Somali president returns to his lawless homeland

By Mohamed Ali Bile and Guled Mohamed

MOGADISHU/NAIROBI, July 1 (Reuters) - President Abdullahi Yusuf returned to Somalia from Yemen on Friday, making his first visit to his lawless homeland since his government left its temporary base in neighbouring Kenya last month.

Yusuf landed in the northern port of Bosasso in Puntland state, his powerbase in the lawless Horn of Africa country, on Somalia's 45th anniversary of independence, officials said.

"He will stay in Bosasso for one or two days," presidential spokesman Yusuf Ismail Baribari said by telephone from Jowhar, one of the government's temporary bases in Somalia.

The interim administration is the 14 attempt to re-establish government in the country since 1991, when a coalition of warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and Somalia descended into anarchy.

Yusuf had been in Yemen since June 13, where he held talks with Yemeni officials and met Somalia's parliamentary speaker to try to heal a rift over where the transitional government should make its initial return.

The reconciliation talks produced no agreement on where to base the government, formed in the relative safety of neighbouring Kenya last year.

Yusuf, Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Gedi and allied lawmakers have made their base in the provincial town of Jowhar, 90 km (55 miles) north of Mogadishu, arguing they cannot return to the anarchic city until it is pacified.

But Parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, influential warlords in the government and other members of parliament have moved into Mogadishu, which they say must be the capital under an interim constitution.

A university student in Mogadishu welcomed Yusuf's return to Somalia, but said it would be better if he were in the city.

"The same weapons in Mogadishu are the same weapons in Bosasso. There is nowhere in Somalia that is safe," Hassan Gele Roto said by telephone.

Baribari said it had not yet been decided if the president would go to an African Union summit in Libya or begin visiting other regions of Somalia.

As of Friday, Gedi was due to lead the Somali government delegation to the summit either on Saturday or Sunday, stopping in Djibouti on the way, he said.

Gedi led a delegation on Friday to Isaley Airport, 28 km (17 miles) north of Mogadishu, to collect generators and office equipment donated by the Italian government.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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