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Tensions are Rising Sharply in Somalia

The country’s fragile political system wrestles with a bitterly contested election process, the withdrawal of some vital US military forces, and renewed concerns about an increasingly well-resourced militant Islamist insurgency. Diplomats and observers are warning that the country – three decades after it collapsed into anarchy – is once again at a crossroads, with recent progress on rebuilding a shattered state now at risk. “Somalia is at an important pivotal moment,” the UN Secretary General’s special representative James Swann told the BBC, warning that “posturing and brinkmanship” by the country’s national and regional leaders – as they argue over a delayed and watered-down parliamentary election process – could lead to violence. A group of powerful organisations and states – including the UN, the EU and the African Union’s peacekeeping mission – has issued a forceful statement urging Somalia’s political elites to seek dialogue. Somalia was due to hold its first “one-person-one-vote” election last year – a huge milestone for a long-fractured nation. But clan-dominated opposition parties are boycotting the process over concerns about rigging, a carefully-brokered deal is now in tatters, and the country’s President, Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmaajo”, is being blamed by some for seeking to impose his will on Somalia’s increasingly assertive regional leaders.