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Sparring Somali leaders now at odds over expulsion of African Union envoy

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By Reuters

MOGADISHU -Somalia’s prime minister on Thursday expelled the African Union representative because of “acts incompatible with his status” but the president rejected the order, signalling a new rift between the leaders of the Horn of Africa nation.

The power struggle between Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is widely seen as distracting the government from fighting an Islamist insurgency and last year fed fears of clashes within the military.

African Union peacekeeping troops help the government fight the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militant group.

Roble’s office said the African Union representative, Francisco Madeira, must leave within 48 hours.

“The Somali government declares the special representative of the African Union … persona non grata for engaging in acts incompatible with his status,” the prime minister’s office said.

It did not give details of what Madeira is accused of doing.

Madeira, who is from Mozambique, was not immediately available for comment and an official at the African Union office in Mogadishu said it would have a response later.

Ebba Kalondo, spokesperson for the African Union Commission Chairperson in neighbouring Ethiopia, did not immediately respond to a Reuters message seeking comment.

Mohamed’s office said diplomats were accredited by the president and that Somalia’s foreign policy was not “anchored in emotions and vested interests”.

“The presidency disowns and nullifies the illegal action that threatens our relations with the global international community,” the presidency said in a statement, referring to the expulsion.

In December, Mohamed tried to suspend Roble’s powers for suspected corruption, which Roble denounced as a coup attempt.

Their rivalry has in recent weeks focused on delayed parliamentary elections, which started in November.

The elections involve clan elders picking the 275 members of the lower house by an April 15 deadline. They will then choose a new president.

Data from the election commission shows that 255 of the lawmakers have been elected.