Somalia president says will stand for re-election

MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed said he intends to run for re-election but now was not the time to go to the polls as the government had yet to defeat insurgents associated with al Qaeda.

Ahmed’s Transitional Federal Government is viewed by the international community as the best hope of restoring order in the Horn of Africa country after two decades of armed conflict.

The United Nations special envoy for Somalia has called for elections to be held to bring an end to the transitional phase, but it is unclear how such a vote could take place in the war-torn country.

“Who said the president doesn’t want an election? I am ready for an election and I will stand for it but it is not the ideal time for elections,” Ahmed told reporters late on Wednesday ahead of a meeting with lawmakers and ministers.

“We need to focus our attention on security and the defeat of al Shabaab … so that we can do elections.”

Often classed among the world’s failed states, Somalia has lacked effective central government since the 1991 overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. Somalia is embroiled in war with Islamist al Shabaab rebels who want to topple its Western-backed government, and is rife with piracy off its lawless coast.

In March the transitional cabinet extended its term by a further year saying it wanted to ensure continuity in its fight against insurgents, joining the country’s parliament in lengthening its mandate.

The Somali parliament and the cabinet have been at loggerheads over the extension of transitional government.

“I think it is time to solve the political differences among our constitutional institutions to survive and set a comprehensive strategy (going) forward. Otherwise there will be total collapse,” Ahmed added.

Heavy fighting between government troops and al Shabaab insurgents in the past two days near the Kenyan border has killed at least 30, officials said.

Government forces and rebels fought on Wednesday and Thursday in the village of Busaar in the Gedo region of southwest Somalia.

“Al Shabaab attacked our bases early in the morning and seized two of our battlewagons (pickup trucks mounted with machine guns). We launched heavy fighting and seized three of their battlewagons and killed many of them,” legislator Mohamud Said Adan told Reuters by phone from the battlefield.

Government soldiers in Busaar said that 11 soldiers and mor than 20 al Shabaab fighters were killed in the fighting.

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