land after the premier sacked the defence minister and replaced him on Sunday.
“The prime minister has pressurised the minister of defence to divert the investigations of the case relating to the grabbed public land,” Monday’s statement said.
Somalia’s elections have been hamstrung by delays for several months.
– US ‘deeply concerned’ –
In April, pro-government and opposition fighters opened fire in the streets of Mogadishu after Farmajo extended his term without holding fresh elections.
The constitutional crisis was only defused when Farmajo reversed the term extension and Roble brokered a timetable to a vote.
But in the months that followed, a bitter rivalry between the men derailed the election again, alarming international observers.
Farmajo and Roble only agreed to bury the hatchet in October, and issued a unified call for the glacial election process to accelerate.
Somalia has not held a one-man one-vote election in 50 years and its polls follow a complex indirect model.
Elections for the upper house have concluded in all states and voting for the lower house began in early November.
But the appointment of a president still appears to be a long way off, straining ties with Western allies who want to see the process reach a peaceful conclusion.
On Sunday, the United States said it was “deeply concerned by the continuing delays and by the procedural irregularities that have undermined the credibility of the process”.
Analysts say the election impasse has distracted from Somalia’s larger problems, most notably the violent Al-Shabaab insurgency.
The Al-Qaeda allies were driven out of Mogadishu a decade ago but retain control of swathes of countryside and continue to stage deadly attacks in the capital and elsewhere.