Somali regional state president removed

The president of Ethiopia’s Somali region has been removed from office, the new acting head of the state confirmed on Wednesday. Abdul Jibril told IRIN that he had been appointed acting president after his former boss, Abdirashid Dulane, was thrown out of the Somali People's Democratic Party (SPDP) and relieved of the post he had held for three years.

Abdirashid was voted from office during a parliamentary session in the regional capital Jijiga - some 700 kilometres from Addis Ababa - at the beginning of the week. Sources close to the SPDP said that he was not in parliament when the decision was made.

Party officials said they had tried to "accommodate" the former president and provide "safe passage" from office, but claimed he rejected such offers. "He didn’t comply with the party political line and there are a number of other issues raised against him," one senior SPDP official told IRIN.

The former president, who told state media that he was the victim of a concerted campaign, was also accused of being linked to "anti-peace" groups. "He has been talking of resigning but he spoiled everything, so a majority have now voted against him," the SPDP official said.

The SPDP has often been described as wracked by infighting and political disputes. In February 2001 the party sacked 10 members of its central committee for alleged corruption after a mammoth 19-day emergency summit. But another key official within the SPDP dismissed claims that the party was in chaos or paralysed. "Just because the president of the region has been removed does not mean the party is in chaos," the official said.

Somali opposition groups told IRIN they were baffled by the latest developments in the state - one of the most remote and impoverished regions of Ethiopia. "The situation is very confused," Buoh Hussein Omar, vice-chairman of the Somali National Democratic Party, told IRIN.

The Somali National Regional State - also known as Zone Five - is one of the largest regions in Ethiopia. Around 85 percent of its population are nomads.