The prime minister of Somalia's beleaguered interim government has resigned, following intense international pressure for the leader to step down after three controversial years in office. But as VOA correspondent Alisha Ryu reports from our East Africa bureau in Nairobi, it is far from certain whether the resignation of Ali Mohamed Gedi will help the government unify or cause a further split along clan lines.
Speaking to VOA from the seat of the transitional parliament in Baidoa, an assistant to the speaker, Osman Bulleh, says Ali Mohamed Gedi personally delivered his resignation to interim President Abdullahi Yusuf, who accepted it immediately.
"According to his resignation, he says he has decided to resign for the benefit of the people of Somalia and the government. He says he will support anybody that is appointed as prime minister," he said.
Mr. Gedi arrived in Baidoa from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, where he had been meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and U.S. and other Western diplomats since earlier this month.
Mr. Gedi was summoned to Addis Ababa after parliament called for a confidence vote on his government and it appeared likely that the vote would be deeply divided. Fear the vote could cause fresh political in-fighting and chaos heightened after President Yusuf openly backed parliament members seeking to remove the prime minister.
Since the interim government was formed in 2004, Mr. Yusuf and Mr. Gedi have had a tense relationship, marred by clan rivalries. But they were also allies in their support for neighboring Ethiopia whose military ousted Somali Islamists from power and installed the interim government last December in Mogadishu.
Many ordinary Somalis bitterly oppose the presence of Ethiopians in their country and an Iraq-style, Islamist-led insurgency has gained strength in the capital since February.
Fierce fighting broke out again Saturday and Sunday between Ethiopian troops and insurgents. The violence reportedly killed and wounded dozens of people, including seven Ethiopian soldiers.
Describing a scene that has become depressingly familiar in recent months, a reporter for the Associated Press in Mogadishu, Salad Duhul, tells VOA that more shell-shocked civilians are leaving Mogadishu.
"Hundreds of people are fleeing today from war zones in the city. They are going to the outskirts of Mogadishu. This is the situation and it is tense," said Duhul.
No clear candidate has emerged as the likely replacement for Ali Mohamed Gedi as prime minister.
But credible reports of a power struggle brewing inside the interim government between two large rival sub-clans of the dominant Hawiye tribe in Mogadishu are expected to complicate the selection process.