The interim Somali government, based in Nairobi, Kenya, is to relocate to the towns of Baidoa, 240 km southwest of the capital Mogadishu, and Jowhar, 90 km north of the capital, an official told IRIN on Tuesday.
"The cabinet has decided that the government will temporarily relocate to Jowhar and Baidoa," Abdirahman Nur Dinari, a government spokesman, said. It would operate simultaneously from the two towns, he added.
The move, he added, was backed by 64 of the 74 ministers present during a Council of Ministers meeting on Monday. However, other sources said ten ministers, including key Mogadishu-based faction leaders, walked out of the meeting in protest. These included Usman Hassan Ali "Atto", Muse Sudi Yalahow, Umar Mahamud "Finish" and Muhammad Qanyare Afrah.
The leaders who walked out, between them, control most of the capital city and wanted the government to move there directly. They had asked for three months "to prepare and secure the city" for the government, according to a Somali political source.
Dinari said the faction leaders had failed to prepare the city and it had remained "insecure and extremely dangerous."
"This is why the government found it necessary to relocate elsewhere," he told IRIN. "There is no split within the cabinet. A vote was taken and the majority view prevailed."
The spokesman said the government would open an office in Mogadishu "to monitor the situation and once it is decided that the capital is ready, the government will move there".
A Member of Parliament however criticised the decision to relocate to the two towns instead of Mogadishu, terming it unconstitutional.
"The move to change the capital even temporarily is a constitutional matter and can only be decided by the full parliament," Ali Bashi Omar told IRIN on Tuesday. "The cabinet on its own does not possess the constitutional power to change the capital."
The new government, which includes several faction leaders, has so far failed to move to Mogadishu, citing security considerations. However, it has come under increasing pressure from the Kenyan government and western diplomats to relocate from Nairobi.
Dinari told IRIN that now that a decision had been made to relocate to the two towns, the government would move very rapidly on it.
"No specific time has been decided, but as soon as funding becomes available, we will be ready," he said.
Somalia's transitional federal parliament elected Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed as president on 10 October 2004, at the end of a two-year reconciliation conference sponsored by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. He later appointed a prime minister, Ali Mohammed Gedi, who in turn named the cabinet.