Monday, October 29, 2007

Somali Update: US-backed Puppet Regime Splits Over Factional Power Struggles

Somali premier resigns amid power struggle

Nation thrown into further disarray as it struggles with Islamic insurgency

Former Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi clashed with the president over the balance of powers.

Updated: 7:16 p.m. ET Oct 29, 2007

MOGADISHU, Somalia - A long-brewing power struggle between the Somali prime minister and its president ended Monday with the premier’s resignation, throwing the government into further disarray as it struggles with an Islamic insurgency.

Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi and President Abdullahi Yusuf have been at loggerheads for months in the Horn of Africa nation. Meanwhile, the government has drifted as Islamic insurgents attack against government troops and allied Ethiopian forces in the capital, Mogadishu.

“Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi has tendered his resignation,” said Salad Ali Geele, deputy defense minister and a close friend of the prime minister. Yusuf later accepted the resignation.

Gedi and Yusuf clashed over the balance of powers between the presidency and the premiership. Yusuf signed several oil-exploration deals with Chinese companies, angering Gedi, who believed that usurped his constitutional role. Gedi believed the presidency was a figurehead position, while Yusuf said that he was the head of state.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said it believed Gedi’s resignation “was made in the spirit of continued dialogue and national reconciliation among all Somali stakeholders.”

Both men jockeyed for position with Ethiopia, a regional power broker and prime backer of the weak government, and they come from rival clans. That brought Somalia’s long clan struggles and suspicions into the heart of the federal government.

Gedi’s departure means the government will be able to refocus its efforts on installing security in Somalia. But if members of Gedi’s Abgal clan — among the country’s largest — refuse to support the government, it could be further weakened. Many believe another prime minister from the clan will be named following Gedi’s resignation, which had been expected.

Protesters block roads, burn tires

In Mogadishu, hundreds of demonstrators marched through the streets in a second day of protests against the presence of the Ethiopian troops in the country.

Protesters, mainly women, children and young men, were burning tires, blocking roads with stones and logs, and shouting anti-Ethiopian slogans in parts of south and north of the conflict-wracked city, witnesses said.

Sporadic gunfire was heard in the city, and several shells could be seen flying through the air. It was unclear where they landed, or who fired them. At least one person was reported dead.

Pirate attacks up 14 percent worldwide

The body of a woman, who sells gas on a street in the south of the capital, was torn into pieces when a shell slammed into her, said resident Osman Ali, who had helped collect the pieces.

Dahir Dhere of Medina hospital said six civilians with gunshot wounds were brought to his facility.

Mogadishu has been plagued by violence since government troops and their Ethiopian allies chased out the Council of Islamic Courts in December. For six months, the Islamic group had controlled much of southern Somalia, and remnants have vowed to fight an Iraq-style insurgency.

Thousands of civilians have been killed in the fighting this year.

U.N. describes nation wracked by violence

Some 1.5 million Somalis are now in need of food aid and protection — 50 percent more that at the start of the year — because of inadequate rains, continuing internal displacement and a potential cholera epidemic, the United Nations said.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, when rival warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other.

The lawlessness has extended off Somalia’s coast, where pirates have attacked more than two dozen vessels this year, including a Japanese chemical tanker and its 23 crew seized late Sunday in the Gulf of Eden, a global maritime watchdog said Monday.

This was the second hijacking since Oct. 17 after pirates opened fire and seized a general cargo ship flying under a Comoros Island flag and operated by a Dubai-based company, said Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur.

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