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US Africa Chief Calls Somali PM Roble as Opposition Demands Farmaajo Resign for 'Coup'

© Flickr / UNSOM SomaliaThe Prime Minister of Somalia, Mohamed Hussein Roble, chairs a Security and Justice Committee meeting, involving top officials from the Federal Government of Somalia, Federal Member States and international partners, in Mogadishu, Somalia, on 1 December 2020.
The Prime Minister of Somalia, Mohamed Hussein Roble, chairs a Security and Justice Committee meeting, involving top officials from the Federal Government of Somalia, Federal Member States and international partners, in Mogadishu, Somalia, on 1 December 2020. - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.12.2021
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Opposition is mounting to Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmaajo, after he attempted to have Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble suspended. The US and its allies are backing Roble in the power struggle, and opposition parties are demanding an investigation of Farmaajo's actions.
Roble's office tweeted on Wednesday he had held "a telephone conversation with US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Molly Phee, where the subject of discussions revolved around the political, security, and electoral situation in the country". Phee's office similarly tweeted that she had urged Roble to hold a meeting of the country's National Consultative Council (NCC) to correct election irregularities and swiftly concluded credible elections.
Phee's office also said the diplomat had spoken with Farmaajo "about the urgent need to stop escalatory rhetoric and actions" for security forces to "remain neutral", and to support Roble's convening of the NCC.

A day prior, her office adopted a far more bellicose tone, saying "the US is prepared to act against those who obstruct Somalia's path to peace" and indicating its support for Roble.

The lengthy election process in Somalia is nearly complete, with the votes being tallied this week for representatives to the House of the People, the lower house of Somalia's national legislature. Once the country's parliament is fully staffed, the lawmakers can begin the indirect elections for president to potentially replace Farmaajo, who is just one of many candidates seeking the high office.
Election Dispute, or Corruption Probe?
Roble was assigned control over the election process in May after an attempt by Farmaajo to extend his mandate by two years to settle disputes over elections nearly spun the country into a new civil war. However, he has also been the subject of a corruption investigation related to accusations that he stole a parcel of coastal land from the country's Coast Guard for his own purposes.

Over the weekend, Roble made several moves seen as attempting to roadblock that probe, including shuffling the Justice and Defence ministry portfolios around and ordering the suspension of the Somali Coast Guard commander, Gen. Abdihamid Mohamed Dirir, the officer who brought the accusations against him. In response, Farmaajo attempted to suspend Roble's powers on Monday, claiming he was "linked with corruption".

In turn, Roble accused Farmaajo of seemingly deciding to "destroy government institutions" and ordered "all Somali national forces to work under the command of the office of the prime minister from today".
© REUTERS / FEISAL OMARSomali military supporting Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble gather at Siigale village in Hodan district of Mogadishu, Somalia December 27, 2021.
Somali military supporting Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble gather at Siigale village in Hodan district of Mogadishu, Somalia December 27, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.12.2021
Somali military supporting Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble gather at Siigale village in Hodan district of Mogadishu, Somalia December 27, 2021.
Soldiers from the Presidential Guard seized Roble's office on Monday, but were later driven from the building by troops loyal to Roble, who have fortified the surrounding area, according to the Somali Guardian. Somalia's army chief, Odowa Yusuf Rage, then dismissed Presidential Guards commander Hassan Adan Dhi'is and ordered his arrest.
Then on Tuesday, the Council of Presidential Candidates, a conglomerate of opposition parties, denounced Farmaajo's moves as an "attempted coup" and called on the president to quit his office and to be investigated.

"The council demands that Farmaajo vacate Villa Somalia immediately to bring an end to disruptions and plots he continues to orchestrate inside the state house", the opposition politicians said in a Tuesday statement, according to the Somali Guardian.

"The council asks for [a] quick investigation to be launched and charges be filed against Farmaajo and others who aided him in that coup".
US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), a Somali-American lawmaker whose family sought refuge in the US from the Somali Civil War in the early 1990s, also tweeted on Tuesday that it was "time for him to step aside".
Protesters also gathered in the capital of Mogadishu on Wednesday to voice their support for the prime minister, but were dispersed by police, prompting denunciations from opposition politicians.
US Rallies Support for Roble
The US is now gathering support for Roble around the globe, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaking with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday night.

"President Kenyatta and I spoke today about the urgency of a cessation of hostilities to resolve the escalating conflict in Ethiopia and the need for Somali leaders to conclude elections as soon as possible and to act with restraint", Blinken tweeted.

Kenya borders both nations and has had its share of disputes with both, as well. Under Kenyatta, Nairobi has edged closer to the US and France, with Kenyan air bases serving as launching pads for US missions against al-Shabaab in Somalia. Additionally, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Nairobi over the summer to finalise infrastructure project deals.
Sweden's minister for International Development Cooperation, Matilda Ernkrans, voiced her support for Roble on Twitter on Tuesday, casting Roble's attempted ouster as an attack on the democratic process.

Farmaajo's government has long been a partner of the US in East Africa, where US Africa Command has waged a 14-year-long war against al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda* affiliate, although US military involvement in Somalia dates to the early 1990s.

He, too, sought refuge from the civil war in the US, becoming a US citizen and registered Republican Party member before returning to Somalia in 2010 for a short-lived term as prime minister. He became president in 2017 in the country's first democratic elections in 50 years, and the relative stability under his tenure has seen the return of US and UK oil prospecting, particularly in offshore blocks believed to hold rich petroleum reserves. However, Farmaajo has also aroused Western indignation by cooperating with Ethiopia and Eritrea, the latter being a country the US has treated as a pariah, and by penning deals with China.
Roble, by comparison, is a political neophyte, being appointed to the prime ministry by Farmaajo in September 2020 to head the transition process for elections originally anticipated to happen that December. He was previously a civil engineer.
*Al-Qaeda: a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries.
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