Somalia says elections set for early 2021 despite virus risk

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Monday June 1, 2020
By Mohamed Sheikh Nor

FILE – Somalia’s Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire addresses lawmakers during a parliament session in the capital Mogadishu, March 1, 2017.

Somalia will push ahead with plans to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in early 2021, removing doubt that it will delay the vote because of the spread of Covid-19.

“Holding a timely election is more important than anything else at this time and it’s one of the primary goals which the public entrusted us,” Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheyre said in a speech following a cabinet meeting.

The Horn-of-Africa nation has endured two decades of civil war, and is contending with the worst desert-locust plague in recent memory and an insurgency by al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group. The government is seeking debt relief as the coronavirus pandemic adds to its woes — it has almost 2,000 cases and a health system ill-equipped to deal with the outbreak.