Somalia's president suspends prime minister as elections spat deepens

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Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has announced the suspension of Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, a day after the two men sparred over long-delayed elections in the Horn of Africa nation.

An announcement from the presidential press office on Monday stated that the decision to suspend the prime minister and relieve him of his powers had been taken because of his links to corruption. Prime Minister Roble is accused in the same statement of interfering with an investigation into a land grabbing case.

Relations between the president, better known as Farmajo, and Roble have long been frosty, with the latest development raising fresh fears for Somalia's stability as it struggles to hold elections.

On Sunday, Roble accused the president of sabotaging the electoral process, after Farmajo withdrew the prime minister's mandate to organise the elections.

Roble, who has not responded to Monday's suspension announcement, said Farmajo did not want to hold "a credible election in this country".

Farmajo in turn has accused Roble of trying to influence a probe into a scandal involving army-owned land after the premier sacked the defence minister and replaced him on Sunday.

"The prime minister has pressurised the minister of defence to divert the investigations of the case relating to the grabbed public land," Monday's statement said.

US worried by long series of delays

In April, pro-government and opposition fighters opened fire in the streets of the capital, Mogadishu, after Farmajo extended his term without holding fresh elections.

The constitutional crisis was defused when Farmajo reversed the extension and Roble brokered a timetable to a vote.

But in the months that followed, a bitter rivalry between the men derailed the election again, alarming international observers.

Farmajo and Roble agreed to bury the hatchet in October, and issued a unified call for the glacial election process to accelerate.

Somalia has not held a one-man one-vote election in 50 years and its polls follow a complex indirect model.

Elections for the upper house have concluded in all states and voting for the lower house began in early November.

The appointment of a president still appears to be a long way off, straining ties with Western allies who want to see the process reach a peaceful conclusion.

On Sunday, the United States said it was "deeply concerned by the continuing delays and by the procedural irregularities that have undermined the credibility of the process".

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