Interim government to relocate from Nairobi

The interim Somali government is to start relocating from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where it is currently based, to Somalia within the next three weeks, sources told IRIN on Monday.

The government, other sources added, was likely to move to the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

"The government has set the end of January as the tentative date to start the relocation to Somalia," Hussein Jabiri, director of communications in the interim prime minister's office, said. "It will be a gradual relocation."

The prime minister, Ali Mohamed Gedi, named a new cabinet on Friday, nearly a month after his initial line-up of 76 was rejected by parliament. There are 42 ministers, 42 assistant ministers and five ministers of state in the new cabinet, Jabiri told IRIN.

"I have made this list to the best of my ability," Gedi said while announcing the new team. In rejecting the first line-up, the parliament said clan quotas had been ignored and that the right constitutional procedures were not followed in the selection.

"Those given posts will have the task of serving Somalia at a critical time," the interim president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, told the transitional federal parliament after the new cabinet was announced. "Some [politicians] are unhappy because they are not in the cabinet, but hopefully in [the] future, they will be on the list."

One of the Somali faction leaders, Hussein Mohammed Aydid, was made deputy prime minister in charge of home affairs and another influential politician, Mohammed Qanyare Afrah, was given the post of national security minister.

Other prominent faction leaders who have joined the cabinet include Muse Sudi Yalahow, Usman Hassan Atto, Hassan Muhammad Nur Shatigadud and Adan Madobe. Abdullahi Shaykh Isma'il, another faction leader, was appointed foreign minister.

The new Somali government has come under pressure both from its Kenyan hosts and the international community to move to Somalia and establish itself there.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, on 1 January, urged the new government to go back to Somalia, saying "small fights" within their borders should not deter them. "They must return because we were making a government not to stay in Nairobi, but to return home and reconstruct that country," he said.

Kibaki's message was emphasised on Tuesday by John Koech, the Kenyan minister of regional cooperation. "It is difficult for the international community to assist the Somali government when they are still in Kenya," Koech said.

"The international community has assured us that as soon as the Somali people settle in Somalia, they will get assistance for their own country, which has been destroyed by 14 years of strife," he added.

Speaking in Addis Ababa on Thursday, Assane Ba from the African Union's (AU) conflict centre said the new government had indicated it could relocate to Somalia by 21 January. The AU, he added, was planning to deploy an initial contingent of its peacekeeping force to the war-ravaged country by the end of January.

Somalia ceased to function as a modern state in 1991 following the overthrow of Mohammed Siyad Barre. Barre's ouster precipitated a ruinous civil war that saw numerous warlords and their militias divide the country into fiefdoms.

Yusuf was elected in October by the transitional federal parliament, sitting in Nairobi. The election marked the end of a two-year reconciliation conference sponsored by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development. The conference brought together representatives from various clans and factions.