Gov’t Troops deployed in Baladweyne amid fear of clashes

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Hundreds of Turkish-trained troops were airlifted to Baladweyne, a day after reports of the arrival of Hirshabelle President Ali Gudlawe triggered mass protests and takeover of parts of the central Somalia town by allied clan militias and a faction of the army.

The airlifting has come days after Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo held his first talks with the rebellious leader of regional clan militias against Hirshabelle president Ali Gudlawe, whose election in November 2020 inflamed tensions in the region.

Multiple attempts by Gudlawe to visit Baladweyne have failed abysmally after residents and clan militias threatened violence against his arrival. A military commander leading forces opposing his visit, said on Tuesday that they would fight to the last man to foil Gudlawe’s anticipated tour to the strategic town.

Planes carrying hundreds of Turkish-trained special forces landed at Ugas Khalif airport on the outskirts of the town. Troops deployed in a number of neighborhoods in what authorities said were part of efforts to tighten security ahead of upcoming parliamentary polls scheduled to be held in Baladweyne.

Critics of Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo said the fresh deployment is aimed at election-rigging and manipulation. Local media reported that General Abukar Hut, the leader of rebellious forces against Hirshabelle authorities who has been in talks with the government, warned that current tensions could turn into a full-blown war if Villa Somalia betrays him.

“The airlift of paramilitary forces into Beledweyne in this critical time is a clear violation of all election agreements, a provocation to the people of Beledweyne to pick arms, and a slap in the face to Mohamed Hussein Roble,” Former Hirshabelle President Ali Gudlawe tweeted. “PM needs to take action. There must be consequences.”

Other members of Somalia’s political stakeholders have raised concerns about tensions fraying in Baladweyne and the use of armed forces for political motives, weeks after country’s leaders agreed to bring an end to armed forces’ meddling in polls.

“The use of security forces for political objectives, escalating conflicts, mismanaging elections, the cynicism, and the disappointments that followed exhausted people,” former Prime Minister Omar Abirashid.

“After 4 years or so it feels like a Sisyphean task, never meant to produce any tangible results for this country,” he added.

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