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Somalia's Parliament Endorses New Cabinet

Somalia's parliament on Tuesday overwhelmingly endorsed the 10-member Cabinet of newly appointed Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon, marking a major milestone in the Horn of Africa nation's political transition process.

According to Parliamentary speaker Mohmed Sheik Osman Jawari, 219 parliamentarians endorsed the Cabinet in Tuesday's vote. He added that three lawmakers voted against the cabinet, while three others abstained from voting. The new cabinet is now expected to be sworn in next week.

Prime Minister Shirdon unveiled his cabinet on November 4, with two female Ministers in the proposed Cabinet line-up for the first time in the nation's history.

In the proposed Cabinet line up, Shirdon had named Fauzia Yusuf Haji Adan as the country's Deputy Prime Minister as well as Foreign Affairs Minister, and nominated Maryam Kassim, another female politician, as Minister for Social Development Services.

Maryam Kassim had held the same portfolio in former President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's transitional government. Two other Ministers from the previous government also retained their departments in the new Cabinet, including Defense Minister Abdihakim Haji Mohamud Fiqi and Justice Minister Abdihakim Mohamud.

Following endorsement of the new cabinet by the Somali Parliament, Augustine Mahiga, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Somalia, described the development as "another important milestone" in the history of the African nation.

"The appointment of clean slate of just ten Ministers conclusively demonstrates the will of the Somali leadership to move away from the mindset of the past and bring about positive change," Mahiga was quoted as saying in a press release issued Tuesday.

"I am particularly pleased with the historic appointments of two women to substantive high profile as Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Development and Social Services," he added.

Separately, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton congratulated Prime Minister Shirdon on the appointment of his new cabinet, following the endorsement of the government and its work program by the Somali Parliament.

"The appointment of two women to prominent Cabinet positions shows appreciation of the vital role played by women in building the future of Somalia. The EU looks forward to the new Government being fully operational and to developing close dialogue and cooperation with the new ministers," Ashton added.

The development comes after Somalia's Parliament voted last month to endorse Shirdon's appointment as the country's new Prime Minister. He was nominated to the post by newly-elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

Somalia had undergone a peace and national reconciliation process in recent months, with the country's U.N.-backed transitional federal institutions implementing the "Roadmap for the End of Transition" devised in September 2011.

The transition process culminated in the election of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as President in September, giving the impoverished country its first proper government since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre's government in 1991. Nevertheless, Somalia still witnesses frequent bombings and militant attacks, mainly in the capital Mogadishu.

Until recently, Islamist militant groups controlled large areas in southern Somalia where they enforced strict Islamic laws or Sharia. Nonetheless, in recent months, Somali forces backed by African Union peacekeepers, have managed to recapture most of the country from the Islamist militants, except some pockets in rural southern and central Somalia which are still under rebel control.

by RTT Staff Writer

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