Monday, May 17, 2010

Somali Fighting Kills 24, PM Says Government Stays

Somali fighting kills 24, PM says government stays

16 May 2010 19:10:59 GMT
Source: Reuters

At least 24 killed in heavy artillery exchanges
Speaker calls for new government to be formed
PM says no change to government

By Mohamed Ahmed

MOGADISHU, May 16 (Reuters) - Heavy shelling pounded Somalia's capital on Sunday, killing at least 24 people and wounding dozens, as parliament's first sitting this year triggered a call by the speaker for a new government.

Speaker Sheikh Aden Madobe told reporters he had asked the country's president to form a new government after a parliamentary vote of no confidence.

However, Somalia's Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke said his Western-backed government would continue its work.

"My government serves the Somali people and will continue in its dedicated efforts to unify and pacify Somalia," Sharmarke told reporters.

Parliament met on Sunday for the first time since December as al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab fighters fired mortars at the parliament building. African Union peacekeepers returned fire.

Parliamentary business has been paralysed this year, with many legislators living in Kenya, Europe and America because of security fears in the war-riven country. The chamber has also been split by a bitter feud over the duration of Madobe's term in office and his competence.

"280 voted against the government, 30 in favour and eight remained silent. Therefore we will request President Sheikh Sharif to form a government urgently," Madobe told Reuters by telephone.

A member of the parliament secretariat who did not want to be identified confirmed the vote's outcome.

But other lawmakers denied that a vote of confidence in the government had taken place and said legislators had in fact voted to sack the speaker in chaotic scenes.

"I ask anyone who wants to be the next speaker to bring their CV (curriculum vitae) and application," said Haji Shugri, the chamber's most senior lawmaker.

Analysts were swift to question Madobe's call for a new government, arguing that it was likely a ploy to cling onto his position, one of the most powerful in Somali politics and some warned the political infighting looked set to intensify.


"(The) current infighting within the government will get more vicious, the tug of war in parliament and within the executive will get more vicious, so we are now entering choppy waters," Rashid Abdi, a Nairobi-based analyst of the International crisis Group, said.

A rights group put the death toll from the fighting at 24 people but said the number was likely to rise.

"The death toll has now hit 24 and it may rise as the terrible shelling still continues. Mogadishu's hospitals are full of wounded people. So far we have counted at least 58 injured people," Ali Yahin Gedi, vice chairman of the Elman rights group said.

He said hundreds of families were fleeing with the belongings they could carry from at least five of the capital's districts.

Analysts say President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed has failed to deliver on the hope he would be able to unite some of the country's warring factions and establish a greater degree of central power following his election in January 2009.

Somalia has been mired in violence and lacked effective central government since the overthrow of a dictator in 1991. Islamist fighters have waged a three year insurgency that has killed more than 21,000 people. (Additional reporting by Abdiaziz Hassan; writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

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