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UN tells Somalia to quit paying for votes

November 3, 2014

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Quit taking cash bribes for votes, the U.N.’s representative to Somalia told the country’s lawmakers. The country’s president responded quickly on Monday with a reply that can be summed up in two words: Butt out.

Allegations of vote-buying in Somalia’s federal government have been circulating for years. It is less common for the U.N. to publicly call out the vote buyers and buyees.

“I am concerned about allegations of some MPs being asked to exchange votes for cash in the context of a potential ‘No Confidence’ motion, which is a disservice to Somalia’s progress towards accountability and transparency,” said Nicholas Kay, the U.N.’s representative to Somalia. “Somalia and Somalis deserve better.”

The vote-buying accusation comes in the context of a potential no confidence vote against Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, a rival of the president. The two have been openly feuding after President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud last month rejected a Cabinet reshuffle by the prime minister.

Kay’s statement said he was concerned about the political tensions between the two leaders. Early Monday, the president released a long statement saying that while he appreciates the international community’s concerns, the U.N. should mind its own business.

“Somalia must be allowed to lead its own transformation,” the president said, adding later: “I call for respect of Somalia’s sovereign right, protected by and explained in our Provisional Federal Constitution, to determine its own future, a future that will be determined by the people of Somalia, our federal institutions, and our legislation.”

Kay said the U.N. remains committed to helping Somalia form a new constitution and hold an election by September 2016. But he said the current feud puts those goals at risk.

Kay repeated recent calls by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon — who visited Mogadishu last week — for political unity. In the streets of Mogadishu, the political in-fighting has caused unease among a population happy to see peace return to this seaside capital after decades of violence.

“It’s more of a step backward and a call for the return of war,” said Abdullahi Ali, a cafe owner in Mogadishu. “It’s really worrying.”


Straziuso reported from Nairobi, Kenya.

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