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Somalia Selects New Prime Minister - 2001-11-13

Somalian President Abdiqassim Salad Hassan has named a new prime minister. The appointment comes two weeks after the parliament removed the previous government for failing to bring peace to a country wracked by clan warfare.

The new prime minister, Hassan Abshir Farah, has his work cut out for him. His predecessor, Ali Khalifa Galaydh, was removed by a vote of no confidence in parliament. The legislators said he had not done enough to restore peace to Somalia.

Somalia's transitional national government was formed at a conference in neighboring Djibouti in August of last year. But this government's rule is very limited. Ninety percent of the country is controlled, not by the government in Mogadishu, but by warlords or by rulers of secessionist mini-states.

Mr. Farah comes from one of the breakaway states, Somalia's northeastern Puntland region. He served as interior minister under its autonomous government before joining the transitional government in Mogadishu.

Mustafa Hassouna, a political analyst at the University of Nairobi, has said this background makes Mr. Farar a wise choice for prime minister. "In terms of national reconciliation, I believe the choice from Puntland is a good one. Puntland obviously now has a say in the running of the government in Mogadishu. This is perhaps the biggest selling point of this appointment in that now you have somebody not just from within the inner circle of government but also from out there and from some of the breakaway republics," he said.

Mr. Hassouna says the reintegration of Puntland would give the transitional government greater leverage in its negotiations with the warlords. "The main concern of the interim government now is to try and see how much more territory they can garner for themselves in terms of control. If they are able to put Puntland within the fold, then I believe they have much more of a bargaining chip to deal with, especially when they have to meet with the warlords sooner or later," he said.

It is difficult even to get the warring parties around the same table. Several Somali factions, including representatives of the transitional government, met in neighboring Kenya last week to plan for a national reconciliation conference.

But many of the key warlords boycotted the meeting, choosing instead to hold talks of their own in Ethiopia. Not only do these warlords not recognize the government in Mogadishu, they have formed a coalition to overthrow it.