Prime min­is­ter of So­ma­lia re­signs in lead­er­ship dis­pute

Los Angeles Times - - The World - Jef­frey Fleish­man re­port­ing from cairo Lutfi Sher­iff Mo­hammed re­port­ing from mo­gadishu, so­ma­lia jef­frey.fleish­man Mo­hammed is a spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent.

Fol­low­ing months of po­lit­i­cal bick­er­ing in a coun­try bat­tling a re­lent­less Is­lamic in­sur­gency, So­mali Prime Min­is­ter Omar Ab­di­rashid Ali Shar­marke re­signed Tues­day as fight­ing rat­tled across the sea­side cap­i­tal of Mo­gadishu and talks got un­der­way to form a new govern­ment.

Shar­marke’s de­ci­sion ended a dis­pute be­tween him and Pres­i­dent Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed over a draft con­sti­tu­tion for the nation, which is mired in civil war against Al Qaed­abacked mil­i­tants who con­trol all but a few blocks of the cap­i­tal. The prime min­is­ter’s de­par­ture is not ex­pected to sig­nif­i­cantly change the coun­try’s course, but it gives the Western­backed Ahmed a chance to as­sem­ble a new Cabi­net.

De­spite help from more than 6,000 African Union troops, the tran­si­tional So­mali govern­ment, with an army of un­der­paid and dis­cour­aged sol­diers, has been un­able to de­feat mil­i­tants of the Shabab move­ment. The in­sur­gents have killed scores of aid work­ers and car­ried out sui­cide bomb­ings and po­lit­i­cal as­sas­si­na­tions, such as an at­tack on a ho­tel in Au­gust that killed at least 31 peo­ple, in­clud­ing six law­mak­ers.

Shar­marke told re­porters Tues­day that he didn’t want his dif­fer­ences with the pres­i­dent to jeop­ar­dize se­cu­rity.

“Af­ter con­sid­er­ing the cur­rent in­se­cu­rity in the coun­try and the out­stand­ing po­lit­i­cal crises be­tween me and the pres­i­dent, I have de­cided to re­sign my po­si­tion as prime min­is­ter for the sake of my nation’s sur­vival,” he said. “It’s not a se­cret that me and the pres­i­dent do not see eye to eye. We had a bit of a po­lit­i­cal storm.”

Ahmed, who had been or­ches­trat­ing an at­tempt to oust the prime min­is­ter in a vote of no con­fi­dence in the

‘It’s not a se­cret that me and the pres­i­dent do not see eye to eye. We had a bit of a po­lit­i­cal storm.’ — Omar Ab­di­rashid

Ali Shar­marke, just-re­signed So­mali

prime min­is­ter

par­lia­ment, ac­cepted Shar­marke’s res­ig­na­tion, call­ing it a “coura­geous de­ci­sion.”

The an­i­mos­ity be­tween Shar­marke and Ahmed had been pre­oc­cu­py­ing the govern­ment for months. In May, Ahmed an­nounced that he had fired Shar­marke. Days later, af­ter ques­tions arose over the le­gal­ity of re­mov­ing the prime min­is­ter, Ahmed re­versed his de­ci­sion.

Shar­marke re­sumed his du­ties, but new ten­sions arose this month over dif­fer­ences in adopt­ing a new con­sti­tu­tion. Ahmed and Shar­marke, whose fa­ther, Ab­di­rashid Ali Shar­marke, was pres­i­dent when he was as­sas­si­nated in 1969, went for weeks with­out meet­ing or speak­ing over the phone.

There has been con­fu­sion over the job de­scrip­tions of the two. The pres­i­dent has the power to ap­point the govern­ment, in­clud­ing the prime min­is­ter, based on the ap­proval of the par­lia­ment.

“There was a strong dis­agree­ment be­tween both sides over a draft con­sti­tu­tion, and there may be other is­sues be­tween them,” Ma­had Mohamed Isti­ila, an of­fi­cial in the In­for­ma­tion Min­istry, said af­ter the res­ig­na­tion. “The pres­i­dent and the premier haven’t been work­ing to­gether for the past months.”

Mohamed Mustaf Ali, a So­mali po­lit­i­cal ex­pert, said Shar­marke may have stepped down to avoid be­com­ing a scape­goat for the coun­try’s de­te­ri­o­rat­ing sit­u­a­tion: “The govern­ment has a short time of maybe a year or less to stay in power. It’s clear that ev­ery of­fi­cial wants to es­cape blame over the nation’s se­cu­rity.”

The U.S., which pro­vides weapons and train­ing to the So­mali army, is concerned that So­ma­lia is be­com­ing an Al Qaeda strong­hold from which mil­i­tants could launch attacks across the Horn of Africa. In July, Shabab claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for twin bomb­ings that killed 76 peo­ple watch­ing the World Cup cham­pi­onship at a res­tau­rant and rugby club in Uganda. The at­tack, the mil­i­tant Is­lamic group said, was in re­tal­i­a­tion for Uganda send­ing sol­diers to the African Union force bol­ster­ing Ahmed’s troops.

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of So­ma­lis have fled their homes in re­cent years, and Mo­gadishu has tum­bled into a shift­ing war zone. The coun­try hasn’t had a sta­ble govern­ment since 1991.

Ya­suyoshi Chiba

AT ODDS: So­mali Pres­i­dent Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, left, had been or­ches­trat­ing an at­tempt to oust Prime Min­is­ter Omar Ab­di­rashid Ali Shar­marke in a vote of no con­fi­dence.

Mohamed Sheikh Nor

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