Somali president s resignation could resolve crisis

December 31, 2008 12:00 am

, ADDIS ABABA, Dec 31, – Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed’s resignation after a drawn-out power struggle could boost efforts to stabilise the country, a senior Ethiopian official said on Tuesday.

Yusuf announced his resignation on Monday following a bitter feud with his prime minister, adding concerns about increased political instability to fears of a security vacuum as Ethiopian troops pull out of Somalia.

But Bereket Simon, an advisor to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, said Yusuf’s departure could give fresh impetus to a transitional administration long crippled by internal differences.

"Both President Yusuf and (prime minister) Nur Hassan Hussein were friends of ours but Yusuf has decided to resign. His resignation will contribute to the strengthening of the government in Somalia and in resolving the crisis," Bereket told AFP.

Yusuf was at odds with Hussein, particularly over attempts to achieve reconciliation with an Islamist-dominated opposition group with which the government clinched a deal in UN-mediated talks in Djibouti in June.

Neighbouring countries had criticised Yusuf’s bid to dismiss the premier, with sanctions threatened by some.

Addis Ababa sent in troops in late 2006 to rescue the internationally backed transitional government and prevent the emergence of an Islamic republic on its doorstep.

Ethiopia said it would withdraw by January 5, after failing to stabilise the country and root out hardline Islamists.

Bereket said his country’s decision to leave Somalia was not linked to Yusuf’s fate.

"Our withdrawal timetable was designated after an overall assessment of the situation in Somalia. It wasn’t based on anyone’s resignation," he said.

Yusuf has since left Baidoa for the northern breakaway state of Puntland, of which he became the president when it declared its autonomy in 1998.


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