Somali President fires PM and entire cabinet

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Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf sacked Prime Minister Hassan Hussein Sunday, after they disagreed for several months on the composition of a power-sharing government.

The Somali President, who has previously rejected a list of cabinet ministers, mainly comprising a group of moderate Islamists that the Prime Minister had proposed for cabinet appointments, dismissed him together with his entire team of ministers.

The cabinet has been hit by a series of high-profile resignations.

The Prime Minister, who initiated talks that led to a power-sharing accord in neighbouring Djibouti, had expected to bring on board members of the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS).

However, his sacking now leaves the efforts to stabilize the country through a political agreement in the balance.

President Yusuf was quoted Sunday as saying the Prime Minister had failed to constitute a cabinet as had been ordered by the President.

United Nations diplomats had expressed hope Somalia was heading towards the right direction following the return of senior opposition figure and the ARS leader, Shariff Sheikh Aden Nur, after a two-year absence from the country.

But insurgents immediately stepped up attacks with a rebel commander based in Asmara reportedly saying the operation against the troops loyal to President Yusuf would continue.

Ethiopia not to pay the price

The feuding among the Somali leaders ignited Ethiopia’s campaign to withdraw its troops from Somalia, with the Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin insisting that his country was not prepared to “pay the price of peace for Somalia indefinitely”.

African Union Commission President Jean Ping said on Friday the risk of the African Union troops in Somalia pulling out were high, but he said efforts to strengthen the force through deployment of other African peacekeepers were also on-going.

On Thursday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said his troops in Somalia were preparing to evacuate the Ugandan and the Burundian troops on the ground before quitting this year.

Ping said the Ugandan troops in Somalia could withdraw unless an immediate political settlement is reached with the Islamist insurgents and the AU peacekeeping mission there gets substantial funding.

Africa’s top diplomat, who remained optimistic that urgent solution to the key demands by the Ugandan peacekeepers would arrive soon, termed their intended withdrawal “a catastrophic scenario” and the worst-case scenario that could befall Somalia.

“We are hopeful something will be done,” Ping said of his latest diplomatic efforts to save Somalia from a complete disaster should the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) fail to carry on its duties following the Ethiopian troops withdrawal.

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