From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sun Dec 14 2008 - 16:54:57 EST
Somali president fires premier; new chaos ensues
By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN, Associated Press Writer Mohamed Olad Hassan,
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Somalia's president fired his prime minister Sunday and
accused him of paralyzing the government with "corruption, inefficiency and
treason." Hours later, as the government veered toward collapse, Islamic
insurgents held a brazen news conference in the capital and vowed never to
negotiate with the leadership.
President Abdullahi Yusuf announced his decision in Baidoa, one of the few
towns the government still controls. Islamic militants accused of ties to
al-Qaida have taken over most of the country.
"The government has been paralyzed by corruption, inefficiency and treason,"
Yusuf said. He will name a new prime minister in three days, he said.
The prime minister, Nur Hassan Hussein, promised to challenge his dismissal,
saying the president lacked the authority to fire him. The president said
Somalia itself lacked a legal government because too many ministers have
"The president was speaking in his usual personal capacity, which is always
contrary to the country's existing rules and regulations," Hussein told The
Later in the day, Sheik Muktar Robow, a spokesman for the al-Shabab
insurgent group, held a news conference in the capital, Mogadishu, in open
disregard for the government.
"We will never talk to the government and will never accept any political
power sharing. Our aim is only to see Islamic law running this country,"
Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991, when warlords
overthrew a dictatorship and then turned on one another.
Somalia is at a dangerous crossroads. Ethiopia, which has been protecting
the Somali government, recently announced it would withdraw its troops by
the end of this month. That will leave the government vulnerable to Islamic
insurgents, who began a brutal insurgency in 2007. They have captured most
of southern Somalia and move freely inside the capital, Mogadishu.
In the past they have brought a semblance of security to the country, but
have done it by carrying out public executions and floggings. On Saturday,
fighters loyal to the most powerful arm of the Islamist movement - al-Shabab
- publicly executed by firing squad two men accused of killing their
Civilians have borne the brunt of the violence surrounding the insurgency,
with thousands killed or maimed by mortar shells, machine-gun crossfire and
grenades. The United Nations says there are 300,000 acutely malnourished
children in Somalia, but attacks and kidnappings of aid workers have shut
down many humanitarian projects.
The lawlessness has allowed piracy to flourish off the coast, with bandits
taking in about $30 million in ransoms this year alone.
The United States worries Somalia could be a terrorist breeding ground, and
accuses al-Shabab - "The Youth" - of harboring the al-Qaida-linked
terrorists who blew up the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
Britain shares that fear.
Somalia is a basket case," Defense Secretary John Hutton said Sunday at a
security conference in Bahrain. "It is a classic area where you have got
ungoverned space, no effective state apparatus and criminality and potential
But he said it was too early to say whether foreign troops should be
In the past, international forces have not fared well in Somalia. A U.N.
peacekeeping force met disaster in 1993, when militiamen shot down two U.S.
Army Black Hawk helicopters and battled U.S. troops, killing 18.
The troops from Ethiopia - the region's military powerhouse - have come
under regular attack since arriving two years ago. They have been largely
confined to urban bases, as have the 2,600 African Union peacekeepers so far
sent for a mission that was approved at 8,000 members.
Associated Press Writer David Stringer in London contributed to this report.
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