Somali PM resigns after feud with president

Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi resigned on Monday after a long feud with the president that frustrated Western backers and split the government while it faced an Islamist insurgency.

With no sure candidate to replace him, it remained unclear whether Gedi’s departure would unify the interim government or set it down a new path of disarray.

”Today [Monday], I want to state that I am going to resign, that I am leaving the government,” Gedi told Parliament in the south-central trading town of Baidoa.

His remarks brought applause from legislators who for weeks have been poised for a no-confidence vote in Gedi, pushed by President Abdullahi Yusuf.

”I wasn’t forced to resign, it comes from me. I am not going anywhere and I will be here with you as a legislator,” Gedi added.

His resignation came as shells struck the capital, Mogadishu, for a third day, in the worst fighting in weeks between Islamist rebels and allied Ethiopian-Somali government troops.

The Yusuf-Gedi rift had hindered progress by the government, the 14th attempt at installing central rule in Somalia since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre’s ouster sunk Somalia into anarchy in 1991.

After Gedi spoke, Yusuf welcomed his exit. ”With respect to the situation the country is undergoing, the humanitarian catastrophe facing us and the longstanding deadlock among us, I welcome the resignation,” he told Parliament.

Gedi’s Cabinet has been dissolved, and Yusuf asked Parliament to meet on Monday afternoon to appoint a temporary prime minister while a permanent replacement is found.

Accidental politician

A veterinary surgeon by trade, Gedi rose from obscurity three years ago to become prime minister at the end of Somalia’s peace talks in Kenya.

Although he and Yusuf have shared Addis Ababa’s support since they came to power in late 2004, the two have been at odds almost from the start. They began to work together earlier this year until the rift widened again when they backed separate parties interested in Somalia’s oil potential.

Yusuf’s allies say the president, with some Western support, decided in September that Gedi must go and set out to force him from office with a constitutional ploy that would have effectively been a no-confidence vote, if successful.

Gedi tried to garner support from his powerful Hawiye clan in Mogadishu. But he never got the unified backing he needed — especially since many Hawiye have complained he was not their choice to take the clan’s top position in government.

Yusuf hails from the rival Darod clan, and as such the prime minister had to be a Hawiye as part of a power-sharing agreement reached at talks in Kenya that gave birth to the government.

Distrust of Yusuf as a Darod and dissatisfaction with Gedi as prime minister have kept the Hawiye mostly against the government since its inception.

Those factors, diplomats and analysts say, made it difficult for the government to return to Hawiye-run Mogadishu until the Ethiopian military helped them over the New Year, only to be met by a Hawiye-backed Islamist insurgency.

That rebellion has challenged a government that has struggled to keep itself together in the best of times, while citizens of Mogadishu have fled the fighting by the thousands.

On Monday, students and teachers fled shelling that struck the Hodan and Hawlwadag areas, witnesses said.

Many diplomats and Somalis hope that if the Hawiye get their say on the prime minister this time, the insurgency may cool. — Reuters

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