Somali president intervenes in lawmakers dispute


Somali lawmakers should stop bickering and protect the war-weary population, the leader of the anarchic Horn of Africa nation said in response to an increasingly acrimonious political standoff.

There has been bitter wrangling between Somalia’s often absent parliamentarians over the term of the chamber’s speaker, a spat that analysts say is paralysing government business.

In a statement released on Monday, President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed urged legislators and cabinet members to “set their priorities right in the face of the daunting security and humanitarian challenges the nation faces”.

Islamist rebels have waged a three-year war against the fragile Western-backed transition government and they now control large swaths of southern and central Somalia, and much of the capital Mogadishu.

When Ahmed was elected president in January 2009, there was optimism he might be able to unite some of Somalia’s warring factions and establish some government control.

But Somalis have become increasingly disillusioned with the frequent foreign trips of ministers and parliamentarians, allegations of corruption and the lack of strong government, even in the few blocks of Mogadishu it now controls.

Parliament has not met since December and the latest attempts have been scuppered, largely by the disputes over the speaker’s mandate.
“They are a distraction from the essential activities and responsibilities of the government, parliament and the leadership and precious time should not be devoted to this counterproductive activity,” the UN envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Adallah, said last week.
“No legitimacy”

The speaker, Sheikh Aden Madobe, and his supporters argue that his term started afresh when Sharif was elected after former President Abdullahi Yusuf departed prematurely.

Madobe’s opponents say his term ended last August.
“We MPs are not against speaker Aden Madobe but we defend the codes of conduct we unanimously agreed. He has no legitimacy to claim he is speaker,” lawmaker Ibrahim Yarow told Reuters.

Somalia’s speaker is among the most powerful political figures in a country plagued by violence since a dictator was ousted in 1991. Under the terms of Somalia’s transitional charter, power is transferred to the speaker for one month if the president is killed or deemed not fit for office.
“Because of this dispute, there has been a lack of parliamentary meetings and regular monthly salaries have not been paid. It has definitely held up some government business,” said local analyst Mohamed Sheikh Yasin.

With Somalia’s government all but paralysed, al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab has been gaining in strength. It has been imposing its own harsh version of sharia law in the areas it controls and lobs shells at government positions in the capital almost daily.

Witnesses said al Shabaab rebels executed one man accused of murder and amputated the hand of a suspected thief in the village of Daynile, northwest of Mogadishu, earlier this week.

Medics said at least nine people were killed and dozens wounded on Sunday in fighting between militants and government troops in the rubble-strewn capital.

Pic: President Sheik Sharif Ahmed of Somalia