Somalia names new PM, announces plan for national elections

Members of new parliament look on after they were sworn-in at Adan Adde airport in Mogadishu. Somalia is likely to hold elections next year. (AFP/File)
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Updated 19 September 2020

Somalia names new PM, announces plan for national elections

  • The UN had described the pursuit of one-person, one-vote elections as a “historic milestone” on Somalia’s path to full democratization and peace after decades of war and violent instability in the Horn of Africa nation

MOGADISHU: Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has appointed a new prime minister hours after brokering an agreement with regional leaders for elections next year that abandons a promised one-person, one-vote model.
Mohamed’s office announced late Thursday the appointment of Mohamed Hussein Roble, a Swedish-trained civil engineer and political neophyte, and “wished him to take duties and tasks ahead with diligence.”
He fills a vacancy left when former Premier Hassan Ali Khaire was removed by parliament in July for failing to pave the way for fully democratic elections due before February 2021.
The foreign-backed government in Mogadishu has been in drawn-out negotiations with Somalia’s federal states over how to proceed with parliamentary and presidential elections.
However, the process has been held up by political infighting between the president — better known by his nickname Farmajo — and the country’s regional leaders.
Somalia had set itself the goal of holding its first fully democratic, one-man, one-vote election since 1969 — as opposed to a complex system in which special delegates pick lawmakers who then vote for the president.
But an agreement reached between the president, five regional leaders and the mayor of Mogadishu has conceded that such a vote would be impossible within the time frame remaining before Somalia’s parliament expires in November, and Farmajo’s term ends in February.
In an official communique, the negotiators said delegates from Somalia’s myriad clans would elect the 275 MPs of the lower house, which in turn chooses the president.

SPEEDREAD

The foreign-backed government in Mogadishu has been in drawn-out negotiations with Somalia’s federal states over how to proceed with parliamentary and presidential elections.

While the process mirrors the last election held in 2017, it will go a bit further in terms of inclusivity, with 27,775 delegates voting — almost twice as many as last time.
No timeline was given, and it remains unclear what role the country’s independent election commission will play, with the federal and state governments to appoint their own agencies to oversee their respective polls.
The plan still needs to be approved by Somalia’s parliament.
The UN had described the pursuit of one-person, one-vote elections as a “historic milestone” on Somalia’s path to full democratization and peace after decades of war and violent instability in the Horn of Africa nation.
But observers had warned that such a goal was looking increasingly unlikely due to tensions with the states, technical aspects such as voter registration, and security challenges posed by the Al-Shabab militant group.
The fragile central government, chaired by Farmajo, controls only a part of Somali territory and relies on an international peacekeeping force to confront a violent insurgency from Al-Shabab in the countryside.
Mogadishu had been criticized by observers for engaging in political feuds with federal states to gain control in the election process, rather than focusing on the fight against the militants.


Outcry grows in France after police filmed beating music producer

Updated 5 min 38 sec ago

Outcry grows in France after police filmed beating music producer

  • Online news site Loopsider published security camera images showing three officers punching, kicking and using their truncheons on the producer, identified as Michel
  • The beating lasted around five minutes, during which Michel said he was repeatedly subjected to racist abuse, before he was dragged out of a building in Paris’ 17th district

PARIS: A video of police beating a black music producer in Paris triggered outrage and condemnation on Thursday, leading to the suspension of several officers and a public backlash that drew in French World Cup football stars.
The incident comes after a string of high-profile probes into police violence and as concern grows over new legislation proposed by the government that would restrict the right of citizens to film and publish images of police on duty.
Online news site Loopsider published security camera images on Thursday showing three officers punching, kicking and using their truncheons on the producer, identified as Michel, as he entered his studio in the French capital late on Saturday.
The beating lasted around five minutes, during which Michel said he was repeatedly subjected to racist abuse, before he was dragged out of the building in the northwestern 17th district of the capital.
He was initially arrested for violence and failure to obey the police. But prosecutors threw out the probe and instead opened an investigation against the police officers themselves for committing violence while in a position of authority.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told French television that the officers “had soiled the uniform of the republic” and that he would press for their dismissal.
Police sources said four officers had been suspended in total.
As the hashtag #Michel trended on French social media, politicians and footballers who played on France’s 2018 World Cup winning team denounced the latest evidence which comes amid a wider debate in France about police methods.
The death in US police custody of George Floyd in May has also reverberated in France where allegations of brutality against police officers are commonplace, particularly in poor and ethnically diverse areas in the country’s major cities.
“People who should have been protecting me attacked me. I did nothing to deserve this. I just want these three people to be punished because we have a good justice system in France,” Michel told journalists on Thursday.
“I was lucky to have videos which protect me, unlike a lot of others, otherwise I would not be here with you today,” he added.
Michel’s lawyer, Hafida El Ali, told AFP that his client had been detained for 48 hours after the beating on the basis of “lies by the police who had outrageously attacked him.”
Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz told AFP that he had asked France’s National Police General Inspectorate (IGPN) to shed light on what happened “as quickly as possible.”
Loopsider, which has exposed several episodes of police violence in recent months, said that the images “had to be seen to understand the full extent of the problem.”
Michel told the site he was in the street not wearing a face mask on Saturday, but went inside his studio when police arrived.
The beating took place in the hallway of the building, with the violence captured on CCTV.
Paris’ Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo said she was “profoundly shocked” “by an intolerable act... that is exceptionally serious.”
Football stars on the 2018 squad such as Antoine Griezmann, Samuel Umtiti and Kylian Mbappe all denounced the images.
“Unbearable video, unacceptable violence,” Mbappe wrote on Twitter next to a picture of the injured producer. “Say no to racism.”
There has already been virulent criticism of the police this week after they used tear gas late Monday to remove migrants from a camp set up in central Paris.
Prosecutors have opened probes into that operation after videos showed a journalist being assaulted and an officer tripping a migrant as he runs away from the scene.
The beating of the producer has piled new pressure on Paris police chief Didier Lallement who has faced criticism over the dispersal of the migrant camp, as well as on hard-line Interior Minister Darmanin.
The outcry comes after the lower house of parliament on Tuesday evening gave initial approval to a security bill which would restrict the publication of photos or videos of police officers’ faces.
Media unions say it could give police a green light to prevent journalists from doing their work and potentially documenting abuses, as well as stopping social media users from posting incriminating footage.
A protest against the law has been called for Saturday in Paris.
In a sign that the government was possibly preparing to backtrack, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced late Thursday that he would appoint a commission to redraft Article 24 of the law that would restrict images of the police.
In a reminder of a previous police operation that caused outrage, three officers accused of severely injuring a man named Theodore Luhaka outside Paris in February 2017 are to face trial on charges of involuntary violence, prosecutors announced Thursday.
Luhaka was severely wounded in the area of his rectum by a blow from a truncheon. The judge has followed advice of prosecutors and the officers will not be tried for rape.
President Emmanuel Macron swept to power in 2017 as a centrist who rallied support from across the political spectrum. But with the new security law, critics and even some supporters accuse him of tilting to the right as he seeks re-election in 2022.