05/08/08 (B459-B) VOA : L’éviction du Maire de Mogadiscio contribue à plonger le pays dans une crise politique majeure, tandis que les dissensions entre le Président du GNT et son Premier Ministre s’accentuent / Sacking of Mogadishu Mayor Plunges Somalia Into Political Crisis

By Peter Clottey

A move by Somalia’s Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein to replace some cabinet ministers who reportedly resigned in protest after the controversial yet powerful mayor of Mogadishu was sacked is generating intense debate. Hussein reportedly said the resignations would not affect government’s work, adding that the transitional government was working well despite the resignations, which he claims were designed to create instability in the country and to undermine a recently signed Djibouti peace process between the government and an Eritrea-based opposition faction.

Some political analysts say the controversy surrounding the sacking of Mogadishu mayor Mohamed Dheere is reportedly generating tension between Somali President Abdullahi Yussuf and Prime Minister Hussein, which could destabilize the transitional government. Somali journalist Haroun Maruf tells reporter Peter Clottey that the dismissal of the Mogadishu mayor has plunged the country into a political crisis.

« He (Prime Minister Nur Hassein) has replaced three ministers who resigned Saturday. Two of them spoke to the media and expressed their disappointment with the prime minister’s dismissal of the mayor of Mogadishu. He also appointed three other ministers for positions that were vacant. The prime minister is saying that he did not seek an official resignation from seven other ministries who were said to have resigned so, he is not ready to replace them for the time being, » Maruf pointed out.

He said the sacking of the Mogadishu mayor contributed significantly to the political crisis.

« The bottom line of this political crisis was the dismissal of the mayor of Mogadishu, who is a key ally of the president. Well, there are a number of key allies in the government in the military, in the police and in the security services that are close to the president. And it is sad to say the president perhaps felt that the prime minister would be going after these individuals, so he is trying to show that he does not want his loyal supporters within the transitional federal government, the police and the security to be released from their positions because they have fought with him. They have been very trusted allies of him for so long, » he said.

Maruf said the president has the final say on who gets fired from the transitional government.

« Of course the prime minister’s responsibility is to propose who he wants to be in his government, and who he wants to dismiss. But ultimately, the president would have to sign, and as long as the president does not approve the prime minister’s whishes, the game stays in favor of the president, » Maruf noted.

He said tension between the president and the prime keeps escalating.

« Well, we have tension now, political tension between the president and the prime minister. There is also a very strong movement lobbying in parliament some parliamentarians who are allied with the prime minister are talking of motion of impeachment of the president. Some other parliamentarians are campaigning for a vote of no confidence for the prime minister’s government in the parliament. So the tension is rising, » he said.

Maruf said neighboring Ethiopia can help resolve the ongoing political crisis in Somalia.

« The tension can be solved, I believe, if the president and the prime minister agree on the main point, which is the dismissal of the mayor of Mogadishu. And many observers are expecting Ethiopia, a key ally of the government both the prime minister and the president, to intervene and solve this crisis, » Maruf pointed out.

30/05/08 (B449-B) VOA Les divisions au sein de l’opposition somalienne basée en Erythrée se sont transformées en un conflit ouvert. On ne sait pas encore comment chaque faction va participer aux discussions de paix qui devraient reprendre à Djibouti. / Divisions within Somalia’s Eritrea-based opposition group have turned into an open conflict amid reports the faction headed by hard-line Islamist leader Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys is seeking to remove moderate Islamist Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed as chairman. (En Anglais – Info lecteur)

Aweys supporters say the move is in response to Ahmed’s acceptance of U.N. efforts to initiate peace talks with Somalia’s Ethiopia-backed interim government. VOA correspondent Alisha Ryu has the story from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi.

The deputy chairman of the Islamist-led opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia, also known as ARS, tells VOA that he and many others in the group are supporting Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys’ call to replace the current chairman.

Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh (r) receives head of former Somali Islamic Courts, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, in Yemeni capital, Sanaa, 29 May 2008

The deputy, Jama’a Mohamed Khalib, says Chairman Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed crossed the line when he sent a delegation to Djibouti earlier this month to participate in the U.N.-mediated peace talks, even though Ethiopia, which many Somalis view as an occupying power, has not withdrawn its troops from Somalia.

The pullout of Ethiopian troops had long been a key ARS condition for the start of any talks with Somalia’s secular transitional federal government, which took power from the Islamists in late 2006 after a U.S.-supported Ethiopian military intervention.

Khalib says Ahmed had no right to begin negotiating openly without first forcing the Ethiopians to leave Somalia. Khalib says the opposition general assembly – made up of Islamists, former parliament members and members of the Somali diaspora – will vote on June 15 to remove Ahmed from his post.

Meanwhile, Ahmed and the leader of the ARS general assembly, Sharif Hassan Sheik Adan, are in Yemen, reportedly receiving advice from senior Yemeni officials about how best to proceed toward direct negotiations with the Somali government.

Ahmed declined to speak to VOA about the growing rift within ARS, but earlier this week, Ahmed accused Eritrea of meddling in the group’s affairs.

The two top Islamists in ARS, Ahmed and Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, had an uneasy alliance in the Islamic Courts Union before the movement was ousted after six months in power. The men fled to Eritrea, where they established the opposition group last September. From Asmara, the ARS has led a bloody 16-month, anti-Ethiopian, anti-government insurgency that has killed thousands of people and has displaced more than one million others.

African-analyst Richard Cornwell at South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies says he believes it is likely Eritrea is backing Aweys because Asmara, too, opposes any moves to reach a deal with a government backed by Eritrea’s bitter rival in the Horn, Ethiopia.

« Eritrea has absolutely no interest in there being a reconciliation between the ARS and the TFG [transitional federal government]. None. The longer it can keep Somalia boiling, the more they like it, » said Cornwell.

The temporary chairman of ARS and an ally of Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, Zakaria Mohamed Haji Abdi, says it is not Eritrea, but the United States and the United Nations that are causing trouble in the region.

« They are trying to divide us, » said Abdi. « Whoever accuses Eritrea for interfering in the alliance is lying. It is the only country who supports us in our struggle to re-liberate our country. »

Somali media is reporting that Ahmed has moved his faction of the alliance to Djibouti and has no plans to return to Asmara.

It is unclear how the split in the ARS will affect the peace talks, which are due to resume on Saturday