MOGADISHU, Somalia – Somalia's prime minister said Sunday that he would resign, reversing a pledge he made last week that he would not step down after Somalis took to the streets in support of the Somali-American politician.
A recent U.N.-backed deal reached at political meetings in Uganda called for Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed to resign within a month to pave the way for the formation of a new Mogadishu government.
After news of that deal circulated, hundreds of Somalis protested in support of Mohamed, a rare outpouring for a politician in Mogadishu. Mohamed is seen as the uncommon honest politician here. One of his signature accomplishments was ensuring that Somali soldiers received paychecks.
Responding to the rallies, Mohamed told a news conference last Tuesday that he would not resign out of respect for the shows of support. But on Sunday, he again called a news conference and said he would leave his position in hopes that it would help turn around the toxic political atmosphere in Mogadishu, where the president and speaker of parliament have had a long-running feud.
Mohamed, a Somali-American, has served as prime minister for about six months. He previously taught at a community college in New York. His decision to resign came shortly after he met with Uganda's chief of defense forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, who arrived in Mogadishu last week. Uganda provides the bulk of the 9,000 African Union peacekeeping forces that allows Mogadishu's government to survive in the face of insurgent attacks.
Somalia's President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed thanked the prime minister and said that "we can boast of his achievements.
"We wish that the next government will maintain the good work his did," he said.
The president named Abdiwali Mohamed Ali as a caretaker of the prime minister's position until a new prime minister is appointed.
The international community had been putting pressure on Somali leaders to reach an agreement before the fragile government's term was set to expire in August. Ahmed argued that elections were a distraction as the country was in a state of war with Islamist insurgents.
Earlier this month Somalia's leaders agreed to postpone the presidential vote by one year to deal with pressing security and political issues that had been set aside because of infighting that eroded Somali support for the government.
The agreement was welcomed by the international community and the U.N.'s envoy for Somalia, but some critics say its execution may be stunted if Somalia's leaders don't follow through on reform promises.