Faction leader threatens to quit TNG

A prominent faction leader, Muhammad Qanyare Afrah, has threatened to quit the interim government. Qanyare, who is the minister of fisheries and marine resources in the Transitional National Government (TNG), told IRIN on Tuesday that he would leave the TNG if it failed to abide by agreements reached.

Qanyare denied reports that he had already left the government, saying: "I did not quit, but will do so unless all the agreements between us are fulfilled." He complained about the TNG's sluggishness in implementing agreements it signed. "No one is against the government, but they have to fulfil their part of the agreements," he added.

Qanyare, a member of the Mursade subclan of the main Hawiye clan, and one of the most prominent faction leaders in Mogadishu, joined the TNG last year. A regional analyst told IRIN that Qanyare's departure from the TNG would be a severe political blow if it transpired.

"This is part of what passes for political horse trading in Somalia," a Somali source told IRIN on Tuesday. According to the source, Qanayre "is simply trying to wring more concessions out of the TNG".

Meanwhile, faction leaders who signed a peace agreement with the TNG in Nakuru, Kenya, in December last year were threatening to withdraw from the deal unless the TNG increased the number of MPs, a source in Mogadishu told IRIN. Usman Hasan Ali Ato and Mawlid Ma'ane, both members of the opposition Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council, threatened to withdraw from the agreement unless their demand was met by 15 February.

The Nakuru agreement between the TNG and some factions opposed to it was signed on 24 December - after weeks of formal and informal talks - in the presence of Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, who had convened the meeting.

Under the deal, the parties agreed "to propose to parliament to increase the number of MPs and members of the council of ministers". Abdirahman Adan Ibbi, a member of the Transitional National Assembly (TNA), told IRIN that the TNA had set up a committee to study the best ways of amending Article 17 of the TNG charter, which limits the number of MPs to 245. This was a very sensitive issue, given that parliamentary representation had been drawn up along clan lines, he said.

The TNG had fulfilled all the other issues agreed on in Nakuru, but this one had to be approached with great care, said Ibbi.

"We want to accommodate the opposition in the interests of peace and reconciliation, but any changes to the charter involving an increase in the number of MPs will have to be considered carefully to avoid upsetting the clan balance of the TNA," he explained. Other sources told IRIN that this was "mere posturing" on the part of the opposition with the aim of gaining more leverage.

In another development, the TNG's broadcasting equipment was stolen by armed gunmen on Monday night, the TNG director of Information, Abdirahman Dinari, told IRIN on Tuesday. "A group of armed men came to the radio's HQ and took the radio equipment after overpowering the guards," said Dinari. So far no one had claimed responsibility for the attack. "We suspect it was pure banditry," he added.