afrol News, 2 April - The powerful Somali warlord and faction leader Hassan Mohamed Nur has proclaimed yet another autonomous Somali state based in his stronghold Baidoa. After breaking with the Transitional National Government (TNG) in Mogadishu, Nur was sworn in as President of the new State of Southwestern Somalia.
Colonel Nur is the leader of the Rahanwein Resistance Army (RRA), which control large areas in the south-western Somali regions of Bay and Bakol. Baidoa, the capital of the new, self-proclaimed state, is located 240 km southwest of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. The RRA is reportedly backed by neighbouring Ethiopia, which frequently is hostile toward the TNG government.
"Southwestern Somalia" is the third region to break with Mogadishu after the collapse of central government there in 1991. First were north-western Somaliland (claiming permanent independence based on its earlier history as an independent state) and northeaster Puntland, which does not accept the TNG government and has gone temporarily independent. "Southwestern Somalia" status is parallel to Puntland's. A spokesman of the new state told the UN the RRA would still participate in the Nairobi regional summit on Somali reconciliation, but "as the autonomous Southwestern State of Somalia." Somaliland does not participate.
International observers said the move was intended to strengthen the RRA's bargaining position ahead of talks in Nairobi later this month aimed at stabilising the country. Reports from Baidoa however indicate that the move had come out of popular demand.
The formal decision to break with Mogadishu was taken by the 52 members of Central Committee of the RRA and a regional council of 70 elders. The assembly opted for autonomy and elected Colonel Nur by acclamation to be their President for a four-year-term. Nur had no opponents. A spokesman of the new state said the autonomous region would "reconnect with any credible Somali national government" if this came into existence with four years. "President" Nur is to set up a cabinet within short time.
Colonel Nur's independence claim is a new severe setback to the TNG government, which only controls parts of Mogadishu and pockets elsewhere in Somalia. Colonel Nur had been one of the founders of the TNG government in 2000, but has gradually broken with it. The Mogadishu interim government has been more and more isolated over the last years, and all military factions have withdrawn their support to it.
While the TNG government now almost exclusively is recognised by the international community, even foreign support is crumbling. The Italian government recently rescinded its decision to recognize the interim Somali government that it helped to create. According to the Mogadishu newspaper 'Qaran', the Italian government held the TNG had misappropriated funds donated by foreign countries and was corrupt and incompetent.
According to the same newspaper, which claims to have interviewed "President" Nur after his inauguration ceremony, his new state planned to "liberate some of the regions which are under forceful occupation." He further said his administration would be stronger and more prosperous than Puntland, Somaliland and the interim Somali government.