Gets First Prime Minister Since 1969
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ Somalia’s ruling party has appointed that country’s first prime minister since 1969 as well as a new Cabinet, Somalia’s state-run Mogadishu Radio reported.
Mohammed Ali Samantar, who was defense minister, was made prime minister at a weekend meeting of the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party’s central committee, the radio said in an announcement monitored here on Sunday.
Samantar, a lieutenant general and the army’s highest-ranking officer, is one of the few top-ranking government officials who do not belong to the Marehan clan of President Mohammed Siad Barre, 67.
Siad Barre, who abolished the post of prime minister after taking power in a 1969 military coup, was severely injured in an automobile accident last May. He was re-elected without opposition in December to a new seven-year term.
Radio Mogadishu said the post of prime minister was reinstituted to ″ease matters pertaining to national development,″ but did not elaborate.
The radio said several members of the previous Cabinet retained their positions, including the president’s half-brother, Foreign Minister Abdurahman Jama Barre.
One challenge facing the new government is the predicament of 10 French medical workers abducted Jan. 23 from a refugee camp in northern Somalia by anti-government rebels of the Somali National Movement.
Rebel spokesmen have indicated the hostages are being held in neighboring Ethiopia, a longtime rival of Somalia, and say they will soon be freed.
A French government envoy and Somalia’s deputy finance minister were in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, over the weekend meeting with officials of the Marxist government, which allows the Somali rebels to maintain facilities on its territory.
The rebels’ clandestine radio, in recent broadcasts, claimed that Siad Barre’s government has tightened a curfew in northern Somalia and arrested scores of suspected dissidents.