Africa

Somali President Ahmed to replace Prime Minister Sharmarke

The president of Somalia, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, has said he is going to appoint a new prime minister.

Image caption President Sharif's government is under threat from Islamist insurgents

The announcement is seen as an attempt by the president to end a bitter power struggle between the prime minister and the speaker of parliament.

It comes at time when the transitional government is battling an insurgency against Islamist extremists.

The president has become increasingly unpopular, amid charges his government has been corrupt and ineffective.

On Sunday the speaker told journalists that MPs had passed a vote of no confidence in the government. This was disputed and MPs later voted to remove the speaker.

BBC East Africa Correspondent Will Ross says although the president has so far avoided taking sides, he seems to have orchestrated the removal of both men with his latest move.

Political infighting

Our correspondent says while the speaker, Sheikh Aden Madobe, has stepped aside, it is not clear if the prime minister, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, will go without a fight.

The political infighting plays into the hands of the Islamist insurgents, as groups like al-Shabab have long maintained that the politicians in power are unfit to govern, he says.

On Sunday, Islamist rebels attacked Somalia's parliament in the capital as it met for the first time this year.

Image caption A bitter feud over the parliament's speaker boiled over

The rebels fired mortar bombs at the building from their stronghold in Mogadishu's main market area, triggering retaliatory shellfire from African Union peacekeepers.

The rebels have fought a three-year war against the UN-backed interim government.

Meanwhile a vital donor conference for Somalia is due to be held in Turkey later this week.

Correspondents say it would be no surprise if there was some reluctance to continue funding the feuding politicians. An aid boycott would put even more strain on the already beleaguered transitional government.

The Horn of Africa nation has not had a functioning central government since 1991.

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