Sunday, April 3, 2011

Somalis swear in the president of Jubaland

By AGGREY MUTAMBO [email protected]

A former Somali Defence minister has been sworn in as the president of the newly created semi-autonomous region of Jubaland.

Prof Mohamed Abdi Gandhi was sworn in at a meeting of Somalis in Nairobi.

The longtime anthropology professor in France will be in charge of the area near the border between Kenya and Somalia.

The region includes the three sub-regions of Lower Juba, Middle Juba and Gedo and is estimated to have a population of 1.3 million.

The appointment followed a week-long conference that brought together representatives of the civil society, Somali youth, elders and members of the Transitional Federal Government.

Prof Gandhi had been spearheading the breakaway. But an official in charge of organising the conference said participants decided to elect Prof Gandhi because “he is the face of Jubaland in the eyes of the international community”.

The official, who requested anonymity because he is not the official spokesman, said: “Panellists viewed Prof Mohamed Gandhi as a punctual and flexible person. They thought it wise to have him lead them.”

Prior to the swearing in, Prof Gandhi had indicated he would love “to liberate Jubaland from extremists”.

The idea to create an autonomous region near the Kenyan border is hinged on the reason that it will prevent the movement of al Shabaab extremists within the region.

As the conference ended on Sunday, it was not clear whether the Kenyan Government supported the election but recent WikiLeaks revelations showed that the country supported the creation of an autonomous region near its border with Somalia to prevent the flow of illegal arms.

The meeting had been opposed by both Ethiopia and Djibouti, who argue that creating autonomies in the war-torn country could inspire further insurgency by other regions or degrade the gains made by the TFG.

The official said the election of the president was only the initial stage of making Jubaland autonomous.

The region will have to create a parliament and the president will appoint the cabinet.

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