Somali President and PM Clash Over Spy Chief Suspension


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MOGADISHU, SOMALIA - Somalia's president and prime minister were in a standoff Monday over the prime minister's suspension of the country's top spy chief.

Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble announced Monday morning that he is suspending Fahad Yassin, the director of NISA, Somalia's National Intelligence and Security Agency.

Roble said he was acting because Yassin had failed to deliver a report on the killing of one of the agency's spies, Ikran Tahlil Farah, who disappeared in June and was declared dead by NISA this month.

A few hours later Monday, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo rejected the prime minister's action, saying he has no constitutional mandate to suspend the spy chief, and urged Yassin to continue in his role.

Security analyst Samira Ahmed of the Mogadishu-based Hiraal Institute said it would be helpful for an outside party to intervene to end the escalating political difference between the two highest offices.

If that does not happen, she said, there is a threat of division as the security forces will be obliged to choose between the conflicting orders. She said that would result in security threats to the country and the ongoing elections.

The mother of the slain officer, Qali Mohamud, welcomed the prime minister's move to fire the spy chief and appealed to the president to support it.

She urged the president not to obstruct justice for her daughter by blocking the prime minister's decision, and asked the head of state to put himself in her shoes, as a parent seeking justice for her child.

It's nothing new for a Somali president and prime minister to be at odds over the powers of their respective offices.

Muse Ahmed, a law expert at Somali National University, believes there is a need for a clear separation of powers in the Somali draft constitution.

He said the absence of the constitutional court has complicated the recurrent political difference between the Somali president and his prime minister. He added that the appointing powers of the two leaders in the constitution is not clear. Therefore, he said, there is a need for a new chapter in the draft constitution to make clear the powers of the two, especially during government transitional periods.

The leaders of the opposition have welcomed the move by the prime minister to suspend the director of intelligence, saying it was long overdue. The director himself has not responded to the prime minister.