REUTERS - Somalia's President Abdullahi Yusuf sacked his prime minister on Sunday after they disagreed on a new cabinet demanded by donors, throwing his Western-backed interim government into disarray.
Hassan Hussein Nur Adde was the second premier fired by Yusuf and had been in the job for only about a year. The fragile administration is fighting Islamist rebels who control the south and are camped on the outskirts of the capital Mogadishu.
Yusuf told legislators and journalists in Baidoa, the central town where parliament sits, that he would appoint Hussein's replacement within three days.
"When I ordered the prime minister to establish cabinet ministers ... he rejected (it). The required time is expired now ... This decree is effective from today," Yusuf said.
The two men had disagreed over the composition of a new cabinet for the Horn of Africa nation, which had been called for by donor countries and east African regional leaders.
The pair also differed on the direction of U.N.-hosted peace talks in Djibouti, which aimed to get the government to share power with moderate Islamist opposition figures.
Hussein said the president had usurped the power of the country's parliament and constitution by sacking him.
"The president has no mandate to dismiss me unless parliament votes against me," Hussein told a news conference in Baidoa, hours after Yusuf fired him.
"He has taken the parliament's power in his hands and violated our constitution," he said.
Security forces 'gutted'
Fighting in Somalia has killed more than 16,200 civilians since the start of 2007, when allied Somali-Ethiopian forces drove the Islamists out of power, a local rights group says.
Some one million people have been uprooted, and 3.2 million -- more than a third of the population -- need emergency aid. The chaos has also helped fuel an explosion of piracy offshore.
This week, a U.N. Security Council report said the security forces had been gutted as about 80 percent of troops and police had deserted, often taking their weapons and vehicles.
It said nearly three-quarters of government revenue was earmarked for supporting the security sector, but very little of that was actually spent on security due to corruption. Frustrated at the lack of progress, Ethiopian troops supporting Yusuf's government have said they will withdraw at the end of year. Some 3,200 African Union peacekeepers guarding strategic sites in the capital may then have to pull out too.
The withdrawal of the foreign forces could leave the door open for an assault on Mogadishu by insurgents who will only have been emboldened by the administration's widening rifts.
But the Islamists are also deeply divided: Split between moderate factions that took part in the negotiations with the government, and hardliners like the al Shabaab group, which the United States accuses of having links to al Qaeda.