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Somali President Expected to Name New Prime Minister Thursday

By Peter Clottey
Washington, D.C
12 February 2009

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Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is expected to name a new prime minister today after interviewing prospective candidates in Djibouti. President Ahmed is reportedly holding meetings with his close aides and associates on selecting the best prospective candidate for prime minister. After naming the prime minister, President Ahmed will also hold talks with parliamentarians who are currently meeting in Djibouti about relocating to the Somali capital, Mogadishu in coming weeks. Once named, the new prime minister is expected to form a cabinet within 48 hours in consultation with the president and members of the Somali parliament. Abdirahman Warsame is a Somali parliamentarian and close associate of President Ahmed. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the new government of national unity will focus on ensuring peace and stability.

"The president was yesterday interviewing all day all the candidates and those who are on the short list to become prime minister. He is finished with the interview and now he is holding final consultations with his senior advisors or those who are close to him, and tonight he would be announcing who the next prime minster is going to be," Warsame pointed out.

He said the new prime minister has at least 48 hours to name a cabinet.

"Within the next two days the new prime minister would have to consult with the president and other members of the parliament, including the speaker, and then he would start announcing his cabinet in the next two days. And that is, by Sunday, he would announce his new cabinet," he said.

Warsame said there seems to be good communication and cooperation between the various arms of government to ensure peace and stability return to Somalia.

"This is the national unity government, and the mood is now fine, and parliament is now cooperating with the president. And the president will appoint the prime minister, and we hope that the prime minister will appoint an effective and capable cabinet, which can deliver what the Somali people need. And I think after they announce the cabinet and it is endorsed by the parliament, the parliament and the rest of the government will move to the capital, Mogadishu," Warsame noted.

He said Somalis have so far demonstrated their support to the new president when he visited the capital for the first time after his election.

"The president visited Mogadishu in the last two days. He was welcomed well and he did a good job by holding discussions with a lot of people. And I think the prospect is high with great opportunities while at the same time there is a huge challenge. And I think we have the leadership who can seize the opportunity and rise to the occasion," he said.

Warsame said one of the major priorities of the unity government is to improve security.

"After an effective and capable cabinet, the government will continue the reconciliation process and improve security as well as return IDP'S (internally Displaced People) to their homes in Mogadishu and other surrounding areas and try to form or reinstitute the national institution of the government," Warsame pointed out.

He described recent attacks and rhetoric of Islamic insurgents including al-Shabab as regrettable.

"That is very unfortunate and I think al-Shabab is not monolithic, as many in Somalia know. We will engage some of the members of the group and for those who brainwash these young people they are extremists who can be isolated and confronted as well as those elements who are trying to spoil the process. I think we can win this because the Somali people are ready to endorse the peace process and to support the president because they've already showed they support the president when he visited the capital for the first time," he said.

Newly elected President Ahmed held various meetings over the weekend with senior security officials and local clan leaders in Mogadishu over security and the need to open reconciliation talks with insurgent groups, which are opposed to the Somali transitional government.

Under the recently signed agreement between the transitional government and the opposition coalition of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), the two sides would form a joint force to maintain the security of the capital. Warsame said most of the Islamic insurgents are losing their credibility after the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops a few weeks ago.

"I'm very hopeful that we can deal with the threat of al-Shabab because they have already undermined their legitimacy of fighting because they claim all the fighting was against Ethiopian forces. But since the Ethiopians have withdrawn, they no longer have legitimacy to fight against the leader of country who was the former chairman of the ARS and now president of Somalia. And I think we can handle the challenge that al-Shabab poses," Warsame noted.   

Source: VOA, Feb 12, 2009 


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