20 MEMBERS OF SOMALIA'S PARLIAMENT RESIGN
By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN, Associated Press Writer Thu Jul 27, 9:29 AM ET
BAIDOA, Somalia - At least 20 members of Somalia's
parliament resigned Thursday, accusing the country's virtually powerless government of failing to bring peace.
"Our government failed to
implement national reconciliation, so we have decided to resign," said Osman Ali Atto, who stepped down as public works minister.
The U.N.-backed interim
government watched helplessly last month as Islamic militants seized control of nearly all of southern Somalia, including the capital, Mogadishu.
traditional rival, has sent soldiers to protect the fragile administration from the Islamic militants, among the reasons that
the parliamentarians cited for quitting.
The lawmakers also accused
the prime minister of performing poorly and said the government lacked transparency.
The parliament is supposed
to have 275 member but 16 members have defected to the Islamic militia and other seats remain unfilled after members' deaths.
The treasury and government
relations ministers resigned Thursday and other Cabinet members were expected to add their names to the list. Lawmakers who
quit scheduled a press conference for later in the day.
The interim government,
established two years ago to help Somalia
emerge from more than a decade of anarchy, controls only Baidoa, 155 miles from the capital.
The Islamic militia's increasing
power has prompted grave concerns in the United States, which accuses the
group of harboring al-Qaida leaders responsible for deadly 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya
and Tanzania. The Islamic group's imposition
of strict religious courts has raised fears of an emerging Taliban-style regime.
The Islamic militia said
Thursday that it was setting up a religious court inside the vast complex in Mogadishu that once served as the country's presidential
palace — a highly symbolic move that further marginalized the government.
The complex, known as Villa
Somalia, sits on high ground with access
to the harbor and the airport. The last Somali leader to live there was dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, who was ousted in 1991.
The country soon descended into armed camps ruled by violence and clan law, and members of Mogadishu's powerful Aidid clan have controlled the compound for the past 15 years.
Aidid clan forces have held
onto the compound in the nearly eight weeks since the Islamic militia seized control of the capital, but agreed Thursday to
hand it over.
"A new Islamic court will
be established here," said Abdirahman Janaqaw, a senior member of the militia, known as the Supreme Islamic Courts Council.
Aidid was believed to be
in Yemen and was not immediately available
The relationship between
the Islamic militia and the interim government has been deteriorating steadily in recent weeks, despite plans for peace talks.
Last week, the militia moved within striking distance of Baidoa.
A Russian-built cargo plane
the government alleged was loaded with weapons sent by Eritrea
landed Wednesday in the capital, where it was swiftly unloaded by Islamic militiamen.
Ethiopia and Eritrea
fought a bloody border war from 1998-2000, and have since backed rebel groups to destabilize each other.