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Somalia's president on Thursday named Acting Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali as the permanent successor to Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, who quit on Sunday in line with a deal agreeing to postpone elections in return for his resignation and the formation of a new cabinet.
Abdiweli was appointed as interim premier, and President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed Wednesday indicated there was little point looking further afield for a permanent replacement.
"We saw fit to name Abdiweli Mohamed Ali as the new Prime Minister, he is among the Ministers who proved their ability and showed massive development in his previous Ministry," Sheikh Sharif said. "We hope he comes with a better cabinet that will improve Somalia."
Abdiweli called for public support, while Farmajo praised the new man, saying he would "lead Somalia on the right path".
The UN welcomed the appointment and promised to work closely with the new premier.
“SRSG Mahiga looks forward to the rapid appointment of a new Cabinet and the endorsement of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet by the Transitional Federal Parliament,” the UN Political Office for Somalia said in a statement.
“He reiterates the importance of all parties working together to implement priority tasks including finalizing the constitution, reforming institutions, enhancing security and rebuilding the security sector, continuing outreach and reconciliation, improving accountability and rolling out basic administrative and social services to ensure the stabilization of areas recovered from armed groups.”
Parliamentary approval needed
According to the Kampala Accord, the deal which called for Farmajo’s removal, parliament now has 14 days to approve or reject Abdiweli. Should he be approved, he then has 30 days to name a cabinet, which must also be approved by parliament.
Like his predecessor, the new man is a highly educated Somali-American. Abdiweli took sabbatical leave from Niagara University, New York State, where he was an associate economics professor, when Farmajo named him as Minister of Planning and International Cooperation late last year.
According to his profile on the university website, he has a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University, a Certificate of Taxation from Harvard Law School, and a Master of Economics from Vanderbilt University. He also completed his Ph.D. in Economics at George Mason University.
Sheikh Sharif, Parliamentary Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and the UN special envoy to Somalia, Augustine P Mahiga, all signed the Kampala Accord, which was aimed at ending an impasse over whether elections should be held this year.
Aden withdrew his opposition to an election delay in return for Farmajo’s resignation and a promise he would have key allies on the new cabinet.
Speaker still unhappy
Sheikh Sharif called on parliament to approve his nominee, but this is far from a formality, as Aden has already indicated he is not happy with the choice of the new premier. Aden has significant support in parliament, particularly amongst powerful former warlords, and could muster enough opposition to veto the appointment.
Farmajo, who was at the ceremony appointing Abdiweli, is also sticking around in Mogadishu, and there is a strong belief behind the scenes he could be nominated for a key ministerial position, further vexing the speaker, who is reportedly suspicious of the foreign-educated elite represented by Farmajo and Abdiweli.