The growing rift between the top government officials not only worsens division and mistrust but also threatens the fragile state-building process in Somalia.
In Somalia, the two top officials of the state, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, commonly known as Farmajo, and the Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble who was appointed by him, are at loggerheads.
In the latest episode of the rift, Prime Minister Roble on Wednesday accused the President of "obstructing" a high-profile investigation into the fate of an intelligence agent whose disappearance sparked an outcry in a highly polarised unstable nation amid a fragile electoral process.
Ikran Tahlil was a 25-year-old intelligence officer working at Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA). She was abducted near her home in the capital Mogadishu last June.
The agency last week concluded she had been kidnapped and killed by Al Shabab militants.
The militant group promptly rejected the claim as Tahlil's family accused the agency of murdering her, a view fiercely supported by many Somalis who have taken to social media to denounce the agency and demand justice.
As the case sparked a public outcry, Prime Minister Roble fired the agency director Fahad Yasin, a close friend of President Farmajo, saying that the agency’s report was “not convincing and lacks sufficient evidence”.
The President expectedly came to the aid of his friend on Monday in a way that fueled the rift between the two leaders. He dismissed the sacking as “illegal and unconstitutional” and promoted the agency’s director Yasin to the position of national security adviser.
Roble said Farmajo's actions were harming the probe into Tahlil's disappearance "in the same way justice and rule of law agencies have been previously barred from exercising full investigation".
"That is a dangerous existential threat to the country's governance system," he said.
Fragile electoral process
Two men seemed to get along when Roble was appointed as a prime minister by President Farmajo last year. But the relations between the two leaders have turned quickly and increasingly hostile.
As the spat gets deeper, it also threatens to throw an already fragile electoral process into deeper peril.
Somalia grapples with its worst political crisis in years after Farmajo decided to extend his four-year mandate with another two years in April without holding elections.
The decision quickly sparked protests and deadly clashes broke out on the streets of Mogadishu between the different factions of the security forces with various political alliances.
The clashes have not only to worsen division and mistrust but also dangered the hard-fought wins gained with the state-building process following the decades of war between rival clans.
As fighting erupted in Mogadishu, Farmajo, the head of state asked Roble to organise the parliamentary polls, which are now scheduled to kick off between October 1 and November 25 following months of delays.
In Somalia, people don’t elect their president and representatives. The vote for the lower house follows a complex indirect clan-based model whereby elders from five major clans choose 101 lawmakers who in turn choose the president.
Voting for lawmakers by elders had been due to be completed this week. And the election of a speaker and swearing-in of members of parliament are expected next week.
However, there are concerns that the row might threaten the fragile process.
The United Nations, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the United States, the European Union and East African bloc IGAD, urge the country's leaders to end their dispute.
"We urge Somali leaders to de-escalate the political confrontation surrounding this investigation and, in particular, avoid any actions that could lead to violence," they said Tuesday in a statement released by the UN assistance mission in Somalia.
"We... call for a rapid resolution of this dispute, including a credible investigation of Ikran's disappearance and the completion of the electoral process without any further delay," they added.