Somali PM appoints seven new ministers

Baidoa - Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi announced on Friday he had appointed seven new ministers after a wave of resignations threatened his fragile interim government.

"Some of my ministers had passed away, while I sacked others and there are some who have resigned, that is why I have appointed these ministers," Gedi told reporters in the government's provincial seat of Baidoa.

Both President Abdullahi Yusuf and Somalia's interim parliament will have to approve the appointments.

"I hope the president will accept these new ministers," Gedi said.

The new ministers will be in charge of industry, treasury, commerce, religious affairs, culture, petroleum and constitution and federalism.

The news came after another minister quit the Western-backed administration, intensifying pressure on Gedi to resign.

Reconstruction Minister Barre Shire Adan's departure brought to 40 the number of senior officials to desert the government, many of them citing Gedi's reluctance to reach out to rival Islamists who control a large swathe of the south.

Another minister resigned late on Wednesday.

"I have resigned because the government of Ali Mohamed Gedi has failed to deliver," Adan told reporters.

The exodus has accelerated since Gedi narrowly survived a crucial confidence motion last week. Most lawmakers voted against him, but their numbers fell short of the two-thirds needed for a censure.

Before the appointments, almost half the posts in the cabinet were empty after 16 ministers quit, one was shot dead and four sacked. Diplomats had said that resignations may have ultimately allowed the Islamists to join the government.

The interim government has virtually no authority over the Horn of Africa country, which has not known central rule since the 1991 ouster of military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Islamists exposed its vulnerability when they seized the capital Mogadishu from US-backed warlords in June.

Although the Islamists have not indicated an interest in power-sharing, they have welcomed the resignations and called on government officials to join them.

Politicians say the government is split between Yusuf and parliamentary speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, and Gedi who asked for proposed talks with the Islamists to be postponed.

"There is a political crisis," government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari earlier said, urging the three men to accept guidance from the international community and local leaders.

"If they don't accept that, then the government will collapse," he said.

Many Somalis blame Gedi for Ethiopia's deployment of troops across the border, as seen by witnesses, and say any call for help from Somalia's longtime foe would be a betrayal.

In an apparent show of support, some 30 pro-Gedi legislators resigned from various parliamentary committees, officials said.

  • Additional reporting by Guled Mohamed


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