Somali government has rubbished reports that the militant group Al-Shabaab last month assembled elders who participated in parliamentary elections noting ‘most’ of the people appearing in the pictures circulating only were not the legitimate elders under the government list.
The Ministry of Information in its first response to the matter which caused widespread public talk said the most of those in the supposed meeting were ‘fake’ in apparent admission that some of them could have been the genuine elders.
“The government makes it clear that most of the elders paraded by Al-Shabaab were not the official elders and were fake ones wearing Muslim kaffiye and were forced to speak,” the statement from the ministry read in part.
The statement further noted ‘the government condemns forceful coercion, harassment and violation of members of the public’.
Pictures emerged online late last month depicting what appears to be a meeting of elders.
According to unverified media reports, the elders were paid and directed to ensure the ‘Al-Shabaab sponsored candidates are elected to parliament’ in next year’s elections.
A team of 135 elders drawn from various clans in Somalia was selected and mandated in 2012 to select MPs to the then parliament.
The same elders, some who were replaced because of death participated in the selection of delegates in 2016 who went ahead to elect MPs.
A number of delegates who participated in the 2016 elections have been killed in targeted assassinations in various parts of the country.