MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somalia’s prime minister said he had resigned on Sunday, paving the way for the formation of a new government whose priority will be quashing an Islamist rebellion ahead of elections due by August next year.
Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s exit was forced by a deal struck earlier this month in Kampala between the president and speaker of parliament to oust him while extending the beleaguered administration’s mandate by 12 months.
“Considering the interest of the Somali people and the current situation in Somalia, I have decided to leave my office,” Mohamed told reporters in the capital Mogadishu.
Under the terms of the June 9 agreement, brokered in Uganda, whose troops form the backbone of the peacekeeping force in Somalia, a new prime minister must be appointed within 30 days. The new head of government will then name a new cabinet, to be approved by parliament.
The international community is keen to see a pick-up in the pace of political reform and military gains against rebels linked to al Qaeda.
The Islamist al Shabaab fighters have attracted a growing number of aspiring militants from the United States, Europe, the Gulf and south Asia. Western intelligence agencies warn Somalia might be used as a launch pad for attacks across the region.
Mohamed, a U.S.-educated former diplomat who returned last year to head a government riven by internal fighting and corruption, said he would not be leaving Mogadishu and expected to assist the new government.
Credited with launching a crackdown on graft, paying public sector salaries and improving security in Mogadishu, Mohamed said he hoped his cabinet would be retained.
“I am not leaving for good. I will keep working with the president and the next government,” Mohamed added.
Somalia’s latest administration was due to dissolve in August and President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a former Islamist rebel leader, and speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, who covets the top job, were at loggerheads over what should happen then.
Officials at the negotiations in the Ugandan capital Kampala told Reuters the prime minister had been forced to resign to placate the speaker, who accused him of backing the president.
The call for Mohamed’s exit sparked several days of protests across Somalia by his supporters.
Afyare Elmi, a professor at Qatar University’s International Affairs department, told Reuters that Mohamed had emerged popular if not politically victorious.
“He and his government appeared to provide hope for Somalis. Now we don’t know what (will be) next,” Elmi said, adding that Mohamed might now be in a position to line himself up for the top job.
“The prime minister will have a strong comeback opportunity next August,” Elmi said.
President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed said immediately after that deputy Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali would take over as acting premier until leader of government was appointed.
Additional reporting and Writing by Richard Lough in Nairobi