Somalia’s opposition postpones protest over election delay

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Opposition presidential candidates in Somalia have delayed a planned protest on Friday over the country’s election delay after the government apologized for its actions during last week’s protest and affirmed the right to peacefully demonstrate.

Security forces fired on last week’s protest in the capital, Mogadishu, and fears of further violence led to talks this week between the government and an alliance of opposition leaders. Local elders and the international community shuttled between the sides.

On Thursday, ahead of the breakthrough, Somali forces deployed at many strategic junctions in the capital.

The Somali government statement also expressed condolences to families of people killed last week. At least five people were killed and around a dozen wounded, according to health officials. The statement also said the government will be responsible for demonstrators’ safety.

In response, the opposition alliance agreed to postpone Friday’s protest for 10 days.

Pressure is growing on President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed after the Feb. 8 election day came and went without an agreement on how to carry out the vote. Two regional states have said they would not take part without a deal.

One former president who is now the chairman of the opposition alliance, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, expressed his satisfaction with the government’s statement.

“All we needed was to secure our rights to demonstrate and hold free and fair elections,” he said. He added that “COVID-19 should not be used in the pretext of denying our people’s rights,” a reference to the recent government ban on public gatherings. Some critics have alleged that the ban was politically motivated.

Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble in a separate statement confirmed that “it’s the constitutional right of every citizen to elect or get elected and express freely in a peaceful manner.”

And the president on Friday in a statement commended “all sides” for reaching an agreement and called on Somalis to play their role in safe, fair and free elections.

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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