- The mayor of the Somali capital Mogadishu's and former warlord, Mohamed Dheere, yesterday refused to step down, after he was fired by Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein for allegedly fuelling insecurity in the city.
Mr Dheere, who is said to be a close ally of President Abdullahi Yusuf, is also accused of insubordination. There are doubts that President Yusuf will approve the Prime Minister's decision to sack his friend.
According to government spokesperson, Abdi Haji Gobdon, the sacking of the mayor has exposed a possible rift at the top of the country's embattled interim administration. Mr Gobdon told media that the Mogadishu mayor was accused of "refusing orders from the transitional federal government," adding that 30 members of the Banadir local government and community leaders called for his replacement.
"President Yusuf has not approved the decree dismissing the mayor at all," one senior official said, adding that there were tensions between the President and his Prime Minister behind the scenes.
Media reports show that tension is high in Mogadishu, where Ethiopian troops have been battling Islamist insurgents. UN estimates indicate that about 1.5 million people have fled their homes after recent fighting.
As warlord, Mr Dheere first controlled town of Jowhar, south of Mogadishu and won a temporary seat for the transitional federal government when it relocated from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to Somalia.
Mr Dheere also was a key member of US-backed alliance of warlords that was defeated by the Islamist "Union of Islamic Courts", which thus gained control of the capital until December 2006.
According to Somali media reports, plans are underway to disarm the embattled mayor who controls a large contingent of militia, which has been fighting alongside Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu. The troops helped government forces oust Islamists in 2006, but have since become bogged down in Somalia.
Some 2,200 African Union troops are stationed in Mogadishu, but have done little to quell violence, which has triggered a humanitarian crisis, that aid workers say may be the worst in Africa.
It is estimated that the conflict has created more than one million refugees. Up to a third of the Somali population is in dire need of food aid, after drought-compounded effects of the conflict.
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