A plane at Aden Abdulle International airport in Mogadishu. PHOTO | COURTESY
By PATRICK MAYOYO
Somalia has announced that all flights arriving and departing from Mogadishu’s Airport will be suspended on Wednesday, in a new measure to enforce security during the presidential election, Garowe Online reports.
And Mogadishu Mayor has said that major roads in the Somali capital will be closed for two days till the conclusion of the ballot.
On Monday, the outgoing Minister of Civil Aviation, Ali Jama Jangli told the local media that flights to Aden Abdulle Airport in Mogadishu will be suspended on Wednesday, however, the flights are expected to resume normally on Thursday.
This comes amid preparation by the Presidential Election Committee (PEC) to complete arrangement ahead of the February 8 presidential polls. The country is planning to prevent possible terrorist attacks by Al Qaida-linked Al Shabaab group, which vowed to disrupt the forthcoming presidential election.
Somalia’s Federal Parliament will pick a new President in a secret ballot, as the newly sworn-in MPs and Senators will cast votes among 23 presidential aspirants competing for the top office in Somalia.
The presidential elections that are viewed as an important step towards full democracy in the war torn country have attracted 23 aspirants including President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
Somalia has never had a stable government for 20 years before the current administration was formed in 2012.
However, the presidential elections are being held amid concerns being raised about the transparency and credibility of the electoral process.
The country’s parliamentary elections that were concluded in December were marred with accusations of vote-buying and intimidation, leaving them without credibility.
In the parliamentary elections, an electorate of just under 14,000 delegates—who have been chosen by 135 clan elders—voted for 275 members of the lower house of parliament.
Members of both the lower house and upper house are expected to elect the Speaker and the president.
The United Nations however says overall, and notwithstanding delays and cases of malpractice, including bribery and intimidation of delegates, the electoral process was more peaceful and inclusive than in 2012.
Regional parliaments are electing the 54-member upper house of parliament (senate), which did not exist before the current elections.
However, on December 27, 2016, the African Union, United Nations and leading Western countries said in a joint statement that they are “gravely concerned” about Somalia’s electoral process.
“International partners believe that the integrity of the 2016 electoral process hangs in the balance,” declared the statement endorsed by East Africa’s Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, the United States, European Union and five individual European countries, along with the AU and UN.
The statement by the international bodies took strong issue with Somali leaders’ refusal to order re-runs of voting for all 24 parliamentary seats that election officials had previously flagged as involving flagrant abuses, including violence, corruption and intimidation.
Somalia still faces many challenges, the highest of which is the security situation. Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda-aligned militant group, continues to cause terror in the war-torn country.
The terror group has also pledged to disrupt the elections. The country is also dealing with an increased threat from cells of fighters loyal to the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).
The federal president and the speakers and deputy speakers of the new parliament are to be chosen exclusively by MPs, not by a vote of the Somali people.
The members of Parliament were themselves selected by 14,025 delegates in a country with an estimated population of 11 million. The delegates had in turn been chosen by a set of 135 clan elders.
Other candidates include Mr Ali Mohamed Gedi, who served as prime minister of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government under the administration of President Abdullahi Yusuf from 2004 to 2007, when he resigned.
This is the second time that Ghedi is running for the presidency; the first was in 2009, but he withdrew his nomination.
The presidential elections that revolved around rebuilding the war-torn country by adressing the of insecurity and fostering national cohesion and intergration among different clans.
Political observers say at least six of the presidential aspirants are front-runners.
They include Hassan Sheikh Mohamud the current president of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) whose term ended on August 20, 2016.
Mr Mohamud is an academic and political and civic activist who has worked for several national and international peace and development organizations. In 2011, he founded the Peace and Development Party and currently serves as its chairman.
Also in the race is former Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo. Farmajo was prime minister from October 2010 to June 2011 when he resigned under pressure from the international community as part of the Kampala Accord . He had succeeded Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, who also resigned from his post following a dispute.
Also in the presidential, race is Mr Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke the current Prime Minister. Then there is Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aadan the current President of South-West State of Somalia and former speaker of parliament.
Mr Aadan entered politics in 2004 when he was elected speaker of the parliament in Somalia’s transitional government. He held that position until 2007 when he was ousted for holding unauthorized talks with members of the Islamic Courts Union.
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