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Somali Government Split Over Relocation From Kenya


A group of Somali parliament members say they plan to return to the capital Mogadishu this weekend from the government's base in Kenya, widening a growing rift between those who want to return to Somalia immediately and those who want to stay in Kenya or other parts of Somalia for security reasons. Parliament appears to be divided on where the capital should be.

The parliament members told reporters in Nairobi that they are very angry at what they term an illegally held session late Wednesday.

There, it was decided that Somalia's capital city would be temporarily located to the towns of Baidoa and Jowhar for security reasons, rather than in Mogadishu as parliament previously agreed, and that regional peacekeeping troops would be deployed in Somalia.

The parliament members say there was supposed to be a session May 17 to decide on these issues, but President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed instead called a session Wednesday. The parliament members say there was not a quorum present at the Wednesday meeting.

About 50 members of parliament boycotted the meeting and have vowed to return to Mogadishu this weekend, joining about 100 lawmakers who are already in Somalia. The rest are in Kenya's capital. Many say it is still too dangerous to return to Mogadishu.

Member of Parliament Abdallah Haji Ali says Wednesday's meeting, and the whole relocation issue, may end up destroying the fledgling administration. He described the deep rift in his government.

"For instance, the president stated the night before last night in front of the speaker and several members of the diplomatic corps in Nairobi that the members of the cabinet and parliament who are currently in Mogadishu are there on their own private affairs, a divisive statement," Mr. Abdallah said.

Parliament members in Mogadishu told VOA earlier this month they are actually laying the groundwork for the government's return to Mogadishu by implementing a security plan that, among other things, would train and convert militias into a national army that would make the capital and other areas secure.

They told VOA they are unwilling to return to Nairobi.

For two years, Kenya hosted a peace process that that brought together factional leaders, civil society representatives, and others to end 14 years of anarchy. Late last year, they formed a 275-member transitional government that was supposed to have returned to Somalia by now.

First deputy speaker Mohamed Omar Dalha, who chaired Wednesday's session, tells VOA the meeting had a quorum, was called legally and fairly, and was witnessed by members of the European Union, African Union, Arab League, and other international community members.

He says the majority of lawmakers voted to relocate outside of Mogadishu, but stressed that this is only a temporary measure.

"We believe or we are recognizing it is still Mogadishu, it is the capital city of the Somali people. Nobody can change Mogadishu because our charter is mentioning that Mogadishu it is the capital city, and we did not say anywhere Mogadishu is not the capital," Mr. Mohamed said.

Also controversial is the issue of a regional peacekeeping force, with parliament members divided on whether or not a foreign force should be allowed in the country.

The African Union is examining a proposal to send almost 2000 troops from Sudan and Uganda into Somalia.

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