Somalia's Jubbaland president wins new term
GAROWE - The president of Jubbaland, a Somali region critical to East Africa's fight against al Shabaab militants, won a new term on Thursday, amid a growing rift between the federal government and its semi-autonomous states.
The contest has stoked tensions between Kenya and Ethiopia, longtime allies who both have large contingents of peacekeepers in the country and see Jubbaland as a buffer zone against Islamist attacks in their own countries.
Kenya supports the victor, Ahmed Mohamed Madobe, while Ethiopia has grown increasingly close to the federal government in Mogadishu.
Madobe won 56 of the 74 votes cast in the regional parliament, parliamentary speaker Cabdi Maxamed Abdirahmaan said.
"I am ready to sit and speak with all people, including the opposition. I will speak and work with anyone who has a complaint," Madobe told parliament after the vote.
There was no immediate reaction from the central government.
Mogadishu said on Saturday it would not recognise the result, saying the candidate selection process had been unconstitutional.
It has accused Madobe of interfering in the process and has backed opposition candidates, who were rejected by the electoral commission when they attempted to register.
Jubbaland is seen as the breadbasket of Somalia and the capital Kismayo is a strategically important port. Its shoreline delineates a hotly contested maritime zone claimed by both Somalia and Kenya with potential oil and gas deposits.
Madobe ousted Shabaab from Kismayo in 2012 with the help of Kenyan forces, took power and was first elected in 2015.
Hundreds of people gathered in the streets of the capital Kismayo after the result was announced, chanting "long live Ahmed Madobe" and waving his picture.
The barred opposition candidates said they held their own vote in Kismayo on Thursday, electing Abdirashid Mohamed Hidig.
The impact of the parallel vote was not clear.
Jubbaland is the third of the country's seven semi-autonomous regions to hold presidential elections before next year's national vote.
And while analysts say that President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo must exert greater control over Jubbaland and the other regions ahead of a next year's national vote, they also expect the federal government to grudgingly accept Thursday's result, despite earlier fears that the contest could spark violence.
"They will have to live with (Madobe)," said Hussein Sheikh-Ali, a former national security adviser and founder of the Mogadishu-based think tank Hiraal Institute.
Shabaab controls swathes of territory and towns in Jubbaland and analysts say it may exploit the spat over the election.
The militants, who want to overthrow the Somali government, have killed hundreds of civilians across East Africa and thousands of Somalis in a decade-long insurgency.
Somalia has been trying to claw its way out of the embers of the civil war that engulfed it in 1991, when clan warlords overthrew a dictator and then turned on each other.