Somalia's President Fires Prime Minister

Nur Hassan Hussein vowed to challenge his dismissal.
Nur Hassan Hussein vowed to challenge his dismissal. (Sayyid Azim - AP)
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By Mohamed Olad Hassan
Associated Press
Monday, December 15, 2008

MOGADISHU, Somalia, Dec. 14 -- Somalia's president fired his prime minister Sunday and accused him of paralyzing the government with "corruption, inefficiency and treason." Hours later, as the government veered toward collapse, Islamist insurgents held a brazen news conference in the capital and vowed never to negotiate with the leadership.

President Abdullahi Yusuf announced his decision in Baidoa, one of the few towns the government still controls. Insurgents accused of ties to al-Qaeda have taken over most of the country.

"The government has been paralyzed by corruption, inefficiency and treason," Yusuf said. He said he will name a new prime minister in three days.

The prime minister, Nur Hassan Hussein, promised to challenge his dismissal, saying the president lacked the authority to fire him. The president said Somalia itself lacked a legal government because too many ministers have already resigned.

"The president was speaking in his usual personal capacity, which is always contrary to the country's existing rules and regulations," Hussein said.

Later in the day, Sheik Muktar Robow, a spokesman for the al-Shabab insurgent group, held a news conference in the capital, Mogadishu, in open disregard for the government.

"We will never talk to the government and will never accept any political power-sharing. Our aim is only to see Islamic law running this country," Robow said.

Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a dictatorship and then turned on one another.

The country is at a dangerous crossroads. Ethiopia, which has been protecting the Somali government, recently announced it would withdraw its troops by the end of this month. That will leave the government vulnerable to Islamist fighters, who began a brutal insurgency in 2007. They have captured most of southern Somalia and move freely inside Mogadishu.

In the past, the fighters have brought a semblance of security to the country, but have done it by carrying out public executions and floggings. On Saturday, fighters loyal to the most powerful arm of the Islamist movement -- al-Shabab -- publicly executed by firing squad two men accused of killing their parents.

Civilians have borne the brunt of the violence surrounding the insurgency, with thousands killed or maimed by mortar shells, machine-gun crossfire and grenades. The United Nations says there are 300,000 acutely malnourished children in Somalia, but attacks and kidnappings of aid workers have shut down many humanitarian projects.

The lawlessness has allowed piracy to flourish off the coast, with bandits taking in millions in ransoms this year.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company