Somali PM given two more weeks to form cabinet, extending drift

Somalia’s new prime minister was on Saturday given two more weeks to present a new cabinet to parliament after lawmakers rejected his first list, extending a period of drift in government that donors say is hurting recovery efforts.

Lawmakers had approved the appointment of Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke in December, the third premier in little more than a year, after a row between his predecessor and the president.

Somalia, struggling to rebuild after more than two decades of conflict and still battling an Islamist insurgency, remains dependent on Western and other donors.

Sharmarke, 54, Somalia’s ambassador to Washington who served as premier from 2009 to 2010, had named a list of 25 ministers, of which 10 were the same as the previous cabinet which lawmakers complained had not been delivering change fast enough.

Another 10 or so had served in previous cabinets, which lawmakers also said had failed to perform in office.

Members of parliament made it clear they opposed his choice in previous days, prompting Speaker Mohamed Sheikh Osman Jawari to hold a vote on Saturday on whether to give Sharmarke 14 more days to secure approval for a new list. MPs backed that motion.

“The Somali parliament has not officially rejected the new cabinet by voting but the prime minister said he would review his list,” MP Dahir Amin Jesow told Reuters. “Maybe he suspected there would be no confidence for them.”

Western powers, who have been the main backers of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and his government, have said an extended political paralysis would only encourage Islamist al Shabaab rebels and damage efforts to strengthen fragile institutions.

A military campaign launched in 2014 by Western-backed African Union peacekeepers and the Somali military has driven al Shabaab out of major strongholds in its central and southern region heartland.

In spite of these setbacks, the rebels continue to launch often devastating hit-and-run gun and bomb attacks in Mogadishu and other towns, and have also struck vital rural supply