The president of the self-declared South West State of Somalia, Col Hasan Muhammad Nur Shatigadud - who is also the chairman of the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA)- has left for Ethiopia at the head of a large delegation, an RRA official confirmed to IRIN on Monday.
Shatigadud's deputies visited Ethiopia a few weeks ago, and returned with an invitation for him from the Ethiopian authorities. He was reportedly reluctant to make the trip for fear that he might be replaced during his absence. However sources in Baidoa, the capital of the newly-declared state, told IRIN he left on Saturday "with a 40-member delegation".
The delegation includes most of the RRA Executive Council and the two RRA deputy chairmen. "They left Baidoa by road at around 10:30 p.m. local time [19:30 GMT] in a convoy of eight vehicles," the sources said.
The delegation was expected to stop at Gode, in the Somali Regional State of Ethiopia, before proceeding to Addis Ababa.
There have been persistent reports in the Mogadishu-based media of a split between Shatigadud and his RRA deputies, Shaykh Adan Madobe and Muhammad Ibrahim Habsade. The deputies say that as Shatigadud is now president of the new state, Shaykh Adan - the first deputy chairman - should become chairman of the RRA. This has led to tension in Baidoa.