Somali prime minister voted out of office by lawmakers

By Feisal Omar

Mogadishu, Somalia (REUTERS)–Members of parliament voted Somalia’s prime minister out of office on Saturday for the second time in a year, a move Western donors had warned would threaten the war-torn nation’s fragile recovery.

Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed had been embroiled in a row over a cabinet reshuffle with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who had overruled his changes.

The prime minister had been in office for just under a year after his predecessor, who also argued about the composition of the cabinet and been accused of poor performance, was voted out.

“The prime minister and his government are out of office,” Speaker Mohamed Sheikh Osman Jawari said after 153 members of parliament voted against the premier and 80 backed him. “We ask the president to establish a government as soon as possible.”

Officials in the president’s office could not immediately be reached for comment on the appointment of a new premier. Some politicians have said the post could be offered to Finance Minister Hussein Halane, 59, seen as an ally of the president.

Western donors, who have committed billions of dollars to help rebuild Somalia after two decades of conflict, worry the removal of a second prime minister in such a short space of time will weaken a government struggling to defeat Islamist rebels.

Osman Haji Ali, an MP, said one of the criticisms levelled against the prime minister was that he had not done enough to improve security. “After serious debate on his performance, we removed the prime minister,” he told Reuters.

Al Shabaab, which has been driven out of major strongholds in an offensive this year by African and Somali troops, has continued to stage deadly hit-and-run attacks.

In the past month, the Islamist group has killed dozens of people in strikes that include two cross-border raids inside Kenya by gunmen and Friday’s twin suicide bombings in the Somali town of Baidoa.

The latest vote of no confidence was triggered after the president said he had not been consulted on the cabinet reshuffle, which had included moving the justice minister, a close ally of the president, to the livestock ministry.

Parliament had tried to vote on three other occasions, only to have the session cancelled because of raucous behaviour of lawmakers, reflecting the political divisions of nation that has been riven by clan rivalries and the Islamist insurgency.

Highlighting donor concerns, the U.S. State Department said in November that a vote of no confidence did “not serve the interests of the Somali people.”

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