Somalia crisis deepens as president withdraws PM’s powers

MOGADISHU— Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has suspended Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble’s power to hire and fire officials, the latest development in a destabilizing feud that has plunged the country into a fresh crisis.

The dispute between the two leaders marks an escalation of months of tension, threatening to throw an already fragile electoral process into deeper peril.

“The prime minister has violated the transitional constitution so his executive powers are withdrawn … especially his powers to remove and to appoint officials, until the election is completed,” the office of the president, popularly known as Farmaajo, said in a statement.

It added the suspension will last until the conclusion of elections later this year.

There was no immediate comment from Roble.

Farmaajo’s four-year mandate expired in February but was extended by parliament in April, triggering deadly gun battles in the capital Mogadishu, with some rivals viewing it as a flagrant power grab.

Roble cobbled together a new timetable for polls, but the process fell behind. Last week, he accused Farmaajo of trying to reclaim “election and security responsibilities” from him.

Elections in Somalia follow a complex indirect model, whereby state legislatures and clan delegates pick lawmakers for the national parliament, who, in turn, choose the president.

The next phase is scheduled for between Oct 1 and Nov 25.

The feud intensified last week when Roble sacked Somalia’s intelligence chief for his handling of a high-profile probe into the disappearance of a young agent.

Farmaajo overruled the prime minister, appointing the dumped intelligence official as his national security adviser.

Roble, in turn, accused the president of “obstructing” the investigation and fired the security minister and replaced him with a Farmaajo critic.

The spat has raised the political temperature in the capital, Mogadishu, with a coalition of opposition presidential candidates on Friday saying it “supports the prime minister and condemns the actions of the outgoing president”.