Somalia appoints defence, foreign ministers

Somalia’s Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke has re-shuffled and expanded his cabinet in an attempt to end in-fighting as the government faces a stubborn insurgency, officials said.
Ali Jama Ahmed and Abdalla Boss Ahmed were named as the new foreign and defence ministers respectively. Both men held these posts in the former transitional federal government, Reuters reports.
In addition, the finance portfolio was split into two positions with Abdirahman Omar Osman, the former protocol chief in President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed’s office, being named treasury minister alongside Finance Minister Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden.
The impoverished Horn of Africa nation has been mired in civil war for 18 years, and the president’s administration controls only small pockets of the coastal capital Mogadishu.
It is fighting rebel groups including al Shabaab, which the US says is al Qaeda’s proxy in Somalia, with the help of pro-government militia across southern and central regions.
One senior government official said Sharmarke looked to have heeded appeals from the president’s Abgal sub-clan for more influence.
“It seems the prime minister accepted their call and wants to reduce grievances between clans,” said the official, who asked not to be named. Abgal elders held talks with Sharmarke in Nairobi, capital of neighbouring Kenya, late last month.
The former foreign minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Omaar, was transferred to the water and mineral resources ministry. The new job takes the number of cabinet posts to 39.
Mohamed Abdi Ghandi, the former defence minister, becomes Somalia’s new transport minister.
Western security agencies say Somalia has become a haven for Islamist militants plotting attacks in the region and beyond. Violence has killed more than 18 000 civilians since the start of 2007 and driven another 1 million from their homes.
Abdirasaq Adan, a Mogadishu-based analyst, said the cabinet re-shuffle would probably change little on the ground.
“It has fallen below the expectations of the tribes, the local people and the international donor community,” he said.
“The re-shuffle we were waiting for was a kind of a fresh start with new faces, but this one is repeating the same faces.”

Pic: Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke of Somlia