New Somalian President Picks a Businessman, a Political Newcomer, as Prime Minister

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MOGADISHU, Somalia -- The new Somalian president, Hassan Sheik Mohamud, on Saturday evening named as prime minister a political novice who is expected to lead the council of ministers for the next four years, officials said.

The nominee, Abdi Farah Shirdon Saaid, promised that his government would not tolerate corruption or nepotism.

It was the first major appointment for the fledgling government of Mr. Mohamud, who was elected by Parliament last month after more than two decades of civil warfare and political instability. If Mr. Saaid's nomination is confirmed by Parliament, as expected, he plans to nominate a council of ministers soon, he said.

"I promise that I will do my duty in line with the Constitution and the national laws," Mr. Saaid said in a statement.

Mr. Mohamud, whose election marked the end of an internationally backed transitional government, is trying to set up the first effective central government in Somalia since 1991, when clan militias toppled the dictatorship of Maj. Gen. Mohammed Siad Barre. Among Mr. Mohamud's challenges is an Islamist insurgency by the Shabab, an group linked to Al Qaeda that tried to assassinate him two days after his election.

The government and African Union forces have driven the Shabab out of Mogadishu, but it has been waging relentless attacks against them elsewhere.

A spokesman for the Shabab denounced Mr. Saaid as a stooge of foreign powers. "The new prime minister is not different from those before him -- they were all brought by Westerners," Ali Mohamud Rage, the spokesman, told Reuters. "He will not change Somalia. We shall fight and keep on foiling the infidel government."

Mr. Saaid, 53, a businessman, was born in the town of Dhusamareb. He studied economics at the Somali National University of Gaheyr in 1983 and worked at the Ministry of Finance from 1983 to 1985, in the government of General Siad Barre. He left government work and opened a business in 1985, then moved to Nairobi, Kenya, where he opened another business.

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This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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