Somalia’s government is expected to recognise a former Islamist warlord it had opposed as interim leader of a strategic port city, diplomats said, defusing a crisis over rival claims to the post that had raised fears of a return to clan warfare.
The threat of the kind of clan fighting that over two decades tore Somalia apart has hung over Kismayu since Ahmed Madobe, leader of the Ras Kamboni militia, was chosen by a regional assembly to lead Jubaland and its port in May.
The fate of Kismayu and the surrounding region in southern Somalia has been seen as a litmus test of whether the government can manage a federal state and cement a fragile peace in place since African peacekeeping troops drove out Islamists.
Western and regional diplomats, all with a close knowledge of Somalia and the workings of its government, told Reuters that Mogadishu had changed tack and was resigned to having the Ras Kamboni leader stay in charge, but on an interim basis.
“They recognise that they have to deal with Madobe,” said one senior Western diplomat.
Central government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman said Mogadishu, which had widely been seen to back another candidate, was ready for a deal but it had not decided on who it would be.
“We are willing to compromise provided that the legality, the constitution, and the federal institution and mandate is protected,” he said, adding senior government officials were in Kismayu for negotiations with the rival parties.
Even with the regional leader title, Madobe will only really control Kismayu and its immediate surrounds because al Shabaab still control much of Jubaland’s countryside.