Somali President Yusuf resigns, appoints speaker

Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf resigned on Monday, ending a deadlock at the top of the interim government and paving the way for a new administration in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.

Yusuf told Parliament that speaker Sheikh Aden Madobe would take over and blamed the international community for failing to support the government. Yusuf flew home to Puntland, Somalia’s semi-autonomous northern region.

A surge in sea piracy in the busy Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean off Somalia has seen about 110 ships reported to have been attacked and 42 hijacked this year. Fourteen of the hijacked vessels are still being held hostage by the pirates, along with 240 crew, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

“As I promised when you elected me on October 14, 2004, I would stand down if I failed to fulfil my duty, I have decided to return the responsibility you gave me,” Yusuf said.

The president of Somalia’s fractured, Western-backed government had become increasingly unpopular at home and abroad and was blamed by Washington, Europe and African neighbours for stalling a United Nations-hosted peace process.

Diplomats welcomed Yusuf’s decision, saying that with his departure, a planned withdrawal of Ethiopian troops and growing opposition to hardline al Shabaab Islamists there was now real hope for political progress in Somalia.

A two-year Islamist insurgency controls most of southern and central Somalia outside the capital Mogadishu and Baidoa, the seat of parliament, but it is a fractious group.

Al Shabaab, which is on Washington’s list of terrorist foreign groups, has been imposing a strict version of Islamic law in towns it controls, but has faced fierce opposition from moderate Islamists in the past week.

The moderate Sunni Islamist group Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca has pledged to oust al Shabaab from Somalia, accusing them of killing religious leaders and desecrating graves, acts they say are against Islamic teachings.

Islamist clashes
There was fierce fighting between the two groups again on Monday after Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca seized two towns from al Shabaab in central Somalia over the weekend.

“There is a definite groundswell within Somalia against the al Shabaab and with Yusuf taking his militia and troops with him, and the Ethiopeans going, who are the al Shabaab left to fight? said a Western diplomat in the region.

“If the new Parliament is persuaded to be made inclusive and selection process stands up to scrutiny, then there is a real hope,” he said, adding that Yusuf should be given some credit for doing the “right thing”.

Yusuf had been at loggerheads with Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein for a while over the government’s composition and the two were also at odds over including moderate Islamists in the peace process.

Hussein wants to include them and marginalise what he sees as a small rump of hardliners.
Yusuf’s decision to sack Hussein this month was not recognised by regional nations and they imposed sanctions on the president for hindering the process.

Analysts said the Parliament speaker should remain in place until a new more-inclusive government has been formed, and then a new president should be elected. - Reuters

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