Somali president reopens election talks in bid to ease tensions

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed wearing a suit and tie sitting in a chair: In a brief speech before parliament Somalia's president abandoned a policy extending his term in office by two years © - In a brief speech before parliament Somalia's president abandoned a policy extending his term in office by two years

Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on Saturday relaunched talks over the holding of fresh elections, in a move welcomed by the opposition following the country's worst political crisis in years. 

In a brief speech before parliament that was broadcast live, Farmajo, as the president is nicknamed, effectively abandoned a policy voted through last month that would have extended his term in office by two years.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: The measure was voted through unanimously by the 140 members of parliament present © - The measure was voted through unanimously by the 140 members of parliament present

He asked his prime minister to take charge of organising fresh elections -- a key demand of the opposition.

"We have decided to seek a solution through negotiations and to avoid starting violence in the benefit of those who trade on the blood of the public," he said. 

Deadly clashes broke out this week between armed rivals in the capital Mogadishu over Farmajo's failure to hold elections before his term ended in February, due to the collapse of a deal between him and state leaders over the terms of the vote. 

a group of people standing in front of a building: Rival military factions clashed in Mogadishu this week © - Rival military factions clashed in Mogadishu this week

The city has been on a knife's edge since the political crisis erupted into gunfire last Sunday between rival factions of the security forces backing Farmajo and the opposition, leaving three people dead. 

a pile of luggage sitting on top of a wooden house: Mogadishu residents have started to flee from their homes after military forces, who are against Somalia's president’s term extension, took over new positions along Maka al Mukarrama, a key road that is often used by the government officials.  Residents say they fear armed clashes will renew in the city. © STRINGER Mogadishu residents have started to flee from their homes after military forces, who are against Somalia's president’s term extension, took over new positions along Maka al Mukarrama, a key road that is often used by the government officials. Residents say they fear armed clashes will renew in the city.

The international community has repeatedly called for elections to go ahead, threatening sanctions against the nation of 15 million, which is divided into five semi-autonomous states.

In his speech Farmajo returned to the agreement reached with states in September to hold indirect elections, whereby special delegates chosen by Somalia's clan elders would pick lawmakers who in turn choose the president. 

"I want to make clear that Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble will lead in preparing and implementing the election and the security of the election," he said.

"I ask the government to get ready for the huge task."

The measure was voted through unanimously by the 140 members of parliament present. 

Roble told an evening press briefing: "Today is a historic day with particular importance for the Somalia peace process, democracy and governance.

Somali president reopens election talks in bid to ease tensions