Monday, August 11, 2003

Somalia: President refusing to step down

Nothing about Somalia is simple ...

The latest is that the president of the Transitional National Government (TNG), Abdulkassim Salat Hassan, has refused to step down when the TNG's three-year mandate runs out on Tuesday. Prime Minister Hasan Abshir Farah also wants the TNG to remain in some "caretaker" capacity until a new government is appointed.

TNG information minister, Abdirahman Adan Ibrahim, told IRIN that the Somali constitution doesn't allow for a 'vacuum in governance'. He told them, "We will stay until a new president, government and parliament have been elected."

The TNG's spokesman, Ahmed Isse Awad, told the VOA: "This is not a long period. It's about, perhaps, a maximum of one month. We're not talking about one year or two years or even months, you know. It's not a long period of time."

In the meantime, negotiations continue at the Somali National Reconciliation Conference in Nairobi.

Complicating matters somewhat is the fact that the president and vice president don't seem to be working together ... in fact, they seem to be working against each other. On Saturday, Abdulkassim conveined parliament to vote out prime minister Hasan Abshir Farah and speaker of parliament, Abdallah Derow Isaak.

During the vote, both Hasan and Abdallah, along with the majority of the Somali parliament, were in Nairobi, attending the Somali National Reconciliation Conference. About two weeks ago, president Abdulkassim walked out of the conference complaining that the talks were leading to a "dismemberment" of Somalia. Hassan and Abdallah opposed Abdiqassim's decision to withdraw from the talks.

(As for the vote of "no confidence" Hasan and Abdallah arugue that the vote was invalid because there weren't enough members for a quorum.)

The rival factions represented at the conference did sign a partial accord on July 5 under which they agreed to form an interim federal government. But since then, there have been some setbacks. Some days after President Abdulkassim walked out of the conference, a prominant faction leader walked out as well, complaining that the charter in its present form would lead to more wars.

Somalia hasn't really existed as a country since 1991 when the government of Mohamed Siad Barre fell apart. The country is controlled by rival warlords and the TNG exercises control over a small part of the capital, Mogadishu.

Here is an article (it's a few days old) that details of the latest agreements reached at the conference

Here is bio of the President from the BBC.