[dehai-news] AP: Interim Somali PM cries foul after dismissal by president

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Mon Dec 15 2008 - 06:27:08 EST

Interim Somali PM cries foul after dismissal by president
By Agence France Presse (AFP)

Monday, December 15, 2008

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BAIDOA, Somalia: Somalia's president announced Sunday he was sacking the
cabinet but the premier rejected the move as unlawful and an attempt to
scupper ongoing peace efforts with the Islamist-led opposition. "As of now,
I have sacked the prime minister and his current government and I will
nominate a new prime minister within days," President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmad
told reporters. "The government of Nur Hassan Hussein was unable to perform
its duties and I am obliged to save the country."

But Hussein himself told AFP that the president did not have the power to
sack him.

"The president was speaking in his usual personal capacity, contrary to the
rules and regulations, as he is not mandated to sack the prime minister of
the transitional federal government [TFG]," Hussein said.

Speaking at a news conference in Baidoa moments later, Hussein accused Yusuf
of seeking to scuttle a months-old UN-sponsored reconciliation process with
the main political opposition group, the Islamist-dominated Alliance for the
Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS).

"The president abused the power of his office and undermined the legitimacy
of Parliament ... The president was attempting to sabotage peace efforts
between TFG and the ARS," the premier said.

Speaker Aden Mohammad Nur said that Hussein would address lawmakers on
Monday and Yusuf the next day.

"Parliament will deliberate on the issue and will decide on the way forward.
I don't want to speak further ... but everything will be dealt with
according to the terms of the federal transitional charter," he told AFP.

Yusuf expressed confidence that Parliament would validate his decision.
"Most of the parliamentarians will endorse my decision," he said. "Should
Parliament reject my desire to look for a new prime minister, I will comply
with their decision and the current government will continue its tenure."

According to the charter, the president needs Parliament's approval to sack
the premier.

Nur Hassan Hussein was sworn in in November 2007 but has been at loggerheads
with Yusuf in recent months, notably over ongoing efforts to strike a
reconciliation agreement with the Islamist-led opposition.

Hussein replaced Ali Mohammad Gedi who was forced to resign after months of
a bruising power struggle with Yusuf, a veteran warlord.

The transitional Parliament is based in the town of Baidoa.

In September 2008, Hussein survived a vote of no confidence after being
accused by some MPs of embezzling state funds.

Yusuf said the UN-sponsored Djibouti peace process, which aims at bringing
the country's more moderate Islamists back into the fold, would not be
harmed by Hussein's dismissal.

"The national reconciliation will continue as it is without the current
government," he said.

But many observers argue that Nur Hassan Hussein, whose performance is
generally seen as a major improvement on his predecessor's, was a crucial
partner in the reconciliation talks.

"My government will continue to operate as mandated by Parliament and the
transitional federal charter," the prime minister told AFP. "I'm urging the
Somali people and the wider international community not to panic and not to
assume that there is a power vacuum. My government will simply continue the
search for peace."

Hussein, 70, is a former army officer who studied in Mogadishu and trained
in Italy, specializing in criminal investigation and international law. He
is from Somalia's largest Hawiye clan, while Yusuf is from the rival Darod
clan, the country's second largest.

The transitional charter stipulates that the president, premier and speaker
of Parliament should come from three different clans.

On Saturday, witnesses said that Ethiopian troops had killed 11 Somalis
after being attacked by Islamist fighters on a road between Mogadishu and
the town of Afgoye,.

Ethiopian troops invaded the country at the end of 2006 at the behest of the
TFG in order to oust a de facto Islamist government. While the Islamists
were pushed out of power by early 2007 and their movement was splintered,
they launched an insurgency that has seen them retake the majority of the

The killings took place late Friday and local residents said those killed
were unarmed civilians shot dead by the Ethiopian troops in "retaliation"
for the insurgent ambush.

"The Ethiopian troops killed 11 civilians late Friday and their bodies were
collected this morning," said Mohamud Ibraim, a resident of the area where
the incident occurred. "The killing took place at a water collection point
in Kaba Hirig of Wanlaweyn district in the Lower Shabelle region."

Maryan Mohamud, a mother of four, told AFP that two of the killed were
family members.

"Gunmen attacked Ethiopian troops on the road from Mogadishu to Afgoye. They
attacked a truck with a roadside bomb and then opened fire," she said. "The
Ethiopians came to the area moments later with reinforcements and massacred
unarmed civilians. Ten were shot at point blank," she added.

"The killing was a clear retaliation by Ethiopian troops after they were
attacked by the [Islamist rebels]," said Abdullahi Hassan, a 68-year-old
resident of the area.

He charged that the 11 men were not in possession of firearms but were shot



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