[dehai-news] (Reuters): Somali president decides to resign - spokesman

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Wed Dec 24 2008 - 09:53:20 EST

Somali president decides to resign - spokesman

Wed 24 Dec 2008, 13:49 GMT

 (Recasts, adds AU, diplomat comment)

By Abdi Sheikh

MOGADISHU, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf has decided
to resign, his spokesman said on Wednesday, in a move the African Union said
would be positive for the peace process in the Horn of Africa nation.

Yusuf has been accused by donor countries and regional governments of being
an obstacle to U.N.-hosted peace talks.

His rift with Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein has pushed the
Western-backed interim government, struggling against Islamist insurgents,
to the brink of collapse.

"The president has already written his resignation letter and he is expected
to announce it on the coming Saturday," Hussein Mohamed Mohamud, a
presidential spokesman, told Reuters, declining to give a reason for the

The announcement came shortly after the resignation of a politician Yusuf
named prime minister last week, who said he did not want to be an obstacle
to peace in Somalia.

"The move is a dignified move on the part of the president. If his decision
is to resign, I would congratulate him," said Nicolas Bwakira, the African
Union Commission's Special Representative for Somalia.

"It is, overall, a good move. It will give the opportunity to all parties to
form a new leadership," Bwakira told Reuters. "It will resuscitate the peace

Yusuf sacked Hussein earlier this month and appointed Mohamed Mohamud Guled
instead, the man who quit on Wednesday.

Parliament and the international community backed Hussein, leaving the
already weak government with two prime ministers. A regional bloc
spearheading the peace process agreed on Sunday to sanctions on Yusuf and
others seen as hindering the talks.


"I think it's positive and I hope there is a mechanism for letting Yusuf go
with some sort of dignity," said a diplomat in the region, adding that his
departure should smooth the way for a new government and an extension of its

"It will help the process go forward and the timing is right because any new
unity government should look at the question of leadership ... I don't think
it's going to do any damage."

Diplomats said Yusuf's departure could also help take the sting out of plans
by Ethiopia to withdraw troops that have propped up the government for the
past two years.

The Ethiopians drove Somali Islamists out of the capital at the end of 2006
and have been battling the insurgents ever since. Islamists now control all
of the south and centre of the country expect Mogadishu and Baidoa, the seat
of parliament.

More then 10,000 civilians have been killed during the two-year insurgency,
a million people uprooted and a third of the population need emergency aid
in a humanitarian crisis that has been described as one of the worst in the

Hussein is open to bringing the Islamist opposition into the peace process
and says there is only a small group of hardliners who will never agree to
talks, and they can be marginalised.

But analysts say Yusuf, a former warlord, was not interested in forming a
broad-based coalition in government and undermined attempts by the prime
minister to reach out.

While Washington is very wary of Islamists gaining power, because it fears
Somalia will become a breeding ground for al Qaeda, some diplomats and
analysts say that may be only option for stability in a country torn by
violence for 17 years. (Additional reporting by Mohamed Ahmed in Baidoa and
David Clarke in Nairobi; Writing by David Clarke; Editing by Helen

C Reuters 2008. All Rights Reserved.


TIMELINE-Somalia's President and PM decide to resign

Wed 24 Dec 2008, 14:08 GMT

Dec 24 (Reuters) - Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf has decided to resign,
his spokesman said. The announcement followed the resignation of a
politician Yusuf named prime minister last week, who said he did not want to
be an obstacle to peace.

Here is a timeline of events since Islamists first seized the capital,

June 2006 - The Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC) seizes Mogadishu from
U.S.-backed warlords and takes control of parts of southern Somalia.

Dec. 28 - Islamists flee Mogadishu ahead of a joint Ethiopian and Somali
government force which captures the city.

Jan. 8, 2007 - Abdullahi Yusuf arrives in Mogadishu for the first time since
he became president in 2004.

Aug. 30 - Yusuf winds up a six-week-long peace conference, which has no
visible impact on growing insurgency. Islamists and some other opposition
figures boycott the talks.

March 26, 2008 - Islamist fighters seize Jowhar, the most significant of
several towns recently captured.

May 1 - U.S. air strike kills al Shabaab leader Aden Hashi Ayro.

Aug. 18 - Somalia formally signs a peace deal with some opposition figures,
but the pact is rejected by hardliners.

Aug. 22 - Al Shabaab insurgents seize Kismayu, a strategic southern port,
after fighting that killed 70 people.

Aug. 25 - U.N.'s Food Security Analysis Unit says more than 3.2 million
people need humanitarian aid.

Oct. 3 - Islamists, now controlling swathes of southern Somalia, warn
Western charities working there not to meddle in their affairs.

Nov. 12 - Rebels take port of Merka, 90 km (56 miles) southwest of
Mogadishu, after government-aligned militia leave.

Nov. 14 - Al Shabaab fighters move into Elasha town near Sinkadheer, where
Ethiopian troops are based. Sinkadheer is 15 km (9 miles) south-west of

-- President Yusuf admits Islamist insurgents control most of the country
and raised the prospect his government could completely collapse.

Nov. 15 - The Sirius Star, a Saudi supertanker, is hijacked by pirates 450
miles southeast of Mombasa. The tanker is carrying $100 million of oil.

Nov. 28 - Ethiopia says it will withdraw its troops from Somalia by the end
of this year, piling pressure on Somalia's feuding government.

Dec. 10 - Somalia's moderate Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed returns to
Mogadishu for the first time in two years. A local rights group says 16,210
civilians have been killed in fighting since then.

Dec. 11 - Ethiopian Prime Minister Zenawi says that AU peacekeepers have
asked Ethiopian troops planning to leave the country to help them quit
Mogadishu too.

Dec. 14 - President Yusuf sacks Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, saying
the government has failed to extend security to the nation. The next day
parliament votes to reinstate him.

Dec. 16 - Yusuf names former interior minister Mohamed Mohamud Guled as
prime minister, snubbing parliament.

Dec. 24 - Yusuf announces he will resign on Dec. 27, hours after newly
appointed Guled resigns.

C Reuters 2008. All Rights Reserved.


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