BAIDOA, Dec 29 – Somalia’s President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed resigned Monday following a bitter power struggle, adding political uncertainty to the war-ravaged country’s security vacuum.,
"I had promised to return the power if I could not bring peace, stability and democracy where people can elect their leader," Yusuf told a special meeting of parliament.
"I have handed over my letter of resignation to the speaker of parliament who will be the president in line with the transitional federal charter. I don’t want to violate and never violated the charter," he added.
Elected in 2004, the 74-year-old former warlord ran a fractious administration. In recent months he had been embroiled in infighting that further weakened the government which has been unable to exert authority.
But Yusuf blamed the international community for failing to support his government, leading to its inability to effectively rule.
"The international community had promised more help to the people of Somalia, but that pledge was not honoured," he said.
"We were unable to pay salaries and other required logistics to the armed forces of Somalia because of lack of finance. Then the army disintegrated, unable to fight extremists."
Yusuf had been at loggerheads with Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein who he sacked and replaced with a little-known lawmaker, who also resigned last week.
Hussein was appointed in November 2007 after his predecessor, Ali Mohamed Gedi, was also forced to resign over a bruising power struggle with Yusuf.
Yusuf’s four years as president have seen a rise in violence in the lawless Horn of African country as well as infighting in the government which had no widespread authority.
However, his administration was the only one to receive international recognition since 1991, when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled, sparking bloody clan fighting.
In 2006, his government faced a huge threat from a powerful Islamist movement that had taken control of much of south and central Somalia, prompting Ethiopia to send troops to back the government.
Now Ethiopia’s plan to withdraw by the end of the month has sparked fears of security vacuum. A small African Union force in Mogadishu has failed to stem the violence.
Since the ouster of the Islamists in early 2007, the Shebab — the military wing of the movement — has waged relentless war against the Ethiopia-backed government forces and has retaken much of the territory it lost to its rivals.
Today, the government is only present in the capital Mogadishu and in the south-central town of Baidoa, where the parliament is based.
Parliament speaker Adan Mohamed Nur called for unity after the resignation.
"I have received and accepted the resignation letter of President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed," Nur said. "I congratulate the president for the bold step he has taken in respect of the transitional federal charter."
Yusuf then left Baidoa for the semi-autonomous region of Puntland of which he had been president from 1989 to 2004.
Somalia’s parliament now has 30 days to elect a new president by secret ballot.
The winner must garner a two-thirds majority of the votes. If not, a second and third round of voting is called. In the last round, the winner would only need a simple majority.
Conflict in Somalia and power struggles that erupted since 1991 have scuppered numerous initiatives to restore national stability.