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Somali PM Gedi appoints seven new ministers


BAIDOA (Reuters) - Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi announced on Friday he had appointed seven new ministers after a wave of resignations threatened his fragile interim government.

"Some of my ministers had passed away, while I sacked others and there are some who have resigned, that is why I have appointed these ministers," Gedi told reporters in the government's provincial

Both President Abdullahi Yusuf and Somalia's interim parliament will have to approve the appointments.

"I hope the president will accept these new ministers," Gedi said.

The new ministers will be in charge of industry, treasury, commerce, religious affairs, culture, petroleum and constitution and federalism.

The news came after another minister quit the Western-backed administration, intensifying pressure on Gedi to resign.

Reconstruction Minister Barre Shire Adan's departure brought to 40 the number of senior officials to desert the government, many of them citing Gedi's reluctance to reach out to rival Islamists who control a large swathe of the south.

Another minister resigned late on Wednesday.

"I have resigned because the government of Ali Mohamed Gedi has failed to deliver," Adan told reporters.

The exodus has accelerated since Gedi narrowly survived a crucial confidence motion last week. Most lawmakers voted against him, but their numbers fell short of the two-thirds needed for a censure.

Before the appointments, almost half the posts in the cabinet were empty after 16 ministers quit, one was shot dead and four sacked. Diplomats had said that resignations may have ultimately allowed the Islamists to join the government.

The interim government has virtually no authority over the Horn of Africa country, which has not known central rule since the 1991 ouster of military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Islamists exposed its vulnerability when they seized the capital Mogadishu from U.S.-backed warlords in June.

Although the Islamists have not indicated an interest in power-sharing, they have welcomed the resignations and called on government officials to join them.

Politicians say the government is split between Yusuf and parliamentary speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, and Gedi who asked for proposed talks with the Islamists to be postponed.

"There is a political crisis," government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari earlier said, urging the three men to accept guidance from the international community and local leaders.

"If they don't accept that, then the government will collapse," he told Reuters.

Many Somalis blame Gedi for Ethiopia's deployment of troops across the border, as seen by witnesses, and say any call for help from Somalia's longtime foe would be a betrayal.

In an apparent show of support, some 30 pro-Gedi legislators resigned from various parliamentary committees, officials said.

Ethiopia-Somalia : Don’t burn my flag

By Yared Tibebu*
August 4, 2006 — On Monday July 24, 2006 the western media reported about the flag burning demonstration that was held in Mogadishu. The burnt flag was that of my beloved country Ethiopia. Who is to blame and who is to take advantage of such actions? It is a fact that Ethiopia’s minority rule that invaded neighboring Somalia has contributed to the rage and hatred to the Ethiopian flag. What is intriguing is also that, the Meles regime will use such rage and flag burning to raise nationalist sentiment in Ethiopia, and to gain strength from its present isolated position. The Meles regime is trying to portray the ICC as a Jihadist force that has territorial claim over Ethiopia, and Sheik Aweys’ utterance to that effect is exploited in the Ethiopian government media.

Be it the ICC or any future Somalia state has to give up on the territorial claims over neighboring states and allow local political forces to struggle for the self determination rights of the Somali community who reside in Ethiopia and Kenya. Territorial claim over a sovereign state will only awaken strong national sentiments in the claimed state, and the rights of the local population will be trampled more by the rise of such over-riding national sentiments. And Ethiopian ruling elites have always been good at exploiting the national sentiment to gain support and consolidate their position. That is what happened during the 1977 "Siad Barre" aggression, and also in response to Eritrea’s encroachment to the Badme district in 1998. The Ethiopian people with a proud history of independent survival against European colonial aggression are very adamant about their national sovereignty. Hence territorial claims will immediately trigger unbelievable pan-Ethiopian national sentiment, and the nation will close rank and fight as one wo/man. Ethiopia’s neighbors have to acknowledge this fact of life and adapt ways of dealing with it.

Of course such nationalism should not be allowed to destroy the culture and language of its constituent regions. One such region in Ethiopia is the four million strong Ogaden region. The Ogaden Somalis have all God/Allah given rights as the rest of the Ethiopian population. Their way of life, their religion, their language and culture has to be respected. They can even have the Shari’a for their communal affairs if that is the wish of the community. But every member of the community has to be willing to live under such Shari’a law. If an individual Somali in Ogaden is not willing to go to the Shari’a court and wants his/her case to be seen by regular non-traditional court, his/her individual right should be respected. Throughout Ethiopian history rural Moslem communities and some urban communities as well have always resorted to local Shari’a courts to administer their legal needs. Especially the regions of Afar and Ogaden have maintained the tradition to this day, and the Ethiopian constitution has always recognized their existence.

The Somali people see the Ethiopian regime’s military presence, and they feel the invasion and naturally stand against such coward act. And they have their Allah given right to fully express their opposition to aggression including burning the Ethiopian flag. But the political elites of Somalia should distance from raw responses and cautiously handle the situation. The Meles regime is trying to portray his aggression as if it is in opposition to the West’s advice, and in defense of Ethiopia’s territorial integrity. Leaders like Sheik Aweys should not allow Meles to bank on these two false images. They have to clearly talk to the Ethiopian people that the ICC has no territorial claim over Ethiopia. By doing this, it will not give fodder to the regime’s aggressive cannon; and it will undermine the capability of the Ethiopian minority regime to galvanize support.

Isolating the minority rule in Ethiopia should be the strategy of genuine Somali nationalists. And that can only be accomplished by leaving the Ogaden issue to the local people. Nothing will be gained by talking about Ogaden, when the priority for Somali nationalists is reestablishing the Somali state from the ruins of the last fifteen years. And it is instructional to remember that, according to the present government’s leaks to the press immediately after it took power, that, partly the present chaos and anarchy resulted from the 1977 - 1978 war with Ethiopia. According to the document, published by the ruling party, the prior military regime organized and armed the different clan war lords against Siad Barre to make sure that such an aggression will not happen again on its watch. And look what resulted from it in the past fifteen years.

Under the condition Somalia finds itself, no genuine Somali nationalist can in his clear judgment convince himself and others that looking beyond the colonial borders and calling for territorial claims is a priority. In light of this, the Sheik and his lieutenants should clearly address the Ethiopian people in uncompromising terms, soothing their fear of aggression. They should tell the Ethiopian people that Meles is not fighting Ethiopia’s war, that he is sacrificing their children for foreign interests, and that the two neighboring people have no enmity but joint destiny. And this message has to be clearly sent repeatedly and with more force and vigor. It will ultimately keep the regime in its isolated position it finds itself since the May 2005 elections, and allow for a popular discontent against the minority rule’s aggression to crop up and consolidate.

In conclusion, I want to add that, it may take months or even years, but in opposition to Meles’ aggression there is a historic opportunity for a strong Somali nationalism to resurface again and create the condition for clan and sub-clan loyalties to subside and give way to a Somali nation state. But for this to happen, genuine Somali nationalists should craft their politics with political acumen, a vision for regional peace, and not be seen as aggressors and enemies by any of their neighboring people. While Siad Barre was still in power he signed an accord with Kenya in December 1984 in which Somalia "permanently" renounced its historical territorial claims. Sheik Aweys and the ICC can do the same with regards to their claim over the Ogaden, and pave the way that can force the Ethiopian minority regime’s troops either to withdraw or face destruction at the hands of freedom loving Somalis. I hope the Ethiopian dictator will come to his senses and withdraw his troops, and save the situation from a bloody confrontation. And I strongly feel it is the duty of freedom loving Ethiopians to oppose the minority regime’s military aggression and bravado, in the interest of Ethiopia and regional peace.

Somalia's President Wants Baidoa Residents to Hand in Their Weapons

Somalia’s president Abdullahi Yusuf is giving the residents of Baidoa a week to turn in their weapons or risk having them seized. The ultimatum came as the Islamic militia began expanding its influence into central Somalia. Reports say hundreds of Islamic militia in dozens of pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns have reached Adado District. The United Nations is urging the country's neighbors to exercise restraint to prevent the region from sliding into war.

Said Samatar is a professor of African history at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. He says President Yusuf may have the capacity to enforce his ultimatum in Baidoa.

“I see the influence of Ethiopia in his comment. He knows that kind of force he controls and I suspect he has enough force to back up his threat to seize all weapons.”

Samatar says despite attempts by the Islamic Courts to extend its influence to other areas of the country apart from Mogadishu, it is unlikely to take Bialdoa by force.

“The Islamists do not want a confrontation with Ethiopia. They are trying not to provoke Ethiopia. Rather they will continue to reach out to disgruntled members of the transitional government in an attempt to weaken it and take over.”

He says neither the transitional government nor the Islamic court can control the country, which he says is doomed to experience several years of instability.

“No one can control the country effectively. Just like the transitional government is falling apart, sooner or later the Islamists will break into factions. The officials of the transitional government who resigned over disagreements with the prime minister did so for personal gains because rightly or wrongly, they perceive the Islamists are having the upper hand for now.”

Somalia's Government Facing Collapse

Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) began life without a home, conducting business in a Kenyan sports center.

Since returning to battle-scarred Somalia in February, it rapidly found itself without a country to govern. By early June, Islamist militias seized the capital, Mogadishu, and took control of wide swaths of central and southern Somalia.

Now, the TFG is facing complete collapse after 38 ministers and assistant ministers have quit in the past nine days.

"What we need is the prime minister to have a clear policy to deal with moderates in the Islamic courts. As a government we have to have our principles and a strategy to talk with them," says Ibrahim Isaac Yerow, sipping a spiced cup of coffee outside the former grain warehouse where Parliament sits in the dusty provincial town of Baidoa. "We don't have that at the moment."

Before resigning Wednesday, Mr. Yerow was the assistant minister of national property. Four more ministers quit Thursday.

The emergence of the Union of Islamic Courts, now the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia, as a political force in Somalia sent shockwaves through Western governments earlier this year, raising fears that they could turn this country into a haven for Al Qaeda.

They took control of Mogadishu in June, ousting a coalition of warlords who allegedly received backing from the US.

Since then the TFG has seen its influence limited to the city of Baidoa, about 150 miles northwest of Mogadishu.

Deadlines for peace talks in Sudan have come and gone during the past month, with both sides blaming the other for sabotaging negotiations.

Ethiopian troops reportedly arrived here to bolster government defenses as Islamic militias moved to within 40 miles of Baidoa, although both sides now appear to have pulled back from all-out war.

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