Somali president meets with possible successor in hospital room
Thursday, December 06, 2007
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NAIROBI (AP) – Somalia’s president had a “robust chat” in his hospital room Thursday with the man who would succeed him if he could no longer lead his violence-wracked nation.
President Abdullahi Yusuf met with the speaker of parliament at Nairobi Hospital, where the 73-year-old president was recovering well from a severe cold, said Ali Mohamed Sheik, a protocol officer for the Somali Embassy in Kenya.
While Somali officials have said Yusuf was suffering from a cold, another official had said Wednesday he had bronchitis. The contradictory reports since he flew to Kenya to be hospitalized Tuesday have raised concerns back home for a government that is already weak and battling a deadly Islamic insurgency. Thousands of civilians have died in the conflict this year.
“Today the president was lively and better than the day he arrived,” Sheik told The Associated Press. “He was broadly smiling and engaged in a robust chat with the speaker of parliament, Sheik Adan Mohamed Nor.”
He would not say what the men discussed.
Sheik, who visited Yusuf Thursday morning, said the president would soon fly to Britain for his regular medical checkup. Yusuf has had chronic health problems for years and received a new liver in 1996.
Yusuf’s homeland faces what the United Nations says is the biggest humanitarian crisis in Africa. The president was meant to meet Wednesday with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Ethiopia to discuss the crisis, but he sent Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein instead.
Yusuf’s “sickness is such bad news for us,” said Shamsa Haji Nor, a 42-year-old resident of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. “This will create even more political confusion in Somalia.”
Somalia has not had a functioning government since warlords overthrew a dictator in 1991, then turned on one another. Yusuf’s government was formed in 2004 with the support of the U.N., but has struggled to assert any real control.
Earlier this week, five Somali Cabinet ministers resigned soon after they were appointed, saying their clan was not adequately represented in the prime minister’s new government. Hussein, the former head of the Somali Red Crescent Society, took office last month pledging to work for reconciliation, but is not believed to have influence over clans, and therefore the political influence, of the president.
AP writer Salad Duhul contributed to this report from Mogadishu, Somalia.