Somalia’s defense minister and the country’s military chief, who were leading the fight against Islamist militants, have both resigned from the government, officials said Thursday.
Speaking to VOA Somali, Information Minister Abdurahman Omar Osman said the defense minister, Abdirashid Abdullahi Mohamed, and the army chief, General Mohamed Ahmed Jimale, both submitted their resignations at the government’s weekly cabinet meeting.
“The Defense Ministry has submitted the personal resignation of country’s military chief to the cabinet, and then defense minister submitted his resignation too, citing personal reasons,” said Omar.
Neither Jimale nor Mohamed was immediately available to further explain their reasons for resigning.
But multiple government officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the issue, said there has been a rivalry between the two outgoing military leaders.
Others said the officials have been complaining about lack of cooperation by the country’s top leadership.
To fill the position of military chief, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has nominated General Abdi Jama Hussein, according to the information minister.
The resignations could be a setback for the country’s fledgling army, which will be tasked with maintaining security once African Union troops start withdrawing from the Horn of Africa nation next year.
Al-Shabab militants trying to impose a strict form of Sharia law on the country have recently stepped up attacks on army bases across south and central Somalia.
The Somali government has a sizeable army on paper, but most troops are ill-trained and poorly equipped. Last month, the government repeated its plea for world leaders to lift an international arms embargo.
Turkey recently opened its largest foreign military base in Mogadishu, where it will train Somali troops in hopes of strengthening the army to fight off al-Shabab.
The United Arab Emirates also has a military facility where they train Somali troops. Local politicians have accused those troops of taking orders directly from UAE commanders.
In addition, the United States has dozens of military advisers in Somalia helping to train and assist Somali special forces.