The Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA), which controls the Bay and Bakol regions in southwestern Somalia, has denied reports of a split within its senior ranks which is reputed to be giving rise to tension in Baidoa, capital of Bay Region.
Muhammad Ali Adan Qalinle, senior RRA official and governor of Baidoa, the headquarters of the RRA, described the reports as "mere gossip propagated by rumour-mongers and enemies of our people".
There have been persistent reports in the Mogadishu-based media of such a split following the visit of the two RRA vice-chairmen, Shaykh Adan Madobe and Muhammad Ibrahim Habsade, to Ethiopia. They had now had returned to Baidoa after spending over a month in Ethiopia, a local source in Baidoa told IRIN on Tuesday.
According to this source, the two had asserted that inasmuch as the RRA chairman, Col Hasan Muhammad Nur Shatigadud, was now president of the self-declared South West State of Somalia, Sheikh Aden, the first vice-chairman should become chairman of the RRA. This had led to rising tension in the town, the source added.
"Within any group there are bound to be some disagreements and differences of opinion on different matters," Qalinle told IRIN by telephone from Baidoa.
"No one has brought a motion before the RRA executive council to replace the chairman. He [Shatigadud] is still the chairman of the RRA as well as president of South West State of Somalia," he added.
The establishment of the South West State, with Shatigadud as its president - as the third regional administration to be set up in Somalia, following the establishment of Somaliland (northwestern Somalia) and Puntland (in the northeast) - was announced last month by the RRA leadership. [see
The decision was reached at a meeting of the RRA central committee and over 70 elders from the Digil and Mirifle clans in Baidoa in late March, with Shatigadud inaugurated as president of the new regional administration for an initial four-year term on 31 March.
Qalinle said on Tuesday that there was no tension in Baidoa, and the town was calm. "We are working and carrying on with our activities as usual and there is nothing out of the ordinary here," he added.