Somali president suspends PM, accusing him of looting land

New Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble sits after Somali members of Parliament approved his appointment in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Sept 23, 2020.

MOGADISHU – Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said on Monday he had suspended the powers of the prime minister amid a corruption probe in what the assistant information minister said amounted to an "indirect coup".

Mohamed accused Mohamed Hussein Roble of looting public land owned by the Somali National Army and of interfering with a defence ministry investigation. All other ministers would continue with their duties, he said.

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The government spokesperson, Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, said on Facebook the president's action was unconstitutional

Roble was not immediately available for comment. But the government spokesperson, Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, said on Facebook the president's action was unconstitutional.

He said the prime minister would continue with his duties.

Mohamed and Roble on Sunday each accused the other of holding up ongoing parliamentary elections in a dispute analysts say may distract the government from its fight against the al Qaeda-linked insurgency al Shabaab.

Mohamed also said he had removed the commander of marine forces, General Abdihamid Mohamed Dirir, from office while a similar investigation was being carried out.

Dirir and a spokesperson were not immediately available for comment.

Assistant Information Minister Abdirahman Yusuf Omar Adala said the deployment of security forces around Roble's office would not prevent Roble from carrying out his duties.

"What is going on this morning is (an) indirect coup but it will not win," Adala said on Facebook.

In September, Mohamed suspended Roble's power to hire and fire officials in a dispute nominally over a murder investigation that generated months of tension in a country riven by militant attacks and clan rivalries. 

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Mohamed and Roble first clashed in April, when the president unilaterally extended his four-year term by two years, prompting army factions loyal to each man to seize rival positions in the capital, Mogadishu.

The confrontation was resolved when the president put Roble in charge of security and organising delayed legislative and presidential elections.