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Somalia Prime Minister Fires Mogadishu Mayor

Somalia's prime minister has fired the influential mayor of the country's capital, Mogadishu. As Derek Kilner reports from VOA's East Africa bureau in Nairobi, Somalia's president has not publicly signed off on the action, raising concerns about growing tensions within the struggling transitional government.

Somalia Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein announced Mohamed Dheere's ouster late Tuesday, after meeting with his cabinet, according to a government spokesman. Dheere, a former warlord close to President Abullahi Yusuf, has been accused of insubordination, and of contributing to a decline in security in the capital.

Dheere has said he is willing to step aside, but that he is waiting for approval from President Yusuf, who has not made any public statements. There are concerns Mr. Yusef could reject the prime minister's decision.

Dheere controls a strong militia in the capital, which also could complicate an effort to remove him against his will. He has served as mayor of Mogadishu, as well as governor of the surrounding Banadir region, since early 2007, presiding over an effort to fight a growing insurgency led by Islamist militias.

As mayor, Dheere has gained many critics, who accuse him, along with other top security officials in the city, of focusing on harsh tactics that antagonize the population.

The editor of Mogadishu's National Post newspaper, Ahmed Ali Ugaas, says Dheere's removal had been anticipated for several months.

"These people were known to be very arrogant, they were not fully working for the interest of the government, they were accused to be not working for peace-building in Mogadishu," he said. "So the people were not also believing what these people were saying because of their past history in the country. So this was a decision that people were expecting and waiting."

Ugaas says an improvement in security in Mogadishu depends on who the government picks to succeed Dheere.

"I think the removing of Mohamed Dheere does not itself bring peace to Mogadishu," he said. "It will depend on the subsequent policies pursued by the government. If the next governor becomes a man who pushes the reconciliation efforts, a main who tries to involve political leaders, tries to involve the clan elders, tries to involve the leaders of the insurgency. We need to have a different policy from the policy this administration has been pursuing for the past one and a half years."

Dheere's deputy, Mohamed Omar Ali, will serve as acting mayor and governor.

Dheere was part of a group of warlords backed by the United States that was defeated by the Islamic Courts Union, which took control of Mogadishu in 2006. He then joined the country's Transitional Federal Government, which ousted the Islamists from control of the capital in December 2006 with the help of Ethiopian troops.

Since then the government has struggled to contain an escalating Iraq-style insurgency centered in Mogadishu. Nearly one million people have been displaced by the fighting, contributing to what the United Nations calls Africa's worst humanitarian crisis.

Somalia's transitional government has called for an intervention by U.N. peacekeepers. The current African Union force has deployed only 2,200 of its planned 8,000 troops and has done little to quell the violence.

Somalia has been stuck in conflict for nearly 18 years, following the collapse of the central government in 1991.