Oil Mogul Named New Somali Prime Minister

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Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has appointed Mr Hassan Ali Kheyre as his prime minister.

The announcement was made Thursday, a day after the president’s inauguration ceremony held at a heavily guarded airport zone in the capital Mogadishu.

Kheyre, a Somali-Norwegian, is a former regional director (Horn of Africa and Yemen) of Norwegian Refugee Council, a charity organisation, between 2006 and 2014.

From 2014, Kheyre has been the executive director of British firm Soma Oil & Gas that is exploring on 12 offshore oil and gas blocks covering around 60,000 square kilometres in Somalia.

In December last year, Britain’s Serious Fraud Office closed an investigation into Soma over bribery allegations after finding “insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction”.

Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group had also accused the Soma’s executive director Kheyre of having links with extremist groups such as Al Shabaab, allegations which were investigated by the Serious Fraud Office.

After his nomination Kheyre — also spelt Khaire — promised to “tirelessly work with the president and try to form a government that represents the public”.

Tensions between Somali presidents and their prime ministers in recent years have frequently stymied government business and undermined political progress in the fragile Horn of Africa nation, so the relationship between the two men will be crucial.

Kheyre is a political newcomer and, like Farmajo, is from the diaspora. The president holds dual American and Somali citizenship.

The 49-year-old is a close associate of former president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and a member of the Hawiye clan, meaning his nomination maintains the traditional clan balance alongside Farmajo who is a Darood.

He now awaits parliament approval after which, in consultation with the president, he will appoint members of the Cabinet, who must also be approved by the legislators.

By Abdulkadir Khalif