Somalia’s two most powerful leaders were locked in a standoff on Wednesday after they named different men to head the politically unstable Horn of Africa nation’s intelligence service.
The row between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble, nominally over a murder investigation, marks an escalation of months of tension between them in a country already riven by militant attacks and clan rivalries.
On Monday, Roble suspended Fahad Yasin, director of the National Intelligence Service Agency, saying he had failed to deliver a report on the case of an agent who disappeared in June.
Roble appointed another man, Bashir Mohamed Jama, as interim head of NISA.
The president called Roble’s move unconstitutional and on Tuesday named a third man, Yasin Abdullahi Mohamed, to head the agency.
The president’s appointee took over at a handover ceremony on Wednesday morning, NISA said in a tweet. Security around the agency’s headquarters was tight, local residents said.
Later on Wednesday Roble appointed as the new internal security minister Abullahi Mohamed Nur, according to a statement issued by his office. Nur is a former finance minister and currently a lawmaker who has been critical of the president.
The African Union, U.N. and foreign donor nations including Britain and the United States on Tuesday urged a de-escalation of the row and called on the president and prime minister to “avoid any actions that could lead to violence.”
Roble and Mohamed had clashed in April, when the president unilaterally extended his four-year term by two years, prompting army factions loyal to each man to seize rival positions in the capital Mogadishu.
The confrontation was resolved when the president put Roble in charge of security and organising delayed legislative and presidential elections. That process was supposed to be concluded next month but several days ago was pushed back again.
In his late Tuesday statement, the president also named Yasin, the man Roble had sacked, as his personal security advisor.
Also late on Tuesday, Roble accused Mohamed of “obstructing effective investigation of Ikran Tahlil Farah’s case,” referring to the agent who went missing while working in the intelligence agency’s cybersecurity department.
Her family have said publicly they believe she was murdered, and they hold the agency responsible. The agency has not responded to the family’s allegation.
On Wednesday the family filed a case in a military court asking it to issue an arrest warrant for four NISA officials, including its sacked boss Yasin, who they hold responsible for Farah’s disappearance, lawmaker Mahad Mohamed Salad told Reuters.