Somalia’s president on Saturday appointed a little-known businessman as prime minister as his administration sought to rebuild stability after more than two decades of anarchy and war.
“We have named Abdi Farah Shirdon Said as country’s new prime minister after long discussions,” Somalian President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said, who himself took office only last month after being chosen by the Somalian parliament in a UN-backed process.
“He is the best person for that position, and we expect him to name a new and high-quality Cabinet very soon,” Mohamud added, as he welcomed Said, a close ally, to the post.
Al-Shabaab insurgents said they rejected the new prime minister, calling him “yet another apostate appointment by foreign powers.”
“The people of Somalia reject those who support the foreign invaders,” al-Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage said.
Said, from the southwest Gedo region and the Marehan branch of the Darod clan, graduated from Mogadishu University, but has spent much of the past two decades in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, running an import-export business.
He is a close friend of the president, who comes from the powerful Hawiye clan, the majority group in Mogadishu.
“I am very happy to take up this position, and very soon I will select a new Cabinet, that I hope will win the support of the Somali people,” the new prime minister said.
The appointment is one of the first key steps of the new administration, which brought to an end eight years of transitional rule by the corruption-riddled and Western-backed government.
Said is to select a council of ministers, which will then be submitted to parliament for approval.
After years of war, Somalia’s capital Mogadishu has been coming back to life since al-Shabaab fighters left frontline positions.
A 17,000-strong African Union force, fighting alongside government forces, has in recent months wrested control of a string of al-Shabaab strongholds including the bastion of Kismayo, a strategic southern port.
However, al-Shabaab remain a potent threat, still controlling vast rural areas as well as carrying out guerrilla attacks in areas apparently under government control.
UN Special Representative for Somalia Augustine Mahiga called Said’s appointment “another important step forward in the country’s peace-building process.”
“The new authorities will play the central role in promoting the reconciliation and good governance necessary to achieve lasting peace and stability in Somalia,” he said in a statement.