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Somali parliament endorses downsized Cabinet

Tuesday - 11/13/2012, 9:10am  ET

By ABDI GULED
Associated Press

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) - In a sign Somalia's government may be willing to move away from its corrupt past, the parliament on Tuesday approved a smaller, 10-member Cabinet in a vote that serves as an important victory for the country's new prime minister.

Parliamentary speaker Mohmed Sheik Osman Jawari said 219 parliamentarians endorsed the Cabinet in a vote Tuesday. Three voted against and three abstained. The Cabinet, formed by Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon, is expected to be sworn in next week.

The naming of the smaller Cabinet is the latest change undergone by the government this year. A new interim constitution has been passed, a new parliament was seated and a new president was voted in. The U.N. representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, hailed the naming of two women ministers: the minister of foreign affairs, who also serves as deputy prime minister, and the minister of development and social services.

"This is another important milestone in the history of Somalia," Mahiga said. "The appointment of clean slate of just 10 ministers conclusively demonstrates the will of the Somali leadership to move away from the mindset of the past and bring about positive change."

Mahiga added: "The new council of ministers represents a broad spectrum of political shades and membership while taking clan balance, equality and representation into account. It also reflects the cultural and social realities of today's Somalia."

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the limited size of the Cabinet will help the government implement key priorities. Past Somali governments have been bloated with huge numbers of ministries designed to appease certain clans.

The new Cabinet must continue the rebuilding of the country after years of warfare with al-Shabab militants, who continue to unleash suicide attacks in Mogadishu.

"What we want is security for ourselves and property from al-Shabab and the unruly soldiers. Then we can talk about developments," Ali Abdullahi, a Mogadishu resident said.

Somalia fell into anarchy in 1991 and hasn't had a fully functioning government since. But life has improved remarkably in Mogadishu over the last year, fueling hopes that the new government will expand and become a reliable provider of security and services.


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)