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Rice talks tough on Twitter

"Get your act together". US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice broadcast her thoughts on Somalia's dysfunctional internationally-backed government on Twitter during a United Nations Security Council delegation visit to Nairobi, Kenya.
Credit: Ashraf Shazly

“In Nairobi today, UNSC [United Nations Security Council] blasted bickering Somali President & Speaker: get your act together, resolve your differences or lose intl support.”

This was the blunt message broadcast by Susan Rice, US ambassador to the UN, via Twitter.

The message was reiterated, in more diplomatic terms, by Britain’s UN ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant. “We made it clear that the international community's support could not be assured whilst bickering and the infighting continued,” he told reporters in Nairobi.

The UN-backed Transitional Federal Government is almost entirely reliant on foreign aid for its financial existence and on 9,000 African Union soldiers for its physical survival in the face of an Islamist insurgency.

But despite all the challenges faced by a country at war for the last 20-years Somali politicians are more focussed on political infighting and jockeying for position than trying to fix their broken nation.

The “feuding Sharifs” as they’ve come to be known – Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the President, and Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, the Speaker of Parliament – have been at loggerheads for months.

The erstwhile allies are locked in a bitter power struggle with each vying for majority support from the outsized 550 member Somali parliament. It seems Speaker Sharif is in the ascendanct.

Sources say the Speaker Sharif, awily businessman, who has no formal education but is adept at navigating the dangerous seas of Somali clan politics, is scheming to oust President Sharif and take his place at the head of the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government.

UN Secretary General added his voice to the pressure in an address to the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“The [Transitional Federal Institutions] must… show real progress on key tasks such as constitution-making, political outreach, reconciliation, the provision of basic services and improvements in security,” Ban Ki Moon said on the same day that Security Council delegation was meeting Somali leaders in Nairobi.

Besides being widely-regarded as ineffectual there is also growing evidence that it is riddled with corruption. All of which make its international backers worried.

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