Mogadishu’s police chief announced he had suspended parliament on Monday, saying he was acting unilaterally to prevent lawmakers from extending the president’s term, only to be fired moments later by the police commissioner.
The chaos underscores the widening divisions within the Horn of Africa’s security services over extending the four-year term of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who faces growing pressure to quit after his term as national leader ended.
Parliament was supposed to elect a new president on 8 February, but the exercise was delayed because new lawmakers have yet to be picked by elders.
“We have stopped the parliament session today. We have a responsibility bigger than a personal one. We have to solve anything that can bring violence and war in Mogadishu,” Mogadishu police chief Saadaq Omar Hassan told local television station Universal in a live speech. “The four-year term has ended.”
Moments later, Somalia’s police commissioner Hassan Mohamed Hijar announced on Facebook that Hassan had been fired and replaced.
Opponents of President Mohamed, who is seeking a second term, accuse him of packing his supporters into the regional and national boards who choose the legislators. Talks between the president, opposition leaders, and diplomats to fix a new date for elections have been intermittant and inconclusive.
The presidents of Jubbaland and Puntland, two of Somalia’s five semi-autonomous states, have refused to participate, arguing Mohamed must not chair the talks as he is no longer president.
Donors, including the United Nations and the European Union will not support any “new initiatives leading to any extension of prior mandates,” in apparent reference to the president’s expired term, they said in a joint statement on Saturday.
The political squabbling and divisions in the security services are undermining the fight against the Islamist al Shabaab insurgency, analysts warn.
The group, which is allied to al Qaeda, wants to topple the government and establish its own rule based on its own strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.