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Thirty of the forty-five lawmakers were part of the Presidential Election Parliamentary committee (PEPC) appointed by Parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan last month.
They were stopped after the head of the Airport Security and Immigration Department arrived at the airport minutes before takeoff and asked officials to cancel the flight, allegedly at the order of President Sheikh Sheriff Sheikh Hassan and the National Security Council (NSC).
According to Hon. Hared Hersi, one of the lawmakers at the airport who spoke to Somalia Report, they were harassed, and one of the MPs was beaten by the airport security.
“I couldn’t believe we were stopped. We were intimidated. My colleague, Mursal Abdi, was beaten and tortured by the airport security officials," said Hersi. "I strongly believe that the government doesn’t have any authority to stop lawmakers from traveling."
The MPs were picked up from the airport by the speaker, eight hours after they were prevented from leaving the country. The speaker was accompanied by a commander from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Ongoing Rift Between the President and Speaker
Last month Sheikh Sharif said, “A potential candidate cannot appoint an election committee that is supposed to monitor and regulate presidential elections.”
Although the president never mentioned the speaker’s name, Somali political analysts pointed their fingers toward the parliament speaker who handpicked members of the Election Committee, in what is seen as an attempt to facilitate his way to become the next president. Sheikh Sharif and the speaker openly disagreed over many issues, like the well-publicized rift of how the vote to confirm the newly elected prime minister will be conducted and when the next presidential elections will be held.
As the controversy over the elections continue, analyst say this public showdown between the president and the speaker may lead to a split within the government.
Rashid Abdi, an analyst with International Crisis Group and an expert on Somalia, says this latest incident may lead to the creation of two factions each fighting for legitimacy ahead of August deadline.
Mr. Abdi says he is not surprised that the dispute between the leaders is escalating because "there are no checks and balances since there are no independent institutions to arbitrate on such disputes."
Last Saturday, Somalia Report reported that the National Security Council (NSC) wanted to press charges against MPs after some lawmakers criticized the president and his government, claiming that he is secretly working with al-Shabaab.