Somali government splits amid fight for control

zenawi 6 December 2008 (AP) Somalia’s U.N.-backed government was crumbling Tuesday as the president defied parliament and Kenya announced sanctions against him in a strong public rebuke.

The government dispute will do nothing to stabilize the administration, which wields virtually no authority in the face of powerful Islamic insurgents who have taken over most of the country.

Civilians have suffered most from the violence surrounding the insurgency, with thousands killed or maimed by mortar shells, machine-gun crossfire and grenades.

The United States worries that Somalia could be a terrorist breeding ground, and accuses al-Shabab — “The Youth” — of harboring the al-Qaida-linked terrorists who blew up the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

Somalia’s lawlessness also has allowed piracy to flourish off the coast; bandits have taken in about $30 million in ransom this year.

President Abdullahi Yusuf unilaterally fired Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein this week after months of public feuds over the best way to bring peace, but parliament soundly rejected Yusuf’s decision and voted to keep the prime minister.

On Tuesday, Yusuf ignored that and announced that he was appointing a former interior minister, Mohamed Mohamud Guled, as the new prime minister.

Just hours later, Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said Yusuf was an obstacle to peace and announced sanctions, including a travel ban and freezing any assets in Kenya.

“The region and international community should act in unison to collectively condemn all spoilers to the Somali peace process,” Wetangula told journalists.

It was not immediately clear when the sanctions would go into effect, but they are a powerful charge because Kenya hosted the two-year-long peace talks that formed Yusuf’s government in 2004.

Somalia’s U.N.-backed administration has been sidelined by Islamic militants and is veering toward collapse. The insurgents held a news conference in the capital, Mogadishu, on Sunday — a brazen move that shows their increasing power — and vowed never to negotiate with the leadership.

Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a dictatorship and then turned on one another. The country is now at a dangerous crossroads.

Ethiopia, which has been protecting the Somali government, recently announced it would withdraw its troops by the end of this month. That will leave the government vulnerable to Islamic insurgents, who began a brutal insurgency in 2007.

In the past, Islamists have brought a semblance of security to the country, but have done it by carrying out public executions and floggings. On Saturday, fighters loyal to the most powerful arm of the Islamist movement — al-Shabab — publicly executed two men accused of killing their parents.

Associated Press writers Mohamed Sheikh Nor in Mogadishu, Somalia and Tom Maliti in Nairobi, Kenya contributed to this report.

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Posted by on December 16, 2008. Filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.