, MOGADISHU, Nov 13 – Somalia\’s newly appointed prime minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, on Friday unveiled an 18-minister cabinet line-up drastically downsized from the previous 39-strong government.
"The Somali people and the international community were waiting for a competent and credible Somali cabinet, and I am happy to appoint this lean but capable cabinet," he said in a statement.
Only two members of the Western-backed transitional federal government (TFG), which collapsed following a dispute between then premier Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke and President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, kept their jobs.
The new line-up also sees the entry of Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa, a powerful Sufi organisation that took up arms two years ago to fight the Shebab, an Al Qaeda-inspired group that has waged a fierce insurgency against the TFG.
The Sufi group was given the interior and labour portfolios.
Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa is seen as a key force if the TFG is to pin back the Islamist insurgency but had routinely complained that the outgoing government was refusing to give it its share of power.
Hussein Halane heads a consolidated finance and treasury ministry while the foreign ministry and one of the deputy prime minister positions was handed to Mohamed Abdullahi Omaar, who already held the post under Sharmarke\’s predecessor.
"Somalia is in good hands," the president was quoted as saying in the statement.
"We do not have time to waste and our people deserve nothing less than this," he added, urging parliament to approve the new line-up.
Abdulkareem Hassan Jama was handed the ministry of information and Abdihakim Mohamoud Haji-Faqi the defence portfolio as well as another of the deputy prime minister posts.
The new prime minister, who was born in Mogadishu in 1962, is a relative newcomer to Somalia\’s fractious political class.
His appointment by Sharif led to a bitter dispute with the parliament speaker, revealing continuing rifts within the transitional administration\’s key players.
Since its formation in Kenya in 2004, the TFG has failed to assert its authority on the Somali territory, 80 percent of which is currently controlled by the Shebab.
The new government only has a few months to break the back of the insurgency and reclaim the capital as well as other key cities before the TFG\’s mandate expires in August next year.
Somalia has been without a credible central authority since the 1991 ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre.