RRA vice-chairman declares himself chairman

The first vice-chairman of the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA), Shaykh Adan Madobe, has declared himself the new RRA chairman, a source in Baidoa told IRIN on Monday.

The RRA, which controls most of Bay and Bakol regions in southwestern Somalia, has been embroiled in a power struggle between the actual chairman, Hasan Muhammad Nur Shatigadud, and his two deputies, Shaykh Adan and Muhammad Ibrahim Habsade. This led to factional fighting in Baidoa at the beginning of July, which claimed the lives of over 40 people.

A ceasefire, which was arranged by a mediation committee and officially signed on 10 July, has so far continued to be observed by both sides. A mediation committee of 12 set up to "find a lasting solution" to the political differences between Shatigadud and his deputies is still holding discussions with representatives of the two sides.

But the source said Madobe's announcement was unlikely to have much impact on the ongoing mediation efforts. "No one here [in Baidoa] is taking this declaration seriously," she said. "If anything, it actually damages his position, because now people see his action as an attempt to undermine the mediation efforts."

The declaration, which followed a meeting of Madobe's supporters, was made on Saturday, during which he announced he would be acting as interim chairman for six months until a new leader was elected.

Meanwhile, a 96-strong delegation from the RRA, which has been in Gode, southeastern Ethiopia, since 15 July - at the invitation of the Ethiopian government - was expected to return "probably within 48 hours", a business source in Baidoa told IRIN on Monday. "Any decision by the mediation committee will probably wait until this delegation returns," he added.

He described the security situation in Baidoa as stable, with both sides "waiting for the decision of the mediation committee".