The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African bloc, on Friday evening “strongly” condemned the violence in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, calling for an immediate de-escalation of tensions.
The Djibouti-based eight-member East African bloc further “condemned the growing hostility and extreme belligerence in political contests” in the country.
It also stressed that the continued impasse over the upcoming elections and the emerging pre-election violence increases the risks of instability and threatens to erode all the gains made in the peace and state building processes.
The regional bloc indicated the ongoing violence’s impact in the fight against terrorism in Somalia.
The statement came amid sporadic gunfire and rockets exploded on the streets of Mogadishu as security forces clashed with protesters pushing for delayed national elections.
The clashes came after the government said its forces foiled an attack on one of its military bases in Mogadishu.
The IGAD called upon all political leaders to immediately de-escalate tension and re-engage constructively, in the interest of the people of Somalia with a view to agree on the modalities of conducting inclusive, free, fair, transparent and credible federal elections without further delay.
It also reiterated that a Somali-owned and Somali-led dialogue is the best option out of the stalemate; and urged all the political leaders to seek consensus on all outstanding issues.
Somali Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Osman Dubbe said armed militia attacked security checkpoints at 1:00 a.m. Friday, sparking a heavy gunfight between the soldiers and the militia.
The opposition leaders who organized Friday’s protests, however, accused the government of attacking their positions ahead of the planned rally.
Earlier on Friday, the United Nations said it was concerned about armed clashes in Mogadishu and called for calm and restraint by all parties as security forces opened fire to break up anti-government protests in the city.
The UN urged both the government and opposition presidential candidates to open lines of communication to help reduce tensions in the country.
“The UN in Somalia notes that the clashes in Mogadishu underscore the urgent need for Federal Government and Federal Member State leaders to come together to reach political agreement on the implementation of the 17 September electoral model,” the UN said in a statement.