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World News

Somali president names newcomer Roble premier as elections loom

(This September 18 story corrects typo in paragraph 4 from 2017 to 2007.)

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has picked political newcomer Mohamed Hussein Roble as prime minister, his office said on Friday, cementing power around the presidency ahead of elections due next year.

Roble studied civil engineering and previously worked for the International Labour Organisation, a United Nations agency. He replaces Hassan Ali Khaire, who was sacked in July after a power struggle over whether to delay a national election due next year.

Somalia, a Horn of Africa nation that has been riven by civil war since 1991, is coming to a crossroads.

An African Union peacekeeping force set up in 2007 has clawed back control of much of the country from Islamist insurgents, giving space for fragile political institutions to emerge. Young diaspora Somalis are coming home and construction in the capital is booming.

But corruption is endemic, the peacekeepers have begun reducing their presence, and the Islamist al-Shabaab insurgency still mounts deadly attacks on a near-daily basis, even within the capital.

Relations have also been rocky between the federal government and regional states as they quarrel over power and resources.

Mohamed - usually referred to by his nickname of “Farmaajo” - is likely to run for a second term as president when polls are held, competing against at least two other former presidents.

Somalia’s international backers had hoped to hold the first one-person, one-vote election since the war began, but it is unclear whether that will be possible.

Previous national elections have consisted of clan delegates choosing members of parliament, who in turn chose a national leader.

Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Writing by Duncan Miriri and Katharine Houreld; Editing by Diane Craft and Kevin Liffey

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