Somali lawmakers make move to speed PM's replacement

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BAIDOA, Somalia, Nov 7 (Reuters) Somali lawmakers today approved a law that allows non-legislators to become cabinet ministers, clearing the way for the president to nominate a replacement for Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi.

''All lawmakers have approved the issue,'' Parliament Speaker Sheikh Adan Madobe told more than 200 assembled legislators, who moments before had overwhelmingly approved the measure by a show of hands after three days of debate.

Legislators said the decision would speed the naming of a candidate to replace Gedi.

Gedi resigned 10 days ago after a lengthy feud with President Abdullahi Yusuf that all but paralysed government work in the Horn of Africa nation as it battles a raging insurgency with Somali Islamists in Mogadishu.

Yusuf's allies have said the president wanted the law changed to let him pick the candidate of his choice. But he and his allies have been silent on who that might be.

''The parliament will meet tomorrow and the president and the international community will attend ... from today the president will probably nominate a prime minister to replace the former one,'' lawmaker Ibrahim Isak Yarow told Reuters.

Western nations had pushed for the law, a constitutional change recommended by a government-sponsored national reconciliation conference that ended in August, as a way to deepen the pool of qualified leaders.

Some analysts have said the Somali interim government, formed on a clan-based formula at peace talks in Kenya, has been hampered by having to choose its ministers from legislators whose ranks include many illiterate warlords and clan rulers.

Diplomats say the Somali government now can choose capable technocrats with experience from the Somali Diaspora.

BURUNDI TROOPS Yusuf's close advisers have said the candidate for prime minister will come from the powerful Hawiye clan, which always felt Gedi was not their choice for the clan's top position in government.

That dissatisfaction manifested itself in myriad ways during Yusuf's and Gedi's tenure, including the Hawiye support for insurgents in Mogadishu and resistance to returning the government to the capital.

In Mogadishu, the African Union peacekeeping mission helping protect the government said a planeload of military equipment arrived late on Tuesday for Burundian soldiers due to join the 1,600 Ugandan peacekeepers already there.

Burundian army spokesman Adolphe Manirakiza said an advance team of 150 soldiers would leave for Mogadishu ''no later than November 20.'' A full battalion of 825 soldiers should be in place by mid-December, with logistics provided by the United States and France funding the airlift, he said.

The Burundians' arrival should let some Ethiopian soldiers backing the government leave, and hopefully cool an insurgency that views the Ethiopian presence as an imperialist move by an ancient Somali rival.

Hundreds of Somalis on Wednesday burned tyres and chanted anti-Ethiopian slogans in south Mogadishu.


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