Somalia's government was trying to regroup yesterday after nearly 30 lawmakers resigned in less than a week, saying the virtually powerless administration has failed to reconcile with Islamic militants who have taken over the capital.
"The prime minister has failed to talk to the Islamic union," said Hasaan Abshir Farah, one of six ministers who stepped down overnight from Somalia's 275-member parliament. Four resigned on Tuesday and 18 resigned late last week.
The administration was formed two years ago with the support of the UN to help Somalia emerge from more than a decade of anarchy, but it has no power outside its base in Baidoa, 250km from the capital, Mogadishu.
An Islamic militia has seized the capital and much of southern Somalia, imposing strict religious courts and raising fears of an emerging Taliban-style regime. The US accuses the group of harboring al-Qaeda leaders responsible for deadly bombings at the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi called for peace talks with the Islamists, scheduled for this week, to be postponed so he can strengthen his already-weak administration. On Sunday, Gedi barely survived a no-confidence vote in parliament.
And on Tuesday, President Abdullahi Yusuf told Baidoa residents they have a week to give up their weapons, after which "every single gun in Baidoa" will be seized by force.
Somalia's government has no military, but relies on a militia loyal to Yusuf for security.
He did not say why his government had decided on the measure now, but two lawmakers have been shot here over the past week, one fatally.
The US and other Western powers have cautioned outsiders against meddling in Somalia, which has no single ruling authority and can be manipulated by anyone with money and guns. But there is little sign the warning has been heeded.
On Tuesday, foreign ministers from eastern Africa met in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss the deteriorating situation in Somalia. The coalition of nations, known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, "urged countries within and outside the region to strictly adhere to the United Nations Security Council arms embargo."
A UN-imposed arms embargo has been in place since 1992, but all sides in the Somali conflict have violated it.