MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Two boys were shot dead in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Friday during a second day of protests against a deal to extend the mandates of the country’s president and parliament, residents said.
Hundreds of supporters of the prime minister, who must resign under the terms of the deal, marched through the city’s rubble-strewn streets chanting “long live Prime Minister (Mohamed Abdullahi) Mohamed”.
The two boys died when police loyal to the speaker of parliament shot at the demonstrators, starting a gunfight with soldiers loyal to President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and his government, witnesses said. About a dozen other demonstrators were wounded.
Clan loyalties divide almost all spheres of life in Somalia.
“We were just walking and chanting when police guarding the Hotel Muna opened fire on us,” Nadifa Ali told Reuters.
“Two young boys died on the spot and others were injured. Soon a military vehicle came and fired on the police guarding the hotel,” she said.
A Reuters photographer said the protesters then set the hotel ablaze.
Other rallies in support of Mohamed, a U.S.-educated former diplomat from the Somali diaspora, were also reported in central and southern Somalia.
In the Eastleigh suburb of neighbouring Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, about one hundred protesters paraded on the streets after Friday prayers, waving Somali flags and brandishing pictures of the president and speaker marked with a cross.
Authorities say the suburb, dubbed “Little Mogadishu”, is awash with guns. Residents say it is a money laundering centre.
The mandate for Somalia’s latest administration was meant to expire in August but President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, who covets the top job, had been at loggerheads over what should happen then.
The pair, Somalia’s two most powerful politicians, signed the deal on Thursday in Uganda, whose troops form the backbone of peacekeeping force AMISOM fighting Islamist militants in Mogadishu.
Officials at the negotiations said Hassan had demanded the prime minister’s resign as a condition for his own signature.
Although Mohamed has been embroiled in corruption allegations, many in Somalia consider him an honest politician, unencumbered by the clan rivalries that plague Somali politics.
The agreement, though, may ease the frustrations of foreign donors and regional powers alarmed at how the row had paralysed government activity. However, there will be pressure for tangible reforms that pave the way for elections next year.
“(The U.N. Secretary General) calls on the Somali parties to act resolutely to complete the outstanding transitional tasks, including the promotion of national reconciliation, constitution-making and ... rebuilding the security sector,” a spokesman for U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.