US, UK consider reassessing bilateral relations with Somalia after Federal Government term extensions

Secretary of State Antony Blinken's comments comes after President Farmajo formally signed into law a directive that would extend the federal government's mandate for two years [File: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via AP]

Mogadishu (HOL) – The United States and the United Kingdom governments have voiced their opposition to the extension of Somalia’s presidential and parliamentary terms by two years. President Farmajo formally signed the legislation on Tuesday despite objection from Somalia’s Upper House of Parliament.

Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, said on Tuesday that his government was ‘deeply disappointed’ by the decision to extend the mandate without support from stakeholders.

“We have stressed repeatedly that it is vital for the peace, stability, prosperity, and governance of Somalia that the Federal Government and the Federal Member States reach a consensus on a way forward for the electoral process. We have also made clear that the United States does not support mandate extensions without broad support from Somalia’s political stakeholders, nor does the United States support parallel or partial electoral processes.”

The statement went on to say that the action would undermine the partnership with the international community.

“Such actions would be deeply divisive, undermine the federalism process and political reforms that have been at the heart of the country’s progress and partnership with the international community, and divert attention away from countering al-Shabaab. They will also further delay holding the promised elections awaited by the Somali people.”

James Duddridge, The British is the Minister for Africa at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), said that the United Kingdom was “dismayed” and warned that a unilateral extension was not conducive to Somalia’s peace and security.

“We are dismayed by the decision of the Lower House of the Somali Parliament to extend the mandates of Mohamed Farmajo as President and of the Somali Parliament by two years. This is not a solution to the ongoing impasse on the electoral process, but instead a move that undermines the credibility of Somalia’s leadership and risks the safety and future of the Somali people.”

On Monday, 149 MPs in Somalia’s 275-member Lower House of Parliament voted to extend their terms and the mandate for the embattled President Farmajo for two years. The law also directed the nation’s electoral committee to oversee popular elections. Fifteen lawmakers who previously opposed term extensions were barred from Parliament.

The parliamentary term expired on December 27, 2020, while the President’s term ended on February 8, 2021.

The decision was quickly met with opposition from Somalia’s Upper House, who outright rejected the bill.

Farmajo formally signed the new directive into law on Tuesday afternoon.

Both the UK and the US said they would reassess their bilateral relationship with Somalia.

Blinken said that the US would consider sanctions and visa restrictions on individuals.

“Implementation of this bill will pose serious obstacles to dialogue and further undermine peace and security in Somalia. It will compel the United States to reevaluate our bilateral relations with the Federal Government of Somalia, to include diplomatic engagement and assistance, and to consider all available tools, including sanctions and visa restrictions, to respond to efforts to undermine peace and stability.”

Duddridge echoed that sentiment and said Somalia’s relationship with the broader international community would change.

“In the absence of consensus leading to inclusive and credible elections being held without further delay, the international community’s relationship with Somalia’s leadership will change. The UK will work with its international partners on a common approach to reevaluate our relationship and the nature of our assistance to Somalia.”

Both the US and UK urged restraint from Somalia’s government and political stakeholders and urged a return to talks between the federal and regional states.

Earlier on Tuesday, the European Union called the extension “a grave threat” to the region’s peace and security.

“The European Union believes that the passage and signing of this resolution will divide Somalia, impose additional delays and constitute a grave threat to the peace and stability of Somalia and its neighbours,” Borrell said in a statement.”

The Chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul and Congressman Gregory Meeks from New York have advocated that the US government place sanctions against those who “impede the democratic process.”