Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Political Rifts Deepening in Somalia

On Tuesday, Somali president Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed appointed a new prime minister, but the previous prime minister is refusing to accept his dismissal and is backed by the country's Parliament.

On Monday the Parliament backed Nur Hassan Hussein, who has been prime minister for about 13 months. But the president named Mohamed Mohamud Guled as the new prime minister because he's a close ally of the transitional federal government, the new Somali premier. It is a move "certain to deepen the political impasse in a country already struggling with an Islamist revolt, a refugee crisis and rampant lawlessness that has fueled awave of piracy off the Horn of Africa."

Heightening Tension

The move by Ahmed also has caused concerns from neighboring Ethiopia, which which has been protecting the Somali government with troops. Ethiopia recently announced it would withdraw its troops by the end of this month, which will leave the government vulnerable to Islamic insurgents, who began a brutal insurgency in 2007.

United Nations officials are now in crisis mode, calling high-level meetings in East Africa and New York to address piracy and the greater Somali problems. Some U.N. officials are pushing to send in peacekeepers, but no countries are rushing to offer troops.

Pirate Hunting

A number of international warships equipped with high-tech tools like radar and long-range cannons are now patrolling the Gulf of Aden.

An Italian officer said that going after them in a 485-foot-long destroyer, bristling with surface-to-air missiles and torpedoes, was like “going after someone on a bicycle with a truck.”

But international law in the seas is restricting some countries in their hunts for the pirates. Several times this year, the Danish Navy captured men they suspected to be pirates, but they had to drop them on shore because their government decided it did not have jurisdiction.

Vice-Admiral Gerard Valin, the commander of the French naval operation in the Indian Ocean, said the piracy will only be defeated by a strong government in Somalia.

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