Somalia marked 62 years since the creation of its army on Tuesday with the biggest military parade in years amid fear of violence over alleged attempts by the incumbent President to solidify his grip on power.
All major roads in the capital have been closed to traffic and military vehicles could be seen across the streets of the city of more than four million people, which still struggles to recover from decades of civil war and instability.
Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo attended the event which has not been held for the past three years, triggering concerns that troops could be used to delay an anticipated swearing-in of new MPs scheduled for April 14.
Speaking at a ceremony held at the Ministry of Defense, Farmajo said he had dedicated more efforts to helping build a strong and patriotic army that can stabilize the Horn of Africa nation, which now depends on tens of thousands of foreign forces for the fight against Islamist insurgents.
His rival – the Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble – was not present, in a sign of escalating row between Somalia’s most powerful leaders. Earlier, Deputy Minister of Information told media that the Premier had no concerns about the Army Day celebrations, but said he would not rule out possible attempts by Farmajo to take over power.
Although the international community continues to support Somali army by providing funds, military equipment and training to its personnel, it is still unable to fight militants on its own and shoulder responsibility for the security of the war-wrecked nation. Critics of the Somali President accuse him of dividing the army along clan lines and of using it for his personal objectives.
Last year, two rival factions of the army – one allied with the opposition and another supporting an extension of the President’s term – clashed in the capital, forcing thousands of residents from their homes, in what international partners voiced concern might distract troops from the fight against Al-Shabaab, which controls vast swathes of territory in south and central Somalia.
On Saturday , Deputy chief of the army Abas Amin Ali said the army day will not be marked to disguise alleged seizure of power and blamed individuals with personal political motives for spreading rumors aimed at tarnishing the reputation of SNA.