Kenya Announces Sanctions Against Somali President

Kenya announced sanctions against the Somali president Tuesday, a strong public rebuke to a man who has been increasingly marginalized as his country struggles with a powerful insurgency and piracy off the coast.

Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf was an obstacle to peace. The sanctions, which also apply to Yusuf’s family, include a travel ban and freezing any assets in Kenya.

”The region and international community should act in unison to collectively condemn all spoilers to the Somali peace process,” Wetangula told journalists.

Wetangula said Kenya took the action in line with a November decision by an eastern Africa regional group to impose sanctions against Somali leaders identified as an obstacle to peace. Kenya is home to more than 215,000 Somali refugees and acts as the base of all U.N. and international NGO operations in Somalia. Many Somali leaders have family, property or businesses in Kenya.

Somalia’s already weak government is in turmoil. Yusuf unilaterally fired Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein this week after months of public feuds over the best way to bring peace. But parliament soundly rejected Yusuf’s decision and voted to keep the prime minister in his post.

On Tuesday, Yusuf ignored that and announced that he was appointing a former interior minister, Mohamed Mohamud Guled, as the new prime minister.

Wetangula said that Kenya only recognized Hussein as prime minister, saying Yusuf did not have the power to fire him. Kenya was the venue of the two-year-long peace talks that formed Yusuf’s government in 2004.

It’s not clear what will become of Somalia’s U.N.-backed administration – particularly as it wields virtually no authority in the face of powerful Islamic insurgents who have taken over most of the country. But the long-running dispute between the president and prime minister will do nothing to stabilize the fractured administration.