MOGADISHU – Somalia’s president on Wednesday appointed a new prime minister, 11 days after the war-torn nation’s previous premier was ousted amid bitter infighting.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said he had appointed political heavyweight Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, 54, who becomes the first person to hold the post twice.

“I’m very happy that I have picked Omar Abdirashid Ali as the new prime minister of the country. I expect him to fulfill his commandments,” the president said at Villa Somalia, the fortified compound and seat of the country’s fragile internationally backed government.

Sharmarke, a dual Canadian and Somali national, replaces sacked prime minster Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, ousted by parliament after just over a year in the post.

The United Nations, United States and European Union have all warned that power struggles in the Villa Somalia were a damaging distraction for the country as it tries to battle Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab rebels.

United Nations special envoy Nicholas Kay also said the tensions put at risk political goals including a referendum on a new constitution due to take place next year, ahead of elections in 2016.

The new prime minister told reporters he would “continue working on the efforts to bring about stability” and “taking the country the way forward to free elections”.

– Son of former president –

The economist was previously prime minister during the transitional government from 2009-2010, when he resigned after falling out with the then president.

Most recently, he became in July the first Somali ambassador to the United States in over two decades, and has previously worked for the United Nations as political adviser, including in Sudan.

Sharmarke’s father was also a former prime minister and was president between 1967 and 1969. He was assassinated by his own bodyguard, paving the way for the takeover by Siad Barre.

Hardliner Barre ruled Somalia until he himself was toppled in 1991 as the country descended into the civil war that still continues.

Like previous prime ministers, he faces a giant task to rein in corruption, quash Shebab insurgents battling to topple the central government, and rebuild the troubled Horn of Africa nation.

Sharmarke was born in the capital Mogadishu but comes from the northeastern Puntland region, from the Majeerteen clan.

In Somalia’s complex clan politics, each community expects to be represented in the corridors of power.

The Somali government, which took power in August 2012, was the first to be given global recognition since the collapse of Siad Barre’s hardline regime in 1991.

Billions in foreign aid has been poured in, including funding for the UN-mandated 22,000-strong African Union force, which has done much of the heavy fighting against Shebab rebels.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=69333.