Embattled Somali PM remains defiant

Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi on Thursday refused to resign despite a mass exodus of Cabinet ministers and mounting criticism over the deployment of Ethiopian troops to protect his feeble 18-month-old administration.


Government spokesperson Abdirahman Mohamed Nur Dinari said Gedi was instead working to replace the 36 ministers who have quit the 102-member Cabinet in the past week, calling for Gedi’s resignation, even after he escaped a vote of no-confidence over the weekend.


“The prime minister is not going to resign. Instead he is consulting with the MPs who support him and clan elders to replace the ministers who have quit,” Dinari told Agence France-Presse from the government’s temporary base in Baidoa, about 250km north-west of Mogadishu.


“There is no legal basis for the prime minister to resign,” he added.


Dinari spoke as Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Parliament speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden held private consultations after they disagreed with Gedi on whether to engage the Islamic militia in peace talks.


He said the fallout was caused by Yusuf and Aden insisting on sending delegates to the Arab League-mediated talks with the Islamists in Khartoum against Gedi’s call for a postponement of the second-round talks. A delegation of 15 was in Baidoa waiting for a plane that would take them to Sudan.


“The prime minister made it clear that the two were not respecting the principle of separation of powers and that it was his responsibility to choose delegates,” Dinari said.


Pro-Gedi politicians blamed Yusuf for the problem facing the government.


“It is awful to see the top Somali political organs masterminding the downfall of the democratically constituted government,” said Deputy Information Minister Salad Ali Jeeley, referring to the Presidency and Parliament.


“The president and the speaker are the ones who are spearheading the dismantling of the government,” Jeeley said, explaining that Yusuf met with the ministers before they resigned.


The Islamists, grouped under the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS), hold sway of much of southern Somalia, including the capital, which they seized after routing United States-backed warlords in clashes that claimed at least 360 lives.


On Wednesday, the SICS chief Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys invited ministers who had resigned to join his movement and lashed out at Gedi for allowing the deployment of Ethiopian troops that has split the country.


The SICS have said that they will not participate in the talks until the Ethiopian troops pull back, with some hard-line Islamists calling for a holy war against their northern neighbour.


The United Nations, the US and other Western countries have warned that any interference by Somalia’s neighbours might scupper efforts to achieve lasting peace in the country.


The Somali government, formed in Kenya in late 2004 after more than two years of peace talks, was seen as the best chance for the lawless nation to set up a functioning administration since the ousting of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.


A total of 14 internationally backed initiatives had earlier failed to produce a government, with analysts blaming unruly warlords who obtained arms and other forms of support from neighbouring countries despite a UN arms embargo.—AFP


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