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Somalia’s Government Should Go in August, U.S. Says

Somalia’s transitional government should go in August when its mandate expires, said U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg.

“We don’t want to create a vacuum, but at the same time we just can’t continue with business as usual,” Steinberg told reporters in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, today. “We have been disappointed with the performance” of the government.

The organization that takes over should make Somalia more self-sufficient and less reliant on foreign help to tackle Islamic insurgents, Steinberg said.

Somalia has been mired in civil war for two decades and hasn’t had a functioning central administration since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. The current government, backed by troops from the African Union, is battling Islamic militants for control of the capital, Mogadishu, and southern and central Somalia.

The Horn of Africa nation will miss an August target to enact a new constitution that would have set the stage for elections, the United Nations’ representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, said on Jan. 26. The UN wants the transitional government swapped with a new organization by August, he said.

Discussions between international donors, Somalia officials and regional authorities will help determine the composition of the replacement body, Steinberg said today.

The decision won’t be “unilateral,” he said. “We don’t think we should start from scratch.”

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