afp.com/ Somali premier loses confidence vote in parliament

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SHAFAQNA – Somalia’s prime minister lost a confidence vote in parliament on Saturday after months of dispute with the country’s president and international concern that the turmoil was harming rebuilding efforts.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was given 30 days to name a new head of government for the war-torn nation after the vote against Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, who had taken over the post a year ago.

Ahmed received support from only 80 lawmakers, while 153 backed a motion to oust him.

“The motion against the government has won,” said parliament speaker Mohamed Osman Jawari.

Ahmed has for months been locked in a power struggle with the president, prompting international backers to warn that the infighting was jeopardising fragile gains.

In October, the president accused Ahmed of “making outrageous decisions” and not consulting with him before a cabinet reshuffle in the Horn of Africa nation.

Ahmed said he accepted parliament’s decision but defended his record in office.

“My administration has been relentless in our pursuit for reform and we leave a solid foundation that carries the hopes and aspirations of all Somalis,” he said.

Mohamud for his part said he appreciated “the governing institutions for resolving the political conflict without external intervention.”

The turmoil has also come with the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab rebels still carrying out regular attacks.

At least 15 people were killed Friday in twin bomb blasts in the central town of Baidoa, the latest in a string of attacks.

– ‘Somalia needs political unity’ –

Ahmed, an economist, took the post in December 2013 after his predecessor Abdi Farah Shirdon was ousted by parliament after just over a year in office.

The United Nations, United States and European Union have all warned the power struggles were putting at risk the progress Somalia has made.

In November, the United States pulled out of an international summit on Somalia and said it was deeply concerned over the worsening political turmoil.

The US warnings followed those by United Nations envoy Nicholas Kay, who said the tension puts at risk political goals including a referendum on a new constitution next year, ahead of elections in 2016.

Following Saturday’s vote, Kay said Somalia “now needs unity of political purpose between its institutions and leaders and a significant period of stability”.

The Somali government, which took power in August 2012, was the first to be given global recognition since the collapse of Siad Barre’s hardline regime in 1991.

Billions in foreign aid has been poured in, including funding for the UN-mandated 22,000-strong African Union force, which has done much of the heavy fighting against Shebab rebels.

It was initially hailed as offering the best chance for peace in a generation, replacing a transitional leadership mired in ineffectiveness and rampant corruption.

– Worst in world for graft –

But the political wrangling and reports of corruption have raised concerns that the government, like the last administration, is blighted by infighting and failing to unite in the face of the threat by the Shebab.

Somalia this week was again ranked worst in the world for graft, according to the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.

Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned that people face a “deepening humanitarian crisis” with more than three million needing aid.

The number of people in crisis is growing for the first time since the end of a devastating famine three years ago.

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