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Somali parliamentary speaker faces crucial days amid impeachment push

Meanwhile, experts have warned that the volatile political stalemate is risking to lead Somalia into a political crisis with unpredictable consequences which could further weaken the fledgling government which is currently locked in a deadly battle with Islamist insurgents trying to topple it.

By Judy Maina, judy.maina@alleastafrica.com

NAIROBI – Somalia ‘s embattled parliamentary speaker is under fire for engaging in obstruction of the legislative body’s functions and failing to foster working relations between the government and the  lower house, prompting MPs to bring on an impeachment motion against him.

With Mohamed Sheikh Osman has been suspended since the impeachment motion which has thus far garnered 107 signatures was tabled two weeks ago, his deputy Abdiweli Mudey would have to preside over the upcoming impeachment session which is set for March 31.

Under Somalia’s provisional constitution, an impeached speaker will have to step aside throughout the impeachment period and is replaced by his first deputy on interim basis, pending for the outcome of the vote.

The assembly is dominated by pro-government legislators who want Mr. Mohamed Sheikh Osman dismissed – but they’d require at least 184 votes, two third of the country’s 275-member parliament to vote out the speaker who has since challenged the impeachment motion against him as “a political rather than legal decision”.

But, his opponents remain steadfast in their ambitions to oust him, accusing the speaker of abuse of power and rejected his claim, calling it a ‘ploy to discredit’ the motion against him and avoid being impeached, and vowed to push ahead with the impeachment.

With an effort to impeach him is gaining support from within his own constituencies and endorsed by the country’s leaders, observers say that chances of the impeachment bill passing on is high, further shrinking chances of his survival.

“His chances of survival appear to be slim in view of 107 lawmakers who backed an impeachment vote where only 77 votes are needed for it to go ahead.” said Ahmed Mohamed, a political analyst based in Mogadishu of the speaker by email.

If removed, Mr. Osman’s would be the first sitting Somali speaker to be ousted arguably in the country’s history.

WILD CARDS

Just a few days before the vote, Mr. Jawari has made a last ditch effort to annul the impeachment but it was rejected by lawmakers who have also accused him of playing wild cards and stoking divisions within the assembly, calling for his resignation, a proposal dismissed by the speaker.

The complaint also accuses him of corruption, failure in finding ways to work with the upper house and blocking efforts to form a sub-committee tasked with overseeing the federalism process in Somalia’s constituent provinces.

However, the 72 years-old speaker has vowed to fight for his political life in a defiant speech  last week and denied of any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, experts have warned that the volatile political stalemate is risking to lead Somalia into a political crisis with unpredictable consequences which could further weaken the fledgling government which is currently locked in a deadly battle with Islamist insurgents trying to topple it.

Nevertheless, the impeachment has polarized the country, with some of Mr. Osman’s supporters regarding the attempt to oust him as ‘political plot’,” while opponents—say the process is following the law and the constitution.

“The house of the people is not a man’s property as he sees it, therefore, it’s our duty to take a legal action against the speaker.” said Khadija Diriye, a prominent Somali lawmaker of the speaker.

“The less harmful option for him would be his resignation. He’s forcing us to impeach him,” she said.

Outlining some of the charges against the speaker, she said that he contravened the constitution as well as legislation concerning state.

DIVISIONS

In the meantime, the East African bloc IGAD that includes Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Djibouti, Sudan, Uganda and Somalia has cautioned that recurring political! instability threatens the fragile gains made in Somalia over the last 12 months.

“To  this end, IGAD calls up on the Executive and Federal Parliament to join hands to facilitate the delivery of the critical milestones under the 2020 roadmap.” the regional group said in statement issued this week.

In the meantime, the speaker’s impeachment which has ignited a smoldering political crisis for the fragile government comes at a delicate time for the impoverished horn of Africa nation which is embroiled in a major diplomatic war with the United Arab Emirates, accused by Somalia of violating its sovereignty after a multi-million dollar port deal that the rich gulf state had signed with the breakaway Somaliland enclave in northern Somalia.

Last year, UAE’s global ports operator, DP World has signed a 30-year port concession for the management and development of a multi-purpose port project at Berbera in Somaliland.

Somalia’s government has repeatedly dismissed the legitimacy of the contract which will see the UAE firm investing $442 million to rebuild Berbera port in Somaliland as ‘null and void’.

Somalia considers Somaliland as parts of greater Somalia, a suggestion repeatedly dismissed by Somaliland which despite lacking an international recognition broke away from Somalia in 199 and maintains its status of being an independent state.

The move is seen by Somalia as a ‘blatant disrespect’ towards its sovereignty and judicial system by UAE’s ‘interference’ which they say threatens to destabilize the long-chaotic horn of Africa nation.

(Additional reporting and editing by Timothy Moses in Nairobi, Kenya)

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