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Somalia public urged to defend themselves against govt injustice
BAIDOA, Somalia, 20 October 2007 - Somalia's interim prime minister urged the public to defend themselves against men in government uniform who are causing "mass displacement."
Prof. Ali Mohamed Gedi, the embattled Somali premier, returned to the southern town of Baidoa on Saturday after a three-day visit to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
Gedi held a luncheon at Hotel Bakiin in Baidoa attended by more than 100 lawmakers, Cabinet ministers and other government personalities, including Gedi's opponents.
The Somali prime minister spoke about his trip to Ethiopia where he reportedly met with officials from the African Union and the European Union, as well as Ethiopian and U.S. government officials.
"We [all sides] agreed to continue on the path to national reconciliation," Prime Minister Gedi said at the gathering.
He dismissed reports that foreign diplomats and governments were partaking in efforts to mediate between himself and Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf.
Yusuf has pressured the Somali parliament in recent weeks to bring a vote of no confidence motion against Gedi's government.
But Prime Minister Gedi said the foreign diplomats and government representatives he met with in Addis Ababa urged the Somalis to reconcile their differences among themselves and to save the United Nations-backed transitional government.
"I urge parliamentarians to uphold the constitution and to remember the oath of office," Gedi said.
Speaking about Mogadishu, Premier Gedi defended his meetings with Hawiye clan elders, Islamist officials and an influential former president in attempts to bring peace to Mogadishu.
The Somali leader acknowledged that "men in government uniform" have committed crimes against Mogadishu's civilian population. He said the public should "defend themselves" against such men who are intent on robbing and displacing civilians already traumatized by years of war.
Gedi's deputy, Education Minister Salim Aliyow Ibrow, chaired a Cabinet meeting today in Baidoa before Gedi returned from Addis Ababa.
Agriculture Minister Abdulkadir Nur Araale told local media after that meeting that 24 Cabinet ministers have introduced a vote of confidence motion in parliament.
These ministers include 22 ministers who threatened to resign earlier this month if Gedi does not face the confidence vote in parliament.
Ethiopian troops in Baidoa stopped these Cabinet ministers from meeting on Thursday, but Deputy Prime Minister Ibrow argued today that he has the legal authority to chair a Cabinet meeting when Gedi is absent from the country.
Addressing the opposition Cabinet ministers' meeting, Prime Minister Gedi told the lunch gathering that the ministers are "free to meet and issue statements."
But he appealed to the ministers to uphold the law and avoid leading to a collapse of the transitional government.
He repeated his stance that the arrest of Supreme Court Chief Justice Yusuf Ali Harun is "illegal." Chief Justice Harun was jailed in September on corruption allegations and remains incarcerated to date.
Premier Gedi also addressed growing military tension in northern Somalia between the Somaliland and Puntland sub-states. He urged all sides to stop the war and resolve their differences through peaceful means.
Gedi's government is struggling to survive against an insurgency in the capital Mogadishu. Observers say the government is largely powerless to influence events in far away regions such as Puntland and Somaliland.
Source: Garowe Online