[dehai-news] (Reuters): Somalia's fractured government slides into chaos

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue Dec 16 2008 - 09:29:15 EST

Somalia's fractured government slides into chaos

Tue 16 Dec 2008, 10:59 GMT

 (Adds details, Kenyan, analyst comment)

By Mohamed Ahmed

BAIDOA, Somalia, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf named a
new prime minister on Tuesday, snubbing a vote by parliament to reinstate
sacked premier Nur Hassan Hussein and further deepening rifts in the
fractured government.

The split at the top of the Western-backed government is blamed for stalling
a U.N.-hosted peace process and threatens to tear the weak administration
apart at a time Islamist insurgents are camped on the outskirts of the
capital Mogadishu.

Chronic instability in Somalia has uprooted about 1 million people, a third
of the population rely on emergency food aid and the chaos has helped fuel
kidnappings and piracy off the coast.

Analysts said the political standoff was only likely to deteriorate as there
was a risk the feuding political camps could revive militias and take their
battle back to the streets.

Yusuf said he was naming former interior minister Mohamed Mohamud Guled as
prime minister because parliament had made the wrong decision on Monday by
backing the man he sacked on Sunday.

Hussein ignored the move and held a meeting of his new cabinet in a hotel in
Baidoa -- entrenching the split in the government by apparently running a
parallel administration.

"What President Yusuf did today was ridiculous and astonishing. Nur Hassan
is already the prime minister and the appointment of another prime minister
is null and void," said lawmaker Ibrahim Yarrow Isak, who attended the
cabinet meeting.


The African Union and the European Union have urged the feuding government
leaders to end their squabbles and focus on finding peace in the Horn of
Africa nation.

Kenya, which hosted talks to form the transitional government, said on
Tuesday it did not recognise the new prime minister and accused Yusuf of
exacerbating Somalia's problems.

"If Somali leaders continue to jeopardise the peace process Kenya will
impose sanctions," Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetang'ula told a
news conference.

He said Kenya and the Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD),
the regional body spearheading the peace process, were gathering data on
when to impose sanctions such as cancelling visas, freezing assets and
restricting travel.

Analysts said the African Union needed to take a stronger stance as IGAD did
not have clear mechanisms to force the government to get its act together,
and sanctions were unlikely to work.

"The AU should come in heavily on the Somalia leadership and IGAD," Patrick
Mutahi, an analyst at the Africa Policy Institute, told Reuters.

"Things are going to get worse, there will be more chaos because each side
has their own militia which can be reconstituted and lead to more chaos," he

The government is propped up by Ethiopian troops and 3,200 African Union
peacekeepers protecting strategic sites, but it only controls Mogadishu and
the seat of parliament, Baidoa.

The African Union has failed to boost its force to an expected 8,000 troops
and Ethiopia plans to pull its soldiers out by the end of the year, fuelling
fears of a power vacuum which could allow the Islamists to seize the Somali

Hussein's falling out with Yusuf began when he fired Mogadishu's mayor, a
key ally of the president. The two also differ on the direction of
U.N.-hosted talks that aim to get the government to share power with the
moderate Islamist opposition. (Additional reporting by Abdi Sheikh and
Ibrahim Mohamed in Mogadishu; Wangui Kanina and Humphrey Malalo in Nairobi,
Writing by David Clarke; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

C Reuters 2008. All Rights Reserved.


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